Critically analyse the politics/ideology of Definitely Maybe by Ahmad Ridhuan Alauddin


The American Dream is an idea that puts the concept of having it all and enjoys it all as the ultimate success. The idea has always been encapsulated as a utopian goal in popular culture especially in films. Businesses and politicians then further glorify this notion influencing minds of many people. What makes Adam Brook’s film; Definitely Maybe outstanding is that it combines this element (the American Dream) with traditional aspect of American politics (elections and party politics)
. Definitely Maybe brings us the memorable journey of William Hayes who moves out of his university life to New York and join the 1992 Bill Clinton presidential campaign believing he is one step closer to his American Dream. This is a film about a normal young man trying hard to achieve his dream; to become a successful and respected politician. This paper will explore the reality of the American Dream and American Politics as we analyze the film Definitely Maybe. The analysis will explain how the American Dream are interpreted by common citizens and also issues such as conspiracy and high profile scandals that have always had enormous impact on American politics. Last but not least; this paper will look into the American idealism that have also been shaped by its political ideological debates.

The American Dream

President Clinton said a year after his victorious 1992 presidential election:

The American dream that we were raised on is simple but powerful one-if you work hard and play by the rules you should be given a chance to go as far as your God-given ability will take you.
-President Bill Clinton, speech to Democratic Leadership Council, 1993

In this one powerful sentence he answered the most important questions surrounding the American Dream; who may pursue the American Dream? In what does the pursuit consists? How does one successfully pause the dream? Why is the pursuit worthy of our deeper commitments? Ironically, in the film Definitely Maybe the main character was depicted to be involved in the 1992 presidential election campaigning for Clinton. In this context he represents people that are chasing the dream.

The film evolves around William Hayes trying to explain his love story to his daughter. He begins his story at the period when he just finished college. As a young man he plans to get married to his college sweetheart and become a successful politician and eventually become the president of United States of America. A very idealistic thought as it is but in reality his dream and plans fits into the typical American Dream. He represents the millions of people that share the same beautiful dream of perfection.
However as we can see from the start of the film, the current William Hayes was complaining about his broken marriage and dull career. This situation creates a question mark on regards to the importance of social and welfare in the dream. How important are other aspects of life or are they just merely material based? We can see that despite not achieving his ambition to become the President of United States the current William Hayes have a decent job and is financially stable, living a life many describe as the American Dream. In spite of this, his marriage did not survive.
Statistics shows that once, America had a strong marriage institution. In 1990, 95 percent of women and 94 percent of men ages 45 to 54 either was or had been married. Marriage was seen as best route to achieving the American dream but now it is seen more as a problem and divorce is seen as path to personal liberation.
This scenario can be seen clearly in the movie Definitely Maybe. How William Hayes failed marriage opens a new door for him to relieve his romance with his best friend, April. So this shows that intentionally or unintentionally, Hollywood films have shaped the American Dream making it different to what it used to be.

Conspiracy and High Profile Scandals

In Hollywood films, the American dream has also been associated with American politics by depicting politicians as a hero that will make this dream possible for everyone. However, American politics have never been shy of conspiracy and high profile scandals. History has shown that conspiracies and scandals have been the downfall factors of many politicians but it happens again and again. In Definitely Maybe, we are shown how scandals and conspiracy can impact politics and public opinion.

As William Hayes’s life progresses, Bill Clinton became president of the United States; he opened a consulting firm with his friend Russell whom he worked with during the Clinton campaign. Their big break was when their former employer during Clinton’s campaign, Arthur Robredo hired them to run his campaign for Governor of New York. By this time he was in a relationship with Summer, a journalist who was covering Arthur Robredo’s campaign.

Their relationship however hit rock bottom when Summer decides to publish an article about Robredo’s involvement in a conspiracy to let off a friend on an early parole. Due to his campaign that was based on tough on crime agenda William knew that this would not only cost him the election but also eventually ended his relationship with Summer.

After the article came out Arthur Robredo lost the election, William lost his job and ended his relationship with Summer. What we are being shown here is how the media can shape public perception not only films but also other forms of media that can hugely impact decision making processes. Media pressure has influence various decisions making processes especially if it involves public sentiments.

William Hayes life became miserable after the slip-up. He was unemployed and to make it worse the scandal involving Clinton-Monica Lewinsky came out. At this point he had become cynical with his career choice. Once he was a firm supporter of Bill Clinton. He believed that Bill Clinton would bring change and improve the situation of the country. Out of disappointment he started drinking heavily and moved away from his initial dream.

