Magnolia – An analysis of Frank T.J. Mackey

Tom Cruise plays the incredibly distasteful Frank T.J. Mackey, creator of “Seduce and Destroy,” a system for men to manipulate women into having sex with them. He instills confidence in his seminar participants and helps them see that they can woo any woman – even women that they meet on the street for a few moments. Frank presents an attitude that he can never be beaten. He is in charge of every situation and seems to have no need for others.

Frank is the son of Earl Partridge, the famous producer of “What Do Kids Know?” The two no longer speak because Earl left when Frank was young, and Frank had to care for his dying mother. Frank never forgave Earl and does not care that Earl is dying.
Frank is a selfish, but hurting man. Because of his past pain from his father, Frank tries to control everything: thus, his seminar on seducing women. Frank enjoys seduction because he feels that he is able to assert himself sexually and therefore, in his view, emotionally. He manages to mask his emotional suffering through meaningless casual sex with various women as a way to compensate the lack of paternal love which was denied to him since childhood.

During one of his seminars, he sits down for an interview with a female reporter. She systematically tears down the carefully constructed facade he has created for himself, and, in response, he retreats into anger and silence, claiming only to “silently judge” her. Later, he is confronted with the “evil man” (his long-estranged father) who has created the monstrous Mackey, and he is reduced to tears despite his oath: “I won’t cry for you.”

(Magnolia, 1999 – Written, directed and produced by P.T. Anderson)

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