My analysis is on the film The Goonies. While I view the movie and determine the various norms, behaviors, roles and interaction between group members, as well as individuals the examination within the realm of film can present many of the same components. Thus, our group selected this movie to analyze based on its formation of a cohesive problem-solving group full of unforgettable characters. The Goonies portray many different theories and aspects of small group communication.
This analysis will examine the following elements. First we will establish the group background by describing the development of the characters and major plot lines in The Goonies. Second, we will describe the techniques/methods our group used to analyze the film to provide the reader with insight into the development of this analysis. The major focus of this analysis examines five major areas of small group communication. Specifically we will identify a) the various group roles that develop throughout the duration of the movie and the relevance they have to the development of the group, b) the gender differences that exist between the members of the Goonies and impact they have on member role and leadership emergence, c) the verbal and nonverbal interaction between members and the impact the various elements have on the development of first impressions of the group members, d) the development of the group as they progress through the primary and secondary tensions, and e) the problem solving techniques used by the group to accomplish their tasks. In addition, we will also compare the Goonies to our own small group. As we conclude our paper, we will provide recommendations for the Goonies group in order to hypothetically improve their communication. To enhance your understanding of the characters and task facing the Goonies, the following section will provide a short background on the group.
Group Background
The Goonies is film about a group of west coast kids from Astoria California whom are trying to save their homes from being destroyed. Rich people from the town are buying out their neighborhood in order to build a new development. The central characters are two brothers named Mikey and Brandon. Mikey’s friends (Mouth, Chunk and Data) come over to hang out one last time before they all have to move. While at Mikey and Brandon’s house, they venture into the attic and find a treasure map and articles about the legendary pirate “One-eyed” Willy. Soon they are convinced that they can save their neighborhood if they follow the map to find Willy’s treasure.
By following the map’s directions, they come upon a run-down restaurant owned by the treacherous Fratelli family. They make their way down to the basement after the Fratelli’s leave, and discover a counterfeit machine, a murder victim, and a passageway to “One-eyed” Willy’s underground tunnels. By this time, two of Brandon’s friends (Stephanie and Andy) show up and join the group on their adventure. Chunk is somehow left behind in the restaurant and is sent to find help while the others travel through the tunnels searching for the treasure.
Chunk is soon captured by the Fratelli’s and tells them all about the hidden treasure. The Fratelli’s then lock Chunk in a room with their deformed brother Sloth, and go looking for the treasure. After a series of adventures and group problem solving task, the group finds the treasure ship of “one-eyed” Whily and are soon confronted by the Fratelli’s over the rights to the treasure. While this is happening, Chunk and Sloth become friends and escape the locked room in order to stop the Fratelli’s. In the end, Chunk and Sloth save the Goonies from the Fratellis, and Mikey manages to stash away just enough treasure to save their neighborhood. Before we examine the various small group principles and concepts it is important to describe the methods used while developing this analysis. The following section will highlight the process our group went through to complete this analysis.
Someone suggested the film The Goonies, and everyone immediately agreed because it is a classic movie about a group coming together to solve a problem.
We decided that the most important sections that applied to the film were roles, gender, verbal/nonverbal, development, and problem solving. Everyone chose an individual area to focus on during the film. After we watched the movie, we shared with one another our thoughts and suggestions for each section. Then we decided to write about our individually assigned sections for our paper. After a few days, we each gave our written sections to one person in our group to cut and paste it all together.
Group roles are a set of expectations and perceptions of what an individual contributes to a group (Turman 2000b). A role is established when the group members expect a certain behavior from an individual in the group. In the movie, The Goonies, there are various roles that the characters assume to achieve a common goal. The main group in the movie is a team of boys who call themselves, the Goonies. The movie concentrates on the Goonies and the many roles that emerge in their group. The roles for the most part are informal, meaning the roles reflect the boys’ personalities. The roles of the group are both social and task oriented (Bormann & Bormann, 1996). In some parts of the movie role ambiguities are evident between the two brothers, Mikey and Brandon. The specific roles that the group members fulfill affect the entire group’s ability to achieve their goal.
