Continually throughout the movie One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, many of the patients continually stood up to the authority that daunted over them, but the reasons for their standing up is unclear as well as the time that they choose to do so. Milgram’s studies provide an extremely useful insight into the minds of the average person when confronted with authority, which could provide a deeper look into the issues in the film. One of the first occasions were one of the patients openly disregarded the authority pressed upon them was really as a group when they went on their fishing trip.
Although there was an initial objection from Harding, eventually the men quickly came around and began to enjoy the feeling of being in the real world and blatantly standing up to authority. The reasoning behind the rebellion is unclear in this situation. It could be as simple as the fact that they have been blindly obeying for so long that any form of mutiny gave them a rush, which led to their enjoyment. Another reason could be that it felt so good to simply spite Ms.
Ratched for all of the restrictions that she places on them to, in a way, show their disapproval. Looking deeper though, it could be seen that perhaps deep down they have always wanted to rebel against their authority as mentioned above, but that the reason for them acting upon it was the fact that they were in a group, and seeing that others were going along with it led them to follow suit. Many of these possible reasons were also prevalent in the Milgram studies.
Although it is true that even in the Milgram studies we do not know exactly what led the “teachers” to finally quit their position, it can be assumed that the same reasoning was going through their brains as is going through the brains of the patients in One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest. Another similar example in the film where the patients disobeyed their authority as a group was while voting on whether to watch or to not watch the World Series on television.
Although just the previous day none of the patients were willing to vote to watch it due to Ms. Ratched’s heavy presence on them, something caused them just the next day to not only vote against Ms. Ratched, but to also be confident in doing so. The situation they were in did not change, and yet their actions did for no clear reason. It is clear in this scene that they all had strong influences on each other, because it all started with one person, Cheswick, and it slowly spread out from there until everyone was raising their hands.
If, on the other hand, the patients were asked one by one to raise their hands to vote, the likely result would be that none of them would raise their hands. Despite this being a possible reason as to why they voted against their authority, it still does not explain the time that they chose to do so. It is puzzling that although they wanted to watch the game an equal amount the day before that they did not stand up that day, they did on the next.
A similar question can be asked about the Milgram experiments, which entails the fact that many of the “teachers” wished to end the experiment very early on, but after instructed to do so continued, and after every shock they expressed their disapproval and finally many of them did end it; but why did they not end as soon as they first wanted to rather than wait? Perhaps in both the Milgram cases and One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, the people in question required time to build up their confidence until they thought that they were strong enough to conquer the authority that stood in their way.
Possibly one of the most interesting and thought-provoking events representing disobedience to authority in the film is during their last counseling meetings all together with Ms. Ratched. The first act of disobedience in this scene was when one of the patients (Spivey? ) asked Ms. Ratched why they locked their rooms up after they got up for breakfast and her response was that they would just go back to sleep if they didn’t lock the doors back up; the group’s response to this statement by Ms.
Ratched is when they first begin to be disobedient at the meeting when they began to question their reasoning and how it was unfair, and Taber clearly asks, “You mean to say, it’s sick to want to be off to yourself? ” Their disobedience does not end here though, soon after Cheswick presents the question to Ms. Ratched as to why she had begun to give them less and less cigarettes. Ratched claims that they were misusing them by gambling them away, but the patients counter that they are theirs to do as they please and that she should not be allowed to do such a thing.
After much bickering and argument, Cheswick then reached a breaking point and yelled out to Ms. Ratched completely belittling her position of having authority over the patients. Although it is clear that an event like this chaos were to eventually happen in a place where they try to control people like they did at their mental hospital, it is unclear as to why it took so long for them to rebel. Many of the things in the hospital anger the patients to an extreme level, and considering that many of them are there voluntarily, it makes little sense as to why they would not express their disapproval the moment that it first bothered them.
One thing that is unclear in this situation is the strong control that Ms. Ratched has over all of the patients. McMurphy’s arrival to the hospital and his immediate blatant disrespect to Ratched’s authority could have been the underlying cause that led these patients to soon begin to see the light again and express their opinions. Another reason could be that as all of these things that bothered them build up, eventually it causes them to reach their tipping point where they could not take any more of it and demanded a change.
Both of these theories could also explain the results of the Milgram experiment. Similar to McMurphy helping the patients see the light; the “learner’s” screams and complaints could have similarly sparked a thought inside the “teacher’s” mind. As for the buildup theory in the film, it directly translates over to the Milgram experiments, as it could have been that as each shock was administered and each scream was heard, this added up until their conscience could not continue the experiment.
Another situation of disregard to authority in the film was the morning event after Billy Bibbit spent the night with Candy. This responded with a cheer from the rest of the patients listening. It could have been the previous night of fun that had caused Billy to finally stand up to Ratched, which may have been so prevalent on his mind that he could not imagine Ratched being a good person if she did not want him to enjoy himself. Another theory could be that the normal days in the hospital had caused Billy to be someone he was not, and now that he finally felt normal he could be honest.
This theory mildly resembles the Milgram experiments in that the “teacher” may have been acting different than their normal self, due to this situation. While that may be true, it more strongly resembles the Zimbardo experiments, where the stimulated jail area completely changed the way that both the guards and prisoners acted in the situation. Up to this point all of the events in the movie of disobedience were not identical but of similar structure nonetheless, but the story of McMurphy does not fit along with these.
While the rest of the patients seem to be blindly obedient until they began to change, McMurphy is blindly disobedient throughout the length of the film. His reasons for disobeying seem quite simple, just that if he disagreed with something, he would refuse to go along with it. There are many theories that try to explain the reasoning behind disobeying and the time at which were to do so, but not all of these theories correlate.
All people disobey depending on how they feel about a subject, but some will not be willing to disobey alone and require a group to disobey with them. Some people need time to build up their courage to stand up and disobey authority, and yet some people just need the right situation to come along and they will be willing to move forward with the opinion. One thing that can be determined however, is that if something is happening that is unjust or that person does not agree with, eventually change must occur, many times in the form of a revolution or mutiny.