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  • Writer's pictureDeric Hollings

Social Construct


I recently watched Leave the World Behind. Overall, I enjoyed the film. Still, there are three major points of contention I maintain in regards to its messaging.


First, I dislike diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility (DEIA) which resulted in the film’s representative casting choices. Pandering of this sort sours my taste for many modern theatrical performances in general.


Second, I’m not a fan of the film’s overt racist tropes (e.g., black female character stating to her dad, “I’m asking for you to remember that if the world falls apart, trust should not be doled out easily to anyone, especially white people.”). Discrimination against white people may be acceptable at present, though I don’t support such behavior.


Last, per one source, “[Barack] Obama served as a consultant on Sam Esmail’s latest film, Leave the World Behind, based on Rumaan Alam’s novel of the same name.” My lack of appreciation remains for Obama, the so-called “unifier,” due to the racial division he continues to sow.


These points of contention aside, I want to address a concept depicted in the film, as it relates to a social construct—an idea that has been created and accepted by the people in a society. Defining social constructionism, one source expands:


The term can serve somewhat different functions in each field, however, the foundation of this theoretical framework suggests various facets of social reality—such as concepts, beliefs, norms, and values—are formed through continuous interactions and negotiations among society's members, rather than empirical observation of physical reality.


I imagine the reader is vaguely familiar with this concept. For instance, have you ever heard the proposal that gender is a social construct? Expanding upon this proposition, one source states:


The term “gender” serves as an umbrella term for the traditions, behaviors, duties, and roles that are associated with being a boy, a girl, a man, or a woman. People defining their gender status is referred to as their gender identities. While gender is often confused with sex, they both refer to different things. While gender is a social construct, sex is biological. Unlike sex, gender varies to certain degrees across societies and is subject to change over time.


Whereas “female” refers to sex, “woman” relates to gender. From an objective materialist standpoint, female sex traits are designed, evolved, or constructed by a deity, nature, etc., though a woman’s gender is a social construct—the malleable term used to describe an adult human female.


I suspect some people will disagree with my framing of this matter. Quibbles aside, the point I’m illustrating is that humans assign socially-constructed terms and ideas. These elements then map onto existing reality outside of us.


Noteworthy, expressing that something is a social construct doesn’t necessarily infer its moral or ethical acceptability. As an example, I often hear people dismissing concepts based on social construction (e.g., “Gender is a social construct, so it’s stupid.”), which I think may warrant further consideration by the skeptic.


In Leave the World Behind, the social construct of civility and amiability rapidly deteriorate. For the reader’s benefit, one source identifies the film’s synopsis thusly:


A family vacation on Long Island is interrupted by two strangers bearing news of a blackout. As the threat grows, both families must decide how best to survive the potential crisis, all while grappling with their own place in this collapsing world.


I won’t spoil the movie for the reader, beyond citation of the aforementioned points of contention. Still, the “collapsing world” element of the film is worth expounding upon for the sake of social constructivism.


In a recent blogpost entitled Are Humans Good? I featured a Michael Malice quote, with which I agree, as the author stated:


So, you know, people ask, oh, “Are humans basically good? Are they basically evil?” I always say they’re basically animals. And I think people are, most people are almost fundamentally deranged and that there’s basically this veneer of civilization and decency. And when shit hits the fan, and we see this over and over, they do things that would’ve been completely unthinkable even to themselves five years ago.


The social construct regarding a “veneer of civilization and decency” quickly eroded in Leave the World Behind. Unfortunately, I didn’t need a Hollywood film to show me how rapidly this construct can devolve into chaos.


When I was stationed in Lima, Peru shortly after President Alberto Fujimori fled the country, I witnessed the social construct of Peruvian society disintegrate. It was then that I realized how thin the veneer of civility actually was.


As an example, it may be well-understood that stopping completely at a posted stop sign is expected within a law-abiding society. Nevertheless, people violate the requirement daily and it’s not uncommon for us to know someone who’s received a traffic citation for doing so.


However, how many people do you know who’ve been involved in rioting, raping, or murdering? Unless you’re involved in the criminal justice field, chances are that you don’t know many.


My proposal is that because of the social construct associated with these forms of legislation and behaviors, it’s deemed socially unacceptable to commit these particular crimes. Whereas running a stop sign is a common occurrence, violent crimes are less common, partially due to a social construct.


Leave the World Behind accurately portrays how rapidly these forms of social construct can degrade. As society crumbles, so, too, does DEIA and other socially-constructed concepts.


At this point, the reader may ask, “Why is a psychotherapist writing about matters with which I’m uncomfortable? Isn’t the job of a therapist to make me feel better?”


As a Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT) practitioner, I’m less interested in making people feel better and more focused on helping individuals get better. As such, my aim involves describing what is; not prescribing what ought to be.


Therefore, I think it’s a worthwhile cause to help people improve their own lives while there’s time left to do so. Truly, we as a society are but a moment away from sheer devastation at any given time.


By helping enough people to control what they can (themselves) and influence who they can (others), society as a whole may avert catastrophe. Even if it doesn’t, those with whom I work will hopefully be able to tolerate and accept the dissolution of a society-ending social construct.


At any rate, if it all falls apart, I suspect that DEIA actions, focus on gender, racism against white people, and other nonsensical issues surrounding Leave the World Behind will also be left behind. Then again, we don’t need societal collapse to unravel these social constructions.


If you’re looking for a provider who works to help you understand how thinking impacts physical, mental, emotional, and behavioral elements of your life—helping you to sharpen your critical thinking skills, I invite you to reach out today by using the contact widget on my website.


As a psychotherapist, I’m pleased to help people with an assortment of issues ranging from anger (hostility, rage, and aggression) to relational issues, adjustment matters, trauma experience, justice involvement, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, anxiety and depression, and other mood or personality-related matters.


At Hollings Therapy, LLC, serving all of Texas, I aim to treat clients with dignity and respect while offering a multi-lensed approach to the practice of psychotherapy and life coaching. My mission includes: Prioritizing the cognitive and emotive needs of clients, an overall reduction in client suffering, and supporting sustainable growth for the clients I serve. Rather than simply helping you to feel better, I want to help you get better!



Deric Hollings, LPC, LCSW





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