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Social Psychological Concepts in “The Hangover” Explicatory Essay

“The Hangover” illustrates several social psychological situations that can be encountered in life. The movie begins with 3 friends and one “loner” going to Las Vegas for a bachelor night out, just days before the wedding of one of the friends, Doug.

After the guys have a crazy night on the town, they wake up to realize that they lost the groom and their memory. They begin the search from a hospital, driving a stolen police car, which leads them to a wedding chapel.

There, the friends realize that one of them, Stew, got married to a “dancing girl”. The police eventually catch up with the 3 friends, but they make a deal to get released. After that, they pick up their own “lost” car and find an Asian guy in the trunk.

Alan reveals that he has indeed drugged the 3 friends and himself, which was the cause of memory loss. After delivering a stolen tiger to Mr. Tyson, Alan wins the needed sum of money to pay the gangsters to buy Doug out, who turns out to be the “wrong” Doug.

In the end, they figure out they have played a prank on Doug and left him on the roof. They get Doug and return to the wedding, just in time.

The first social psychological theme of the movie is Alan and him looking for his identity. According to John Locke, people contemplate their own identity in relation to the social surroundings, the environment, people and themselves.

Alan is a “child trapped in a man’s body” and does not really have any skills to function in the outside world.

He is lonely and finds a role model in Phil. This can be observed throughout the movie, but one of the first instances is when he agrees with Phil that it is “fun” driving around in a stolen police car. The looks that he gives Phil represent his want to be more like him.

When Alan realized there was a tiger in the bathroom, he immediately directed his fears towards Phil, as he felt safer around him. When Alan wins the money, Phil acknowledges Alan’s skills, as he realizes that it is a form of support to the person in search for a friendship.

Alan feels the connection that is emerging and is seen much happier than before. At the end of the movie, when they are at the wedding, Alan asks Stew if his hair is as “good as Phil’s” and receives a positive answer which makes him completely happy.

From all these examples it is clear that Alan was looking for a person who would support him, his “party” nature and even his mishaps. Phil gives him this support, as he is a school teacher and has knowledge in dealing with “children”.

Alan’s character develops throughout the movie with the aid of the wild circumstances and guidance from the surrounding environment and Phil.

The second psychological theme of the movie is the connection between the careless, free world and a society where there are rules and control. Social conditions have a great say in individual psychological attributes of people.

Sexuality is brought up several times, as being one of the defining features of the environment. The scene where Alan, Phil and Stew arrive at the “dancing girl’s” apartment is filled with social cues.

Jade has an infant and immediately admits, as no one can remember her profession, that she is a stripper. Right away, she specifies that “technically, I am an escort, as it is a good way to meet the clients”.

Stew is somewhat shocked, Phil is accepting and Alan is interested in everything he sees and hears. This form of social acceptance and understanding of the “trade” shows that the modern society is very open minded.

It proves that males and females think of sexuality in almost the same way, and their views towards sexual aspects of the world are closely similar. In the modern world, both males and females are suscepted to the same influences and judgments.

Even though males and females have different characteristics of individuality, the society has a significant impact on how genders are viewed by the greater population. In theory, the correlation and difference of genders was supposed to be noticeable.

Males are considered more judgmental of others while females are more tolerant. This is why Jade is not afraid to admit who she is, and she seems perfectly comfortable with that fact. The society is a multifaceted organism and the opinions of people are very relative.

Class, amount of education and cultural qualities all play a role in the way people view others. Even though people have their own opinions, they are forced to go along with the majority and this proves that peer and social pressure are a great determinant in people’s lives.

The third social psychological concept is illustrated in the movie by Stew’s character. His life is not what he wants, thus displacement of his feelings targets Alan and the circumstances of Las Vegas trip. He is always seen as miserable, from the very beginning.

When they are leaving for Vegas, his girlfriend is shown to be controlling and not too loving. He tries to give her a kiss, but she turns away. The emotion of discomfort and doubt in own persona are evident from this moment on.

After he wakes up in the hotel without a tooth, he starts panicking right away. He is afraid what Melissa will say and how his image of a dentist and an upstanding citizen will be viewed from now on. This shows that he is really insecure and does not know what direction to take.

Displacement of his emotions is taken out on the situation, as he sees only the negative in anything. He constantly repeats that “Doug might be dead”, that they found a baby or that their lost car is wrecked.

He addresses all the surrounding issues, but never really looks at himself as a person, and the problems that he experiences. When he finds out that Alan had drugged them, he snaps. He starts screaming that he has married “a whore” and calls Alan names.

This is his anger bursting out and it is clear that he is in fact unhappy in his relationship and keeps everything bottled up. He sees wrong in everything that surrounds him, but does not look closely at own feelings and needs.

When they finally get to the wedding, Stew tells Melissa how he really feels. He admits that their relationship is not “working out” and right away, it is possible to see that he has set his feelings and anger free and is ready to begin a new stage in life.

From the movie analysis it is clear that social psychological concepts can be either personally oriented or more social. The way people’s individualities are, depends on both genetics and social factors, which can be seen in all manifestations of culture through entertainment and arts.

This points to the fact that interpretation of personal feelings and social stimuli is key in establishing a proper understanding of the self and the world.

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IvyPanda. (2019, July 9). Social Psychological Concepts in “The Hangover”. Retrieved from https://ivypanda.com/essays/social-psychological-concepts-in-the-hangover/

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"Social Psychological Concepts in “The Hangover”." IvyPanda, 9 July 2019, ivypanda.com/essays/social-psychological-concepts-in-the-hangover/.

1. IvyPanda. "Social Psychological Concepts in “The Hangover”." July 9, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/social-psychological-concepts-in-the-hangover/.


IvyPanda. "Social Psychological Concepts in “The Hangover”." July 9, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/social-psychological-concepts-in-the-hangover/.


IvyPanda. 2019. "Social Psychological Concepts in “The Hangover”." July 9, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/social-psychological-concepts-in-the-hangover/.


IvyPanda. (2019) 'Social Psychological Concepts in “The Hangover”'. 9 July.

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