This shows how high profile scandals and conspiracy not only can affect the actors but also people on the ground that had shed tears and sweat for a cause they believed in. In this context, the politicians themselves that were promoting the possibility of achieving the American dream stumbled into the wrong direction.

Another interesting point to highlight in the film is that a few years before the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal erupted William Hayes tells us about New York City. He described the introduction of two important new medium of communication; the Internet and cell phone.

When the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal was exposed, surprisingly the public reaction was very different this time as compared to previous scandals involving high profile politicians. It is save to say that the introduction of the new media have changed how people look at things. Perhaps more than any other scandal episodes, the events surrounding the impeachment of Bill Clinton epitomize the conflation of political and popular culture that characterizes American society. The Clinton/-Lewinsky scandal clarified, and in some ways redefined, how political and entertainment culture pertain to presidential leadership.

Political Ideology

Analyzing the politics of film Definitely Maybe would be incomplete without looking at the political ideology of the two leading characters; William and April. Both have opposite characters. The political understandings of both characters are also very different. Here we see the American idealism that is usually shaped by its political ideological debates. William has a strong belief in the two party system and he have his own stand on which party he supports. Contrasting from William, April on the other hand represents the independent citizens that are not bounded by any particular political ideology.

Party identification can be described as an individual’s affective orientation to an important group-object in his environment. In this sense, William Hayes was highly affected by this idea. When he first met April, they were working for the Clinton campaign. He immediately assumed that she was a Bill Clinton supporter or at least belongs to any political faction. However to her it was different. She did not feel obligated to support any parties or have any opinions about politics. The only concern she has is to earn money.

April’s view on politics can be characterized in the individualistic sub-culture. She views political life as being based in system of mutual obligations rooted in personal relationship. This explains what she said to William Hayes “You think this bozos you’re working for, they don’t care anything more than their own ambition’. She represents people that are skeptical about the changes politics can bring into life.

William Hayes on the other hand belongs to the moralistic sub-culture. He believes politics as a public activity centered on some notion of the public good. He was surprised by April’s stand on politics. He had faith on the whole partisan politics. He believed that politics could actually change things around and improve the living quality.
The political ideologies of both character in one-way or another dictated what they decide to do in their life. William Hayes went on to open a consultation agency choosing to work in the political line. April decides to go around the world and finish her studies. It is hard to judge which type of ideology is the better one with both characters going on with life being successful in chasing their dream.

Definitely Maybe certainly shows that people should be allowed to have their own ideas about politics. No matter what one believes if they are committed to be successful they will eventually find their way.


The film Definitely Maybe deals with many issues that common people face in their everyday life. It shows how a young man without any extraordinary ability faces the harsh reality of life. The film gives American dream a more reasonable outlook. It shows that the American dream is something that is not so glamorous, but yet can be a reason for common people to struggle and achieve success. The film also, looks at the traditional aspect of American politics; the election, scandals and also political ideology. All this three aspect if combined, sums up the colorful and eventful American politics that despite the skeptics many people have faith in. Finally the most important thing is the message that this film is trying to convey to its viewers which is in life if there is a will there will be a way.


1) Ahlburg,Dennis and J. De Vita, Carol , ‘New Realities of the American Family’ Population Bulletin, 47 (No. 2, August 1992), p. 12.

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3) Fields, Barry, ‘Impact on Public Perceptions, Educational Decisions and Policy’, University of Southern Queensland PO Darling Heights, Toowoomba, Australia pp 2-15

4) L. Hochschild, Jennifer Facing Up to the American Dream: Race Class, and the Soul of the Nation.Princeton: Princeton University Press(1995), pp 15-38

5) Marriage in America:
A Report to the Nation
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6) Owen, Diana, ‘Popular Politics and the Clinton/Lewinsky Affair: The Implications for Leadership Political Psychology’, International Society of Political Psychology Vol. 21, No. 1, Special Issue: Response Latency Measurement in Telephone Surveys (Mar., 2000), pp. 161-177.

7) Paddock, Joel ‘Political Culture and the Partisan Style of State Party Activist Publius Vol. 27, No. 3 (Summer, 1997), Oxford University Press’ pp. 127-132

8) Paris,Geela (2004), The American Dream - Are We Really Free? Available online at:

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