The main character in the movie is Mikey. He assumes the role of leader/task master. Turman (2000b) defines the role of taskmaster as someone who “ensures that the group remains focused on the task at hand.” When the Goonies became preoccupied with other things rather than achieving the goal, Mikey got the group back on track. One example is when the Goonies wanted to give up at the wishing well. Midway through the film the group happens upon a local wishing well and are forced to make a decision about continuing on with the adventure or climbing their way out of danger. Mikey reminded the group why they needed to find the treasure in order to save their neighborhood. After reassuring the group why they needed the treasure, the rest of the group went along with him, and Mikey emerged as the leader/taskmaster.
The character, Brandon is the older brother to Mikey. Brandon’s main role is the spokesperson. Brandon speaks on behalf of the group because he is the oldest and therefore most trustworthy. A good example of his role is at the end of the movie when the Goonies meet their parents after they found the treasure. Brandon is the main speaker when they are telling their story of how they found the treasure.
The other characters in the Goonies include Mouth and Data. Mouth assumes the role of the opinion giver. Turman (2000b) suggest the opinion giver states what they feel about the situation. Often they “provide data for forming decisions, including facts that derive from expertise, or opinions, values and feelings” (Turman, 2000b). When Mouth is in the wishing well, he is angry that his wishes did not come true, so he said he was going to take back all the change that he threw in because he deserved it. A number of times he makes reference to the qualities of the other group members. For the most part his information is based more on opinions rather than facts that derive from expertise. On the other hand, Data is the procedural technician who handles all the gadgets and devices to help aid the group in the accomplishing their goal. One example is when he uses his oil slicker shoes on the log to make the Fratelli’s slip and fall.
The role conflict that occur between Brandon and Mikey happen because of the differences in age between the two characters. Brandon is older than Mikey, so he assumes that he should have the leader role. When it is clear that Mikey is the leader of the group, Brandon accepts the emergence and becomes comfortable with his role in the group. Connected with the development of roles is the issue of gender. The Goonies consists of 5 males and 2 females, and the role development for these members tends to follow a number of traditional role types. The following sections will examine this development in the film.
Gender and sex differences occur at a variety of levels. In many ways, our society establishes and presumes group member roles which are based on gender types. These same gender role types also emerge within this film. As the movie progresses, two high school girls, Stephanie and Andy, meet up with the group. When this happens, gender differences become apparent. Gamble ; Gamble (1998) define gender as “social definitions and views of masculinity and femininity” (p. 424). Genders differ in behavior, interests, social status, and goals. This concept is often represented on a continuum which represents masculinity and femininity on opposite ends of the spectrum. An individual can exhibit either masculine or feminine characteristics regardless of his/her sex and can be placed almost anywhere on the continuum. Thus, men and women are not restricted to possessing masculine and feminine traits respectively. When the group of Goonies expands to a group of five guys and two girls, the guys tend to display masculine characteristics while the girls show a more feminine side. The boys seem to be fairly aggressive and are focused on achieving the ultimate goal. The girls on the other hand are more focused on getting out of the situation facing the group.
Throughout their journey there were various shifts within power. The shifts of power were not necessarily between the males and females but between the boys, Brandon and Mikey. Gamble and Gamble (1998) suggest the societal view of women as less powerful influences the nature of the relationships between men and women. Some women and men persist in holding the belief that men should be more powerful. We believe this belief was upheld through this film. Although it became evident that every member of the group, in one-way or another, had important skills or suggestions to help the group succeed. For example, during one scene the group was forced to play the appropriate keys on a skeleton piano which served as keys to unlocking a pathway for the group to continue. Andy played the skeleton piano because nobody else knew how. Often the feminine characteristics displayed by the female group members were situational. At times, Stephanie seemed to be a non-traditional female and utilize a very masculine communication style. When she would get upset, she frequently became controlling and aggressive. For example, when Mouth got on her nerves, she would grab his shirt collar and threaten him. Stephanie did not however emerge as a leader because of these behaviors.
