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Popular Movie My Girl | Analysis

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Literature
Wordcount: 1170 words Published: 11th May 2017

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I was ecstatic when I realized I had an opportunity to write a term paper based upon one of my favorite movies. The movie I chose to write about is My Girl, which was released in 1991. This movie is based upon an 11-year-old girl name Vada Sultenfuss. Her mom was killed instantly upon her birth forcing her to be raised by her dad Harry and grandmother who suffered from dementia. Harry ran a home business as a mortician and frequently held funerals at his residence. He puts a lot of his energy into work and rarely spends quality time with Vada. Hence, Vada learns to spend life on her own. She is at the point in her life where she second guesses her thoughts and is more alert about her and others. Vada’s personal life is affected because of the combination of not knowing much about her mother and her father’s new love interest, Shelly DeVoto who was initially hired as his secretary/make-up artist. During this transition others become aware of her hypochondriac behavior and discover her misconceptions about death. Vada heavily blames herself for her mother’s death which is why her concept of death is demented. According to Erikson’s stages of psychosocial development Vada is almost at the end of stage Industry verses Inferiority, which is middle childhood ages 6-12. Cognitive Vada appears to be an active learner and is very mature for her age. However, the stress of not properly dealing with her mother’s death causes behaviors she cannot explain.

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In the presence of the deceased Vada would tense up because she would mentally encounter episodes of her dying. A specific example of an experience was when she was playing basketball and the ball rolled into the basement area of which her father prepares the bodies for the funeral. Vada was a bit hesitant before walking in the basement but siked her self up to get the ball and quickly get out the basement. Once she obtained the ball she attempted to exit of the basement however the door was jammed. Vada eventually forced the door open however she was shaken up by the thought of being near dead bodies. Her fear of death has a major impact in her life. By her residing in a funeral parlor she is constantly reminded of death. Vada has developed the character of a hypochondriac. She seems to take on the health issues that the deceased in the parlor had and bring herself to think she also suffered from the sickness which would eventually cause death. She goes so far as to visit the doctor’s office and inform him she has what the deceased had. Overall, Vada is in good health, but she has a problem expressing her feelings and thoughts.

The characters in this movie did not suffer from any drastic health concerns and they all seemed to cope well with biological changes. At one point Harry did question his age after realizing how Vada grew from his baby girl to a young lady. He realized she was becoming old enough to care for herself when he had to take care of business outside of the home. Erikson believed that the combination of adult expectations and children’s drive toward mastery sets the stage for the psychological conflict of middle childhood: determined completely when experiences guide children to develop a sense of competence at useful skills and tasks (Beck, 2004).

Psychosocially, Vada was a star academically. She did everything she could to shine as a pupil to impress her teacher, whom she had a crush on. Her crush grew bigger and she took extreme measures to enroll into a summer writing classes to see her teacher when school was not in session. Thomas Jay is Vada’s best friend in the movie. Vada often confided with Thomas because her lack of attention from her dad. Harry’s lack of attention has most likely played a factor in Vada’s misconceptions about death. Adolescents thrive on their relationships and personal friendships. Regardless of age, everyone needs companionship, affection, social comparison, physical support, and intimacy.

From birth Vada, her father, and grandmother consisted of her family. Over the years the grand mom past and Shelly was introduced as a member of the family. Along with Shelly came her stepson which Vada had no control in the changes that affected her. With the changes came emotions that Vada did not know how to react to. Vada started puberty at the young age of 10 and received her period when she was 11. Shelly had to step in and explain the how she was beginning to transition into a woman. Vada seemed to accept the changes her body was experiencing well except she did not want to interact with her best friend Thomas until she was off her cycle. Later in the movie Harry and Shelly became engaged. Vada was not happy being she was rarely getting attention as it was, her dad was marring Shelly which took more time away from her. She was upset and attempted to convince Thomas to run away with her. Girls, especially have a hard time getting along with their stepmothers.

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Sometimes (as just mentioned) this occurs because the girl’s relationship with her father is threatened by the remarriage. In addition, girls often become entangled in loyalty conflicts between their two mother figures. But the longer girls live in father-stepmother households, the more positive their interaction with stepmothers becomes (Beck, 2004). Even though Vada’s behavior toward Shelly is a bit hostile Shelly recognizes Vada’s need for attention and provides her with parental love and guidance especially with her misconceptions of death. The night after Vada asked Thomas to run away with her he died from being stung by bees. Immediately Vada ran to the doctor office suffering from a panic attack. She complained to the doctor that she could not breathe and bee stings were inflicting too much pain. She seems to be externalizing the internal emotional pain she feels because she does not know how to express her feelings. Even at Thomas’s funeral she had not accepted his death. She spoke to him as if he was still alive.

My Girl illustrates several aspects of the cognitive and the emotional development of children grasping an understanding of death. Although Vada seems to have a fairly clear understanding of the inevitability and unpredictability of death, she has some difficulty with its all-inclusiveness in that, although she is quite preoccupied with her own death, with her constant visits to the doctor reporting various fatal diseases, she does not seem to be concerned about the possible death of those close to her. This is consistent with the finding that most children understand their own personal mortality before they understand that all people die. Vada’s view on the afterlife is that everyone went to heaven Vada believed that her mother was taking care of Thomas. Through these experiences, one could witness Vada’s social, emotional, and intellectual growth as well as her changing views of death.


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