What are some ethical dilemmas in the movie I Am Sam?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Some of the most striking ethical dilemmas are seen in the Rita Harrison character.  In the exposition of film, when her character is first introduced, she has made ethical decisions to choose career over family and to view people as means to an end as opposed to ends in of themselves.  Rita berates and neglects those around her. She is immersed in an ethical dilemma in terms of the choice of her work and her emotional state of being. Her work with Sam causes a shift in this condition of being:  "''I think I've gotten more out of this relationship than you have." At the same time, an ethical dilemma is present in whether Rita should stay with her husband who she knows is not faithful.  The collision of ethical decisions is evident in Rita Harrison's characterization.

Given the topic of the film, another ethical challenge is determining whether Sam can be an effective parent for Lucy.  The film has its own conclusion to this ethical dilemma in the way it creates an emotional reality around the issue.  Yet, the real ethical dilemma might be present in the effect on the viewer.  The film provides a looking glass in which the viewer has to examine their own presuppositions on people who are similar to Sam. The reader must examine their own ideas in how they view the role of parenting as well as who is "capable" of providing in the best interests of a child.  This is where ethical dilemmas arise in the viewer.  The value of the film in terms of initiating an ethical debate is not in what is on screen as much as what exists in the viewer's mind.

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