What Women Want: Ethical Issues


Cartsonis, S., Davey, B., Matthews, G., Meyers, N., & Williams, M. (Producers) & Meyes, N. (Director). (2000, Dec 15). What Women Want [Motion picture]. United States: Paramount Pictures.

In the 2000 film, What Women Want, Mel Gibson plays the character of Nick Marshall, a chauvinistic ladies’ man who acquires the ability to hear women’s thoughts at any given moment. At first, Nick sees this sudden ability as a curse, but is persuaded by a psychiatrist that this is in fact an amazing gift that he should use to his ability. Taking her advice, Nick uses his new gift to get ahead at his job and take down his new boss, Darcy McGuire, by reading her thoughts and using her ideas as his own, ultimately leading to him falling in love with her and ridding himself of the gift altogether. The ethical issues of invasion of privacy and plagiarism are present themes throughout the film.

The main ethical issue present in this film is invasion of privacy. Nick uses his so-called gift to control those around them and manipulate them into thinking that he is the perfect man. He excels at work, performs better with women, and gives advice to them solely based on what they want to hear. This is an extreme invasion of privacy because he is extracting information that he would never be able to get unless the women actually said it out loud to him. Naturally, the women start to question how Nick has become so in touch with their inner thoughts, thinking that he knows them better than anyone ever could. At one point, a woman that Nick sleeps with asks him if he is gay because he is so in touch with her inner thoughts that no other man would ever be able to do what he did.

The issue of plagiarism is also present because Nick takes Darcy’s ideas as his own and uses them to get ahead of her and pitch an ad campaign to the Nike brand. When Nick’s boss starts noticing how in touch he is with his ideas he decides to fire Darcy, which makes Nick realize how wrong he was to steal her ideas in the first place. The fact that Nick admits that he was wrong to lie, steal, and manipulate others around him shows how these ethical issues have an impact on one’s morals and have an effect on what people think of your character. This movie was very well done and was able to deliver a great message in ethical issues while staying entertaining and enjoyable.

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