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Walk the Line Essay

The movie I chose was “Walk the Line”. The biography chronicles the early lives of Johnny and June Carter Cash and the struggles they dealt with in their personal lives and careers. Johnny (or J.R. as he was originally named) was one of Ray and Carrie Cash’s seven children and grew up on a poor cotton farm in rural Arkansas.

As the movie begins, it introduces the viewer to Johnny’s mother, who taught him to sing gospel songs, his father, who was a heavy drinker and verbally abusive at times to his family, and to Jack – the brother that Johnny looked up to. While sawing wood at a neighbor’s one day, Jack told Johnny to go fishing and he would finish the work. After Johnny left, Jack had a terrible accident and died from his injuries.

His father seemed to blame Johnny for not being with Jack when he was killed. As an adult, Johnny’s singing career grew, but his marriage to his 1st wife crumbled as he started drinking heavily and taking drugs and falling in love with another woman (June Carter), June was dealing with her own issues of insecurities about her talent and her 2 failed marriages. Over time, they help each other face insecurities, guilt, and overcoming Johnny’s addictions and rebuilding his career. They also build a relationship together and Johnny and his dad come to reconcile by the movie’s end.

The movie depicts several issues associated with the sociology of families. Issues like, social class issues, blame, guilt, verbal abuse, drug abuse, self-esteem and acceptance. Johnny did not receive emotional support from his primary group as a child (Chapter 1, pg 7). He suffered “psychological maltreatment” (emotional abuse) from his father when he blamed him for his brother’s death, criticized and put down his talents and achievements (Chapter 14, pg. 393). His own guilt made Johnny feel responsible for the brother’s death (source 2). Johnny’s father’s behavior might best be explained by the “patriarchy (male dominance) theory”, which is when men feel they have the ultimate power over their family and use abusive measures to control them (Chapter 14, pg 404). He did not receive emotional support from his primary group as a child (Chapter 1, pg 7).

As an adult, Johnny was overwhelmed with childhood guilt from his father and his struggle to become a famous singer. His 1st wife’s father was against their marriage because he thought that Johnny would never be successful since she came from an upper middle class family and him from a poor share cropper’s family. Conflict theorists believe that there will always be tension between the upper and lower socio-economic classes – the “haves” and the “have-nots”. They don’t believe that the poorer class can ever have as much power or success as the wealthier class (Chapter 2, pg 34). The stress from these pressures helped to push him to drug and alcohol abuse and to the downfall of his marriage. Johnny’s wife suffered “intimate partner violence” or IPV in the form of emotional abuse because he neglected to spend time with her and the family (Chapter 14, pg 384).

His children suffered child maltreatment – emotional abuse from seeing their father in drug/alcohol induced stupors and the violent arguments and fighting between their parents (Chapter 14, pg 393-394). During this time, Johnny met and fell in love with June. Their relationship was extremely turbulent. June struggled with negative self-concept issues from a lifetime of being compared to her siblings and told that she would never be as talented as they were.

Although she did have the support of her parents, she had little self-esteem and had a great deal of shame because she had two failed marriages at a time when divorced women were not socially acceptable (Chapter 14, pg 389-390). Because of Johnny’s addiction and unpredictability, she married her 2nd husband on the rebound in order to try and get over her feelings for him (source 3). When Johnny finally “hit bottom”, June and her parents staged an intervention of sorts to help him detox from the drugs and alcohol and other self-destructive behaviors. While struggling with the relationship, both Johnny and June began to learn to “self-love”. Self-love is what social philosopher Erich Fromm saw as essential for emotional stability and well being (Chapter 6, pg 136).

They became more confident in themselves and in doing so, did not allow negative influences to rule their lives or relationship. They realized the importance of acceptance, in themselves and each other, trust, mutual respect and support, honesty, and friendship (Chapter 6, pg 137). This movie showed the lives of people who struggled with emotional abuse, neglect, addiction, guilt, blame, shame and self-esteem issues. Through these struggles, they learned how to communicate with one another and their family, how to resolve conflicts and forgive – to be positive, flexible and emotionally supportive (Chapter 10, pg 268-269). They also learned to forgive one another and bring their families together. Sources

1. Marriages and Families, 7th Edition

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