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Balanced Networks in Popular Films

When we learned about balanced three-person networks in lecture, we learned that having an odd number of negative relationships produces an unbalanced network, while having an even number provides us with a balanced network. This theory holds true in networks with a relatively small number of people, and it even has an application to our everyday lives (or at least in certain popular films).

For example, in the film Superbad, the main characters Evan and Seth (Michael Cera and Jonah Hill, respectively) are best friends. Evan is also friends with Fogell, an odd, awkward kid who Seth does not have a positive relationship with. This network contains two positive links and one negative one, making it an unbalanced network. As a result, Evan feels torn between his two friends and ends up hurting both of them. In an unbalanced network of friends, it is almost inevitable that someone will get hurt.

In another example, we are all familiar with the threeway “Mexican standoff” popular in many Western films. During this scenario, each person points a gun at the two other people in front of him. Since all three relationships here are negative , this is clearly an example of a unbalanced network. As we all know, this situation does not last for long. Somebody usually dies, thus balancing the network. Once one person is removed from the Mexican standoff, there are no longer an odd number of negative relationships, and the issue between the three can be resolved.

There are many other examples in films, stories, or even in the real world that show unbalanced networks having unfavorable results. During lecture I was skeptical that the theory held water, but after applying it to what I have seen or read in popular culture, I understand the application of unbalanced and balanced networks.


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