“Identity” is a very vague term with different meanings. What is identity? “It refers to the cultural values or perspectives an individual most strongly relates to; such as an Asian identity”(SCP), “The distinguishing character or personality of an individual”(Arts Connected Organization), “It includes those qualities that distinguish one person from another” (Encarta Encyclopedia), “The distinguishing character or personality of an individual” (Britannica Encyclopedia). The very concise definition of “Identity” is realized in the question of “who Am I?” It refers to one’s specific and unique characteristics and features which differ it from others. It represents the real “self” of the person and the behaviors and desires due to that understood “self”. Like most human characteristics identity is formed through a very long and deep process.
The personal continuity and being unique are the most important factors of identity formation. It goes without saying that people, moreover to their personal identity that is formed mainly in families and schools in very young ages, acquire their social identity according to what group they belong to; membership in familial, ethnic, religious or even occupational groups. These group identities are necessary for people in order to define themselves in the eyes of both others and themselves.
Erik Erikson has extensively discussed “Identity Formation” under his theory of “developmental stages”, which believes identity formation extends from birth through adulthood. He states that this identity formation begins in childhood and goes along to adolescence and it also gains prominence in adolescence. Having had physical growth, sexual maturation, and various occupational opportunities, adults will start integrating their former experiences and characteristics, gained specifically through childhood, into a fixed and -perhaps- permanent identity. But basics of identity are constructed in childhood and teenage years. Thus, it can be said that the most significant period of identity construction is childhood.
The predictable obstacle through the identity formation can be identity crisis caused by various reasons and circumstances. According to Erikson, the crisis can be resolved by one’s progress through previous developmental stages, orienting on basic issues of life such as trust, autonomy, and motives. “J. E. Marcia illustrates four common ways in which adults deal with the challenge of identity James Gunn formation. Those who successfully resolved and passed identity crisis are referred as “identity-achieved.” Others who are trying to make commitments without questioning or investigating alternatives are named “identity-foreclosed,” those who are “identity-diffused” flee from making decisions about their futures who are unable to make total heartily commitments to careers, values, or other people. In contrary, those in the “moratorium” group are struggling and experiencing an ongoing crisis as they try to “find themselves.”(Gale Encyclopedia of Psychology)
Undoubtedly, societies are in search for “identity-achieved” generations. Hence, the young generation or even adults will not be struggling with their “selves” or the society to find out moralities and values when they are mature enough to work and produce labor for their society. To be able to lead generations to this level of identity, societies must have regulated plans to educate and treat children from the very young ages; so that these learned values and moralities will be strengthened through ages. Cultural means can best aid and instruct children. This process of identity formation has always been very dominant through years by Hollywood.
Hollywood as the most influential media in America, and also in other countries, has had a great role in identity formation of Americans since childhood. American values and morale are being conducted in different ways in Hollywood movies; religious, national, political, moral and even economic values. There has always been a great emphasis upon religious believes-attending church or celebrating religious holidays like Christmas- and national values; American has always been stressing upon. Equality, liberty, love for the nation, freedom of expression, human right have been demonstrated repeatedly in movies in order to imply meanings and values.