In general, Stefanie and Andy were usually ignored and their opinions were not taken seriously or into consideration. This is consistent with findings presented by Bormann and Bormann (1996) who argue “men resisted supporting the woman contender who emerged as clearly the best person to be the group leader” (p. 224). The male members of the Goonies seemed to take control and called most of the shots because this was originally their mission. The males and females seemed to work well together for the most part and respected one another. Overall, there did not seem to be a lot of tension between the genders. The males outnumbered the females (five to two) but the girls still held their own.
Another characteristic of the group’s interaction in the film The Goonies is their use of Nonverbal communication, described nonverbal communication as the general means of “communicating without words (p. Nonverbal communication encompasses a significant amount of what occurs during interaction with others and includes such things as a) the use of volume, tone, rate, pitch and vocal quality; b) the use of physical space and distance during interaction; c) a persons physical appearance including cloths and accessories; d) the use of one’s body including gestures, facial expressions and eye contact; and e) the emphasis placed on time that nonverbal communication is usually the most instantly recognizable form of communication within a group.
One of the first things that strikes a viewer about the Goonies is the volume and intensity of their arguing, and their inability to arrive at a consensus on anything. This is also known as the term “paralanguage” to describe this type of nonverbal communication in which individuals use their voice to impact the words they have selected. As the film cotinues, I view that the group members gradually gain respect for each others personality traits, and this respect allows them to make decisions in a shorter period of time and spend less time arguing when compared to the beginning of the film. We feel accepted or rejected based on other group members use of nonverbal when communication with us. This is also represented in the beginning of the film. Initially the two sections of the group (Mikey and his friends, and the older high school kids) are wary and suspicious of each other. When they move through the tunnels on their way to the treasure, they move at first as two groups, but once again as the film continous we can see them move from two groups to one group, working together as one. By the end of the film they are all hugging each other and celebrating together.
An interesting case in point when dealing with nonverbals in the film is the relationship between Chunk and Sloth, the deformed Fratelli brother. Gamble and Gamble (1998) suggest that one’s facial appearance also influences judgments of his/her physical attractiveness. When forming first impressions, we often utilize an individual’s physical attractiveness to determine a number of characteristics and qualities. We connect positive qualities and stereotypes to attractive individuals, while placing negative qualities and stereotypes on unattractive individuals. When Chunk first sees Sloth’s deformed, he automatically attaches negative qualities to Sloth’s personality. However, after interaction it becomes apparent to Chunk that Sloth is truly a child a heart and a gentle human being. Eventually, Chunk shows Sloth perhaps the only affection he has ever known in his life. Sloth’s nonverbals show that he is very appreciative of this affection, and he returns it in the only way he knows how, nonverbally. Sloth only knows a few words, so his nonverbal communications are stronger than most in order to compensate.
It was interesting to note the similarities in communication between the group in the film and other real life groups. It is fairly typical for groups to start out a little suspicious of each other, but the true test of a group’s cohesiveness is how swiftly and easily they can overcome initial suspicions and learn to trust each other. Only after this trust has been achieved can the group then move forward to accomplish their goals. The following section will attempt to examine the group’s development throughout the course of the film.
The Goonies become a more cohesive group as the film progresses. Bormann & Bormann (1996) define cohesiveness as “the ability of the group to stick together” (p. 123). The girls and boys unite as they internalize the goal of the group. Turman (2000c) suggests cohesive groups display an increase in initiative and a high morale. Productivity is enhanced in cohesive groups by splitting up the workload equally amongst group members. Because all seven of the group members are from the same neighborhood and all are going to have their houses destroyed, they come together as a unified team in order to save their homes.
Cohesion is split into two different levels both high and low. Bormann & Bormann (1996) suggest that low cohesion is characterized by nonverbal disengagement, quiet and polite interaction, limited disagreement, and quick decision-making. On the other hand, the film group displays characteristics of a highly cohesive group. The Goonies interaction is uninhibited and unruly. They do not necessarily wait for their turn to talk. They just say what they want when they want. Surprisingly, the conflicts and disagreements are usually productive. When they begin to scream and shout, it allows some to vent their frustrations while others come up with a solution to their problem. In addition, the Goonies aren’t afraid to self-disclose. They freely share their dreams and their fears with one another as they work together to find the treasure.
