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A Sociological Analysis Of Ron Howard's Apollo 13

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Ron Howard's re-creation of the happenings aboard NASA's Apollo 13 flight combined some of the biggest talent in Hollywood to produce a masterful film. Apollo 13 takes us back in time, to the late 1960's and early 70's, when America's NASA space program was thriving and the world stood aside to see who would reach the moon first. The impacts of space program are still evident to this day. It is even said that by beating the Russians to the moon, we established ourselves are the top power in the world and propelled ourselves to the status we hold today. While today our space program flounders in the public eye, this movie illustrates a time when NASA's successes and failures held a huge sociological impact on American and even international life.

In many different aspects, the American space program and more specifically the rescue of the Apollo 13 crew really showed traits similar to those found in any three of the major sociological perspectives: functionalist, symbolic interactionism, and conflict. On one hand, it can be seen that NASA is a large structure formed of many smaller structures that keep is going. The government funds NASA, NASA hires crew to build and fly the ships and the different crews do their separate parts to come together as a whole and make it all work out (much as the crew on the ground did during the rescue mission of the Apollo 13 crew).

Now on the other hand, the symbolic interactionism really shows itself in not just the rescue mission or space program itself, but involving everyone throughout the entire film. Symbolic interactionism determines how we place importance on things in life and how we form our opinions and priorities. Walking on the moon was the most important thing to Jim Lovell early in the film. However as events unfolded, Jim realized the real importance was life itself and his family and crew. Again, without symbols, Jim's family wouldn't have meant as much to him and he may have disregarded them altogether.

The final of the three sociological perspectives is the conflict perspective. While this perspective becomes scarcely evident in the film, it doesn't play nearly as important a role as do the other two. The only time that any form of power struggle appeared was early in the flight when Jim and Fred didn't appreciate Jack being on their ship, probably because he was the "new guy." Though they didn't agree at times, their egos were eventually set aside so that they could combine their talents to save their own lives.

A major sign of the public's opinion of the space program by the time Apollo 13 had launched could be found in the cancellation of their live broadcast. This cancellation helped to show that the media and public no longer put as much relevance on the American space program once they had already reached the moon. The media figured that we had already beat the Russians, why waste the resources and risk the lives to do anything more. The space program lost its luster in the public eye and its symbolic influence on American life was diminishing. Importance and attention was placed upon the space program and the Apollo 13 mission once again only because there was an explosion on board and lives were at risk.

In the late 60's and early 70's, the space program was the center of attention in America, Russia, and much of the world. The race to the moon was like an epic blockbuster that the entire world was watching at once. By now, the American space program has lost much of its relevance in our lives and its status seems to continuously tarnish. Since the tragic events aboard the Challenger and Columbia missions, Americans are now reluctant to support an expanding space program. Our society no longer thinks the risk of lives to further our space programs is as relevant as it was in the 60's and 70's. In light of the tragedies, society largely believes that our country can function as a whole without NASA as a part of the equation. Even more, the failures, driving costs, and other distractions to American lifestyle such as warfare and terrorism are putting a damper on NASA. Americans have now found more important things to worry about in their lives. Why risk lives in space when we're already risking enough lives here in our country and overseas? The space program just can't hold its own anymore. The loss of lives and money in the Columbia and Challenger missions also plays as part of a power struggle in the government. Facing a growing debt and public criticism of NASA's failures, the government is forced to cut funding to our space program and subsequently, NASA begins to lose the struggle of power in the public eye.

The space program in the 1960's promoted social solidarity in which it united the country in the race to be the first to the moon. America didn't want to lose out to the Russians and also feared Communist power had they made it to the moon before us. On the macro level, the space program of the 60's served as a driving force in the American-Russian rivalry. Each country continually upped the ante to see who was better, who could get to the moon first, and ultimately, who would prevail as the world's top power. On the micro level, Jim Lovell and Fred Haise viewed the newcomer, Jack Swigert, as the outsider of their crew. They believed he truly didn't earn his spot with them and got there based on a faulty blood test. Days before the launch, Jim and Fred didn't like the new guy and had a small power struggle with him aboard the Apollo 13. However, once things went wrong and they put aside their egos, Jim and Fred accepted Jack and they worked together to get home safely. Since the American space program has become the foremost in the world, many Americans take their space superiority for granted and no longer view it was a uniting force as they did in the 1960's.

An interesting part of the movie was the styles of leadership that the men took on in the time of crisis. Gene Kranz really used a mix of leadership styles between authoritarian and democratic, although democratic showed much more often. He knew his



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