Share Button

Recently top movies in theaters have included those of real-life heroes in films such as 33, The Finest Hours, Sully, Deepwater Horizon, Queen of Katwe, I’m Not Ashamed, and others. Why do audiences find these movies not only gripping but compelling and inspiring, even life-changing? What is the effect of seeing concrete examples of everyman and everywoman heroes and heroines on film? Other examples of real-life everywoman heroines in movies in theaters recently have been movies like Miracles from Heaven, Captive, Noble, The Letters, and many others.  These movies have not only been top movies in theaters but on DVD and streaming services.

These movies depict not only the external obstacles that the everyman, everywoman heroes and heroines overcome but the internal, subjective realities, struggles, development, and growth of these personalities. The movies about everyman, everywoman heroes and heroines present these individuals as role models in their struggles to answer questions about themselves or others, to make significant decisions, to overcome personal or cultural barriers, to contribute to society and more.

Research evidence supports the idea that such stories provide a role modeling effect, which may influence positive motivation in audiences, especially as relates to their locus of control. There is evidence that the variable of locus of control, which is considered a reliable and valid construct and predictor of positive motivation can be affected and changed by identification with role models.

Locus of control identifies the extent to which persons perceive that events in their lives are contingent upon their own behavior or own characteristics. Persons with internal locus of control believe they have control over reinforcing events in their lives. Individuals with internal locus of control attribute change to their actions. They take responsibility for their thoughts, behaviors, and actions, believing and seeing themselves as effective in determining outcomes.

The value of role models and of taking responsibility are Biblical concepts. The Bible tells us that we are to choose to serve our Lord and others. We are to love the Lord our God all our heart, soul, mind and strength. We are also to love our neighbor as ourselves. (See Joshua 24:15, Mark 12:30…) The Bible tells us that because God is at work in His children, they must choose to do His will. The sovereign grace of God is at work in His children of God enabling us to choose and to act responsibly in accordance with His will. (See Philippians 2:12 …) The Bible tells us to be godly role models and examples that others can follow. (See Titus 2:7-8, I Timothy 4:12…) But we can only do this as we allow God’s spirit to work in us. (Galatians 5:22-23…).

People with external locus of control are more fatalistic and attribute change to external sources. They believe, report, or act as though forces beyond their control (such as fate, chance, powerful others, social constraints, or instructions) are important factors in determining outcomes. They believe luck, chance, fate, or the control of powerful others and complexity of forces determine outcomes.

Research evidence verifies that audiences who identify with characters in stories who demonstrate internal locus of control with a sense of responsibility can also then experience positive motivation towards attitudes and behaviors that line up with internal locus of control and a sense of responsibility. Viewers who identify with heroes and heroines who exhibit responsibility, courage, faith, and other positive characteristics can experience inspiration and motivation to demonstrate the same.

In a good movie about a real hero or heroine, the audience can identify with them, share in their dark struggles, and find inspiration and motivation to overcome as the real hero or heroine has done.

Dr. Diane Howard is a frontline journalist known for exclusive interviews with leading figures in artistic, redemptive media. She has been involved in decades of qualitative and quantitative research on the verifiable power of role models. She also serves as talent and as a dialogue, dialect, voice-over coach. A former Professor of Performance, Media, and Film Studies with a Ph.D. in Performance Studies (College of Communication, University of Texas, Austin), she has been involved in multiple aspects of artistic, redemptive communication media, regionally to internationally. She can be found online at

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.