Another reason for their cohesiveness is because they create a series of fantasy chains. Fantasies are ways in which groups make sense of their experience. They recall events together in order to bring back memories and to analyze past experiences. In order to create a shared interpretation of events, the Goonies create a common vision of heroes and villains. Bormann ; Bormann (1996) refer to this as fantasy sharing or the ability of the group to come to a “symbolic convergence.” Obviously, the heroes are themselves because they are trying to save their neighborhood. The external villains include the rich people trying to buy out their houses and the Fratelli family that is chasing the group through the underground tunnels. The group’s ability to fantasize about what could occur to them if they are not successful in retrieving the treasure allows them to become more united and focused on that task at hand.
The group’s name is also symbolic of their convergence. In the beginning, Mikey is describing how the pirates on the ship were rejects, and Chunk says, “Kind of like us Mike, the Goonies.” The group seems to unite under that name. The girls union into the group is apparent when Mikey tries to comfort Andy when she plays the wrong note on the skeleton piano. He says, “It’s ok. Goonies always make mistakes.” The group name is very central to the group’s cohesiveness.
As the group shares their experiences with their parents at the end of the film, the Goonies become even closer. At first the parents cannot believe what they are hearing, but because all of the kids are telling the same story, they are forced to accept what has happened. If the Goonies were a real group, fantasy chaining would be even more important after their adventure as they would recall their experiences together.
Not only are the Goonies a close-knit group, but they are also an effective group of problem-solvers. Groups often align themselves along a continuum as utilizing either a Synetic and systematic approach to problem solving. Turman (2000a) suggest that the synetic method involves no clear pattern or criteria to analyze. This method encourages a free flow of ideas along with slumping and incubation, which eventually leads to illumination, an appropriate solution. On the other hand, the systematic approach follows a step-by-step process of information. First, a group defines their situation, and then they analyze what their group can accomplish. They make a list of all possible solutions, and from that list, they select the most appropriate solution to implement. The Goonies obviously utilized the synetic approach because there was no clear pattern to their problem-solving technique.
The Goonies deal with problems differently depending on the situation. Each one of the members has individual attributes suited for different situations. One example is when the Goonies went to the restaurant and Mama Fratelli seats them at a table. Mouth uses his special language skills by speaking Italian to Mama. The biggest problem the group faces is how to save their houses. This is the main theme of the movie and the primary reason for the treasure hunt. Because of this the Goonies find themselves in dangerous situations numerous times throughout the film. As more problems start to evolve along their journey, the decision seems to be whether or not to keep going. In one scene, Mikey pulls a lever, and Data falls through the floor. As he is falling, he deploys his chattering teeth attached to a slinky. The teeth grab the walls of the passage and the slinky bounces him back up so the stakes below do not impale him. Data yells up, “It’s o.k. Guys, look at this!” At that point the decision is made that this is the way to go to continue the treasure hunt.
The primary way the group solves problems and makes decisions is based on the treasure map. The map gives the group guidance to negotiate the obstacles. However, the Goonies have a sense of urgency about the way they operate. Once they have reached a certain point in the adventure, Mikey declares they have gone too far to turn back now. They have made it further than Chester Copperpot, who was the last person to go after the treasure.
The strategies that were used were effective and appropriate. Every problem that was introduced was met with an answer. This led them to reach their goal, the treasure of “One-eyed” Willy. In the end, they came up with a solution to the biggest problem the group was facing, saving their houses from being torn down. The Goonies success in their heroic adventure is the most convincing reason why their problem solving was effective.
Comparison to Our Group
Our small group and the Goonies share similar characteristics. We both have established informal roles amongst group members including both task and social. We have a leader/taskmaster similar to Mikey, and we have a group narrator similar to Chunk. Verbal and nonverbal communication is important in both groups. What we say and what we do reveals how we feel and what we are thinking. A pat on the back and a few complimentary words are similar forms of nonverbal and verbal encouragement that both small groups display. As time passes, both our small group and the Goonies become more cohesive. All in all, we are like the Goonies because we are past the primary tensions of getting to know each other and are more focused on problem solving and accomplishing a goal.
