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Structural Balance Property and Prison Break

The Fox tv series Prison Break aired in the mid 2000s. Note: this blog may contain some spoilers. The link below covers a synopsis of Prison Break which chronicles the lives of several prison inmates from the Fox River Penitentiary. The relationships developed throughout the tv series show the effects of structural balance property and how unbalanced relationships tend to move towards a balanced state. I am going to explore two originally unbalanced relationships and how they moved to a balanced setting.

The first relationship I want to describe is the love triangle between inmate Sucre, his girlfriend Maricruz, and his cousin Hector. The love triangle goes as such: Sucre and Maricruz are in love, Hector manipulates Maricruz into becoming his fiancé, and Sucre despises his cousin Hector. Therefore, this structure of two positive relationships and one negative relationship is unbalanced due to the structural balance property. After Sucre breaks out of prison, he disrupts the wedding of Maricruz and Hector changing the edge between them to a negative. In the end, Sucre and Maricruz maintain their positive relationship (And stay in love), while the Maricruz <–> Hector link becomes negative due to the collapse of the wedding. The final relationship structure is now balanced with one positive relationship and 2 negative ones.

Another relationship triangle with a similar beginning structure is the one between Michael, Linc, and Mahon. Michael went to prison in order to break out his brother Linc, so they have a strong connection. Mahon is introduced in the second season and is responsible for the murder of Michael and Linc’s father. However, Michael and Mahon have a positive relationship, because Mahon has connections that Michael needs. The structure looks like: Mahon<–>Michael (+), Mahon<–>Linc (-), Michael<–>Linc (+). Thus this is an unbalanced structure due to the Structural Balance Theory. Although the wound of Mahon killing their father never heals, Mahon proves himself to be a valuable ally and asset to both Michael and Linc. This changes the Mahon and Linc relationship to a positive one, thus satisfying the structural balance property.

The relationships in Prison Break accurately prove the effects of the structural balance property. Whenever an unbalanced relationship triangle forms, it works its way to a balanced structure within several episodes and thus displaying the importance of the structural balance property.


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