Caution: Spoilers inside. If you’re going to see the movie, watch it then come back to this.
If you’re still thinking about it and are just as intrigued by HOW something happens as with WHAT happens, read on, friend!
There is wisdom in childhood.
Think back to when you were a kid. There were things you wanted to do, or a certain way of doing things that just seemed natural.
Then you turn 12 or 13. You go into middle school, and if your passions aren’t respected or valued by your peers, you start building a filter. Band is for nerds. Nerds don’t get girlfriends. I want a girlfriend, but cannot get one if I am in band, so I’ll stop playing the saxophone, even if I love it.
This gets amplified in high school. Hopefully you go to an out-of-state college where you get a do-over – where people are so busy trying to build their futures and are so open-minded that you can explore these things without judgement.
Joy didn’t get that do-over, but she remembered who she was after years of living through what she wasn’t. Those memories from childhood reminded her of what she was willing to work so hard on, so she would never accept failure.
I heard a quote somewhere: If you think adventure is dangerous, try routine – it’s lethal.
Your problems are not just your problems.
Think of what other people need and if you solve that need, you can become wealthy. All the gurus say that because they are right, but there was always a disconnect when I read that.
People. Who are these people? What the hell do they want? The concept of other people is so abstract. Are we talking about Americans, my family, the people in my town, “the rich”, coworkers – which people?!
Joy was trying to mop up broken glass and cut her hand. Joy realized that SHE WAS people. She had problems, dammit. So she set out to solve one of her problems, thinking that if she had that problem, other people did too.
That’s the connection.
What do you need? It’s a question that you often answer when you are pissed off.
Thinking about yourself isn’t always selfish. Expecting other people to solve all your problems for you is.
That being said, Joy spent most of her day solving other people’s problems. Almost to a fault. There is something called boundaries, where if people act like you’re their servant, you call them out on it, but only to the extent that they start taking care of the things you know they can do.
Joy didn’t do this, and she suffered for it. But she also got the social equity needed to guilt trip her dad into pitching his new girlfriend on her idea. In most people’s eyes that is justified.
In this lack of boundaries, she managed to cultivate a determination to move forward no matter what. That determination could have been bred outside of such a toxic environment, but in this case it was because of the toxic environment.
Two trustworthy friends can be better than your entire family put together.
Sometimes your family is going to misunderstand you. They aren’t trying to shelf your talent, they are just so busy trying to mold you in their image that they forget you are your own person.
That being said, in this movie, Joy’s family is terrible. They are lazy, co-dependent, and turn on her like jackals whenever she’s wounded. It’s enough to sink most people. We are the average of those we spend the most time with, which is why becoming rich from nothing can be a big challenge.
My Mom was like that. I loved her in spite of it, but she died, so she didn’t have the pulse to shame me for wanting to write. I couldn’t imagine having four or more people like that all the time.
In contrast, Joy’s childhood friend truly got her. She saw the light in Joy’s eyes when she did what she was born to do, and knew what it was to face adversity. Joy’s fight was her fight as well.
Joy’s ex-husband was kind of a fool in this movie, but he couldn’t be anything but who he wanted to be. He didn’t get a lot of respect, but his gut feelings about manufacturing partners were spot on – as you’ll see. He knew what a conflict of interest was. In fact, he avoided conflicts of interest so much that he was unemployable in the adult world. Joy tolerated him because – subconsciously – that’s all she wanted for herself, too: to live her own life doing what she was born to do, even though it would have been irresponsible to live like he did. Her husband’s transient job history gave her the connections she needed to meet the people running QVC.
Success brings its own challenges
When you finally start succeeding, some people see you as a target. Joy’s manufacturer raised the price high enough to kill the product, and tried to knock off her design because they couldn’t figure out how to make the idea work for themselves. Notice that this happened AFTER her product started selling.
She gets angry, and the police come in. People who enforce laws will misunderstand you, especially if you create. Enforcers exist to maintain systems, and creation is by nature disruption.
And when our creative babies are stolen from us, we blow up. We lose our shit! Those who were born to enforce laws have tremendous value to our security, but most won’t empathize, and can’t help with that even if they did.
Getting successful is one thing, staying successful means continuing to do what got you there. Learning, growing, fighting, being misunderstood, and it’s lonely at the top without those friends to back you.
Business friends are not always the same as true friends.
They will spend time with you when it is in their financial interest to do so. If you’re lucky, you will have respect for each other even when it is not. They’ll give you a shot if what you’re saying makes sense, but only if it makes sense. So make sense.
Passion is everything
QVC hired the best salesman they had to sell Joy’s product and he made a mess of it. I believe that was meant to be, because Joy was meant to be on that stage, selling her ideas to the world. If the actor had succeeded, it would have been a tragedy against mankind. Joy would be free from her problems, but not from her insecurities.
Joy knew the problem she was solving. Joy knew the product, and she knew that if anybody else did this for her, nobody would understand how their lives would be improved.
Joy was the low-tech Steve Jobs. Steve had passion, which is what made him so good at showing people what they wanted in such a way that they absolutely needed it.
In her first interaction with the salesman, Joy knew this lesson; it was just hidden in her gut. Director David O. Russell and the actors did such a good job making you feel that same tug under your ribcage as you watched the scene.
Is it all worth it?
Someday…In a few decades, years or even months – we’re all going to die. This is going to happen whether we invent a mop that changes an industry or not. Even if you don’t make a single dime your entire life, you’re not exempt. Religion gives you pretty good answers to what happens after, but until we live it, we don’t really know.
Joy went through a lot of birth pains before she could be rewarded for her talents, and continued to experience failure. The narration says her own family tried to sue her, even after she funded their ideas. Was it all worth it?
If you expect other people to solve your problems, the answer is no.
But if you want to solve other people’s problems, including your own… then maybe.
Sooner or later you realize everything from the last few paragraphs and decide. You would rather die living, than live dying.
When Joy goes to Texas and has her own private chat with the invisible enemy who had sabotaged her through half the movie, she had hit that point. From there, every ounce of pain was worth it, and when he saw that in her eyes, it was over.
Watch this thing
This movies comes out Christmas 2015, and I was fortunate enough to see it in advance through sheer luck. Watch it. Some of Robert De Niro’s lines are a little too on the nose, but aside from that it’s a fantastic movie.