On the other hand, our small group and the Goonies differ in other aspects of group interaction. We do not share the same issues of gender differences as seen in the Goonies. Our group consists of three girls and two guys. The girls do not seem to be as ignored or disrespected in our group as they are early on in The Goonies. This may be because we were originally a part of the same team and did not join the group later as with Stefanie and Andy. Unfortunately, our group probably is not as cohesive as the Goonies. We have not been through some huge adventure that would draw us as close together as the Goonies. Also, our group has only known each other for a very small amount of time. The members of the Goonies appeared to have been friends for a number of years. Therefore, our shared fantasies are much more limited and not as extravagant as the group in the film.
Our recommendations for the Goonies include less talking and more listening. It is obvious that the members of the Goonies are somewhat selfish. They are more focused on what they personally have to say rather than listening to others. At times it is frustrating to watch The Goonies because they appear to be just a bunch of shouting adolescent boys. The number of answers given far outweighs the number of questions asked as proposed in the interaction process analysis model. Deep down the viewer knows that they care for one another, but the group members do not show it by always taking the time to listen.
We also feel that the Goonies could show more consideration for the girls in the group. As stated earlier, the girls do not have as much say in what the group does. Just because they are girls, it does not mean that they do not have any important input to give. The boys in the Goonies could have been much more supportive and encouraging of both Stefanie and Andy instead of glaring and yelling at them. Although the Goonies do allow the girls to enter in to their group by the end, we believe that this could have happened much sooner in the film.
The way the group treats Chunk is another area the Goonies could improve upon. Because Chunk is always telling tall tales, complaining or breaking things, other group members like to tease and ignore him. When Chunk arrives at Mikey and Brandon’s house, Mouth makes him do the “truffle shuffle” (revealing his big belly and shaking it around) before he will open the gate for Chunk. Another example of group members giving Chunk a hard time is when he tells a story about seeing a gunfight between a police car and a RV. No one believes him, but his story was true and involved the Fratelli family. Later on in the film, Chunk is accidentally locked in the freezer at the Fratelli’s with a murder victim. The rest of the Goonies do not even realize that Chunk is missing until it is too late.
Overall, we would suggest that the Goonies should be more other-centered and less selfish. By doing this, the entire group would realize the importance of each individual group member. No one would have any reason to feel left out or useless as long as others are encouraging and motivating them. Although the Goonies do spend a lot of time supporting one another already, we believe that there is a lot of room for improvement.
In closing, The Goonies film proves to be an effective and dynamic model of small group communication and formation. Through the examination of a small group within the context of a film, one can easily begin to connect and apply the many concepts and principles of small group communication. While the true is not a true representation of a naturally occurring group, many of the same qualities still emerge. A small group of teenagers come together as a cohesive unit in order to take action to save their neighborhood. Each individual fulfills a different yet important role that aids in the success of the group. The verbal and nonverbal communication utilized amongst the characters reflects genuine and necessary group interaction. The Goonies develop and expand into a larger, yet more unified group as they face more and more trials. Their small group triumphantly solved an important problem that affected each individual. As a group, they were much more suited to outwit “One-eyed” Willy’s booby traps, to outrun the underhanded Fratelli family, and to out do the rich people of the town by saving their neighborhood.
Bormann E. G. & Bormann & N. C. (1996). Effective Small Group Communication (6th Edition). Edina, MN: Burgess Publishing.
Gamble T. K., & Gamble, M. W. (1998). Contacts: Communicating Interpersonally. Boston, MA: Allyn and Bacon.

Turman, P. (October 9-10, 2000a). Group Roles: Group Communication Lecture
Cedar Falls, IA. University of Northern Iowa, Communication Studies Department.
Turman, P. (October 13, 2000b). Group Decision Making & Problem Solving: Group Communication Lecture Cedar Falls, IA. University of Northern Iowa, Communication Studies Department.
Turman, P. (October 25, 2000f). Group Cohesiveness and Conflict: Group Communication Lecture Cedar Falls, IA. University of Northern Iowa, Communication Studies Department.
Zeuschner, R. (1997). Communicating today (2nd Edition). Boston, MA: Allyn and Bacon.

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