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A Critique of Pay It Forward, a Movie by Mimi Leder

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A Critique of Pay It Forward, a Movie by Mimi Leder essay

Carol Rogers, an American psychologist, believes every child is the center of their changing world; that for are the strategist working towards becoming self-actualized. The cognitive process is important, and this is the evidence of Trevor’s assignment which is given by his Social Studies teacher, Mr. Simonet. In the film, “Pay it Forward” directed by Mimi Leder, an 11-year-old boy is given an assignment in his Social Studies class, which is to find an idea to change the world and put it into action. Trevor takes the assignment to heart and begins a cycle of good deeds that really change the world. Leder delivers an important message, it being to motivate and inspire people to take action for the better and she does so, through logos, pathos, and ethos.

To begin with, logos is a clear, concise, and logical way of portraying the writer’s message, that is to take action. For example, in the beginning of the film, the lawyer’s daughter is having an asthma attack and is unable to breathe and is being ignored by nurses. However, the stab wound victim argued that his injury was not life threatening, so they treated the young girl first. Earlier in the film, the injured man, was saved by a very significant lady, which was paying it forward, which was explained to the man at the time after he asked why she saved him.For that reason, he felt the need to pay it forward as well. Another example of logos portrayed in the film is when Mr. Simonet answers Trevor’s question of “What’d you ever do to change the world”, with “Well Trevor, I get a good night’s sleep, I eat a hearty breakfast, I show up on time, and then pass the buck to you”. With that being said, his title alone as the Social Studies teacher makes him legitimate, but he also uses this speech to give his assignment a purpose. Although his response may seem not all that significant, the last few words when he states, “pass the buck to you”, makes his argument meaningful. This phrase gets the students thinking about what they will do next. Furthermore, Mr. Simonet also says, “…you can’t drive, you can’t vote, you can’t even go to the bathroom without a pass from me… you are stuck in the 7th grade, but not forever, because one day you will be free”. In other words, although they are limited due to their age, one day they will have the chance to be “free”, be someone that cannot be held back by anyone else but themselves.

To add on, pathos is used to tap into the reader’s emotions to support their argument, this one being to take change the world through acts of kindness. On Trevor’s way home, he rides through a poor community and invites one of the homeless men, Jerry, to go home with him. Trevor helps him get back on his feet without his mom knowing about and that is where Paying it forward begins. Even though Trevor later on believes he failed Jerry, Jerry comes back to his feet after a fallout. Another example of pathos in the film is when Jerry gets offered a second chance, when he comes across a lady that that is standing on the edge of bridge, preparing to jump, he tries to help the lady but she thinks he is after her money and previously he probably would have taken it to get his next hit, but he changed, thanks to Trevor. He genuinely wants to pay it forward and help her, and therefore help himself. If he can save her life, it may just save his. Additionally, as stated in the “Pay it Forward” script, Mr. Simonet says “… the realm of possibility exists where… in each of you… here [points to mind]”. Through his motivational speeches, Mr. Simonet uses emotional emphasis to convince his students that they are capable of changing the world and that anything is possible.

Furthermore, ethos represents an ethical appeal, which is used to convince the audience of their credibility. In this case, the screen writer uses Mr. Simonet through his body language, strong voice, and vocal variety to express just that. For example, when Mr. Simonet says “… weird, crazy, bummer, hard, How about possible? It’s possible”, the students stop to think about it, especially Trevor who does not have such a great life, he would like to believe it is possible to change his future and Mr. Simonet did a great job convincing him through his motivational speech. The most significant example of ethos in the film is when Trevor starts the movement of paying it forward. Due to Trevor’s good deeds, there was an investigation done by a reporter, Chandler, to figure out where the pay it forward idea rooted from, little did they know it was brought up by an 11-year-old boy. Eventually, the Chandler’s investigations lead him to Trevor and informs him that his innovative “pay it forward” project has already had more of a positive impact on the world than he had realized. Another example is Trevor’s innocence, because of it, he has more moral authority than the adults in his life. For example, when taking in Jerry, most people would see that as dangerous thing to do but through Trevor’s innocent eyes, Jerry was just a man on the street in need of some help and Trevor believed he was capable of doing such thing.

Leslie Dixon uses pathos, logos, and ethos to strengthen the message of the film, it being to inspire and motivate people to take action, through acts of kindness. The movie clearly states its believable goals, that is to get people to think how such a simple idea can make a huge difference in the world. These goals were skilled easily with the great acting, and through the use of establishing trustworthiness, providing evidence, convincing with reason, and using emotional appeal to capture the audience. The next time an opportunity to make a change comes up, either for yourself or someone else, take the chance. One step leads you to another unlikely, undiscovered thought or idea which leads you to another idea, which can possibly lead you to a breakthrough in your life.

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A Critique of Pay It Forward, a Movie by Mimi Leder. (2018, November 15). GradesFixer. Retrieved December 9, 2022, from
“A Critique of Pay It Forward, a Movie by Mimi Leder.” GradesFixer, 15 Nov. 2018,
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