The film Gladiator, directed by Ridley Scott (2000), has always been one of my favorite films. It is a classic film, in that the hero dies while completing his life’s journey. The hero of the film is Maximus, a general in the Roman army during the height of the Roman Empire. To make a long story short, Maximus is betrayed by the emperor and his family is slain, however, he makes it out alive. He becomes a slave, a gladiator and eventually gets close enough to the emperor to avenge his family and return Rome to a more republican form of government ruled by the Senate. Anyways, in the end, he kills the emperor thereby avenging his family and returns Rome to a more just form of government. Maximus exhibits high levels of beneficial traits during the film that affect his choice of actions.
During the film, Maximus seems to be extremely introverted. He has a few close friends, including the emperor himself, his attendant, and the emperor’s sister. He is not usually the first to speak but allows others to speak first. His actions during the film are very deliberate and well thought through. Several times during Gladiator he is seen in seclusion, completely alone or with a close friend. Of course, some of these extreme introversion might be a product of his environment and social status. During most of the movie, he is a slave and therefore cannot speak whenever he wants. But still during the first part of the movie the pressures of social conformity as a slave are all but absent and he is still very quiet, deliberate, and withdrawn.
As far as neuroticism goes, I think that Maximus is very emotionally stable, considering the circumstances. He is able to take the loss of his family, his life, indeed his country and still persevere against enormous odds. This does not seem like the actions of someone who would score high in neuroticism (McAdams, 2006). He seems very secure in his self-identity and self-concept. Moreover, it is this strong self-esteem that drives him to overcome adversity and right the wrongs done to him and his country. It is this complete absence of negative affectivity that allows him to do what must be done and still remain reasonably sane.
Maximus exhibits very low levels of openness to experience during certain parts of the film. In fact, I would say that it is his absence of this trait which gives him the emotional fortitude to accomplish his task. If he had been too open to the experience he might have compromised his task when the evil emperor asks for his allegiance. On the other hand, if he was not able to adapt to the new role of slave/gladiator he would most likely not have been able to achieve his goals. To summarize: Maximus overcomes obstacles through his openness to experience, which is driven by his single-minded, intellectual closeness.
In the area of conscientiousness, Maximus would probably score very high. In the film, he kills many men and fights many battles just to get the opportunity to kill the emperor and achieve vengeance. He does this in a methodical, well-organized manner, with an end result always in sight.
On the last trait, agreeableness, Maximus would probably score somewhere in the middle. In fact, it is his lack of empathy for the new emperor that leads him to kill the man. He is friendly to those close to him but not especially nice to others. As aforementioned this could largely be a product of his culture and environment. He is patient, in that he waits a long time in order to exact his vengeance. However, he also seeks the greater good of the nation or Rome. He is willing to die for the idea of Rome, the idea of freedom for humanity.
In conclusion, Maximus exhibits many of the characteristics of someone with a secure attachment style. It is this secure world view which gives him the self fortitude to complete his task of vengeance in the face of incredible odds.
McAdams, D.P. (2006). The person: A new introduction to personality psychology. Danvers, MA: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
Scott, R. (Director). (2000). Gladiator [Motion Picture]. United States: Universal Studios.