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Themes in “I Am” Documentary by Tom Shadyac Essay

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Updated: May 12th, 2021


Understanding one’s purpose in life is not an easy matter. There are many people who only get some insight into the essence of their existence at the end of their lives. For Tom Shadyac, the creator of the I Am documentary, such perception arrived when he was at his worst period in life. The man suffered from a severe mental illness, and at the moment he thought he was about to die, he decided to share something with the world.

Shadyac wanted to tell everyone what he had come to know: that the world was a lie, and the activities which he had always considered to be improving it were, in fact, destroying it. That awareness made Shadyac want to discover what was wrong with the world. Ultimately, through the creation of the documentary, he learned what was right about it. In Shadyac’s movie, three crucial themes are discussed: separation, consumerism, and love.


The first topic touched upon by Shadyac’s interviewees is separation. The director shows interviews with several people talking about the problems of the modern world. All of them, including Shadyac, agree that some of the greatest challenges people face are “working in mechanistic ways” and basing everything on “the idea of separation” (I Am). Since childhood, individuals are taught that they should compete with others and strive to be better and faster than their peers. Shadyac shows his numerous school prizes as well as awards for his work as a director. He realizes that he used to be a part of the system.

Separation is born of competition, which is cultivated everywhere on a daily basis (I Am). Individuals do not feel fun when playing a game and not winning over anyone. The desire to be richer or more successful than others overwhelms many people. Unfortunately, such an idea makes them feel dissatisfied no matter what they do. Gradually, one forgets about friendship and becomes the only subject of one’s thoughts (I Am). The desire to become better than others may be fulfilled or not. In any case, one feels lonely and rarely is happy (I Am). Thus, Shadyac’s interviewees explain that human independence and separation are harmful. To make the world to be a better place, everyone should work collectively and be friendly.


The second important theme raised in I Am is the issue of consumerism. People tend to buy many things without thinking of how they will utilize them. In I Am, many of such inconsiderate purchases are depicted. One of the speakers even mentions that “our job is not to be a citizen but a consumer” (I Am). Shadyac tries to explain another major mistake that too many people make. Particularly, there is an erroneous opinion that the more one has, the happier one should be. However, Shadyac shows that such a belief is not true. As an example, the director describes how he bought his first Beverly Hills house.

While he had expected that his life would change instantly, nothing happened: the purchase did not make him happier “at all” (I Am). Thus, the lesson to be learned from the film is that more things do not equal more positive emotions. Some can be completely happy with the beloved people in a tiny apartment. Others may have wealth and fame but be lonely and miserable. The key to ultimate satisfaction is not having many possessions. Instead, one feels content when having little but truly necessary assets and having someone with whom one can share them.

Love and compassion

Finally, and most importantly, the topic of compassion and love is uncovered. One of the interviewees speaks about the concept of “mirror neuron” (I Am). This concept means that people tend to feel and share somebody’s suffering when they see it. It is inspirational to know that some individuals still believe in brotherhood and democracy. There are those who find freedom and support crucial elements of the world’s existence and development. I Am portrays people’s behavior during different disasters and accidents. It is obvious that people have not lost compassion and fondness altogether.

Despite consumerism and separation, there is still a chance for humanity to improve. The names of that opportunity are appreciation, respect, friendship, and empathy. As one of the speakers remarks, “love is a force; it’s a force that has power” (I Am). It is crucial to express support and loyalty toward others. New opportunities may be given to the world if people living in it are not cordial. So, after all, Shadyac comes to the conclusion that the world still has a chance. The only thing necessary for keeping humanity happy is giving it lessons of love and sympathy.


Shadyac started his journey as a seeker of bitter truth but what he found was quite different. The three most important topics raised in I Am were separation, consumerism, and love. The work on the movie allowed its director and main actor to learn about the hope that people still have. Despite numerous difficulties, misunderstandings, and rivalries, humanity has the power to prepare a better future for the coming generations. Consumerism and separation can be confronted with compassion and love. I Am is a proclamation of promise and faith for the present and future people.

Work Cited

I Am. Directed by Tom Shadyac, performances by Tom Shadyac, Lynne McTaggart, and Dean Radin, Homemade Canvas Production, 2010.

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"Themes in “I Am” Documentary by Tom Shadyac." IvyPanda, 12 May 2021, ivypanda.com/essays/themes-in-i-am-documentary-by-tom-shadyac/.

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IvyPanda. 2021. "Themes in “I Am” Documentary by Tom Shadyac." May 12, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/themes-in-i-am-documentary-by-tom-shadyac/.


IvyPanda. (2021) 'Themes in “I Am” Documentary by Tom Shadyac'. 12 May.

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