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My Girl - Movie Review

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The movie My Girl tells the story of eleven-year-old Vada Sultenfuss who, after having lost her mother at birth, lives with her Alzheimers’ disease ridden grandmother and her job-oriented widowed father in the funeral parlor that he owns and operates. The story follows Vada, an extreme hypochondriac, who has many strange misconceptions about, and even an obsession with death and disease. Through a plethora of experiences both good and bad, we as the audience witness Vada’s social, emotional, and intellectual growth, as well as her changing views of death and love. This summer seems to be going well, until we see Vada’s life begin to fall apart with her father’s engagement to Shelley, the death of her best friend Thomas Jay, and the discovery that the man she “loves”, Mr. Bixler, is engaged. In one particular scene, we are given an example of the pressure to conform, and how exactly Vada and some of her peers react to this pressure.

Throughout the movie, Vada is teased by other girls because her best friend, Thomas Jay is not only unpopular, he is also a boy. In this particular scene. We are introduced to the heartless, judgemental world of grade school “mean girls” as well as an example of conformity and ostracism.

The scene begins with Vada and Thomas Jay playing a game of card’s on Vada’s front porch. Shelley enters, and asks who is winning. Vada boasts, “I am”, and they continue playing until they are interrupted by a group of giggling girls from their school.

The first girl mocks, “Look, there’s Vada and her little boyfriend!”

“He is not my boyfriend!” Vada argues, although she has shared so many experiences, including her first kiss, with Thomas Jay.

“I bet she kissed him on the lips!” Another girl teases.

Vada seems disgusted when she retorts, “Do you think I kissed that ugly old thing?”

“Yeah, anyway!” Thomas Jay immediately stands up for his best friend Vada, and we can quickly see in his face the realization that he is being insulted.

“Come on let’s go. Judy’s father owns the movie theatre and we get to see all the movies we want for free.”

Judy clearly does not agree with her friends’ decision to tease Vada and Thomas Jay. She says longingly, “Maybe you can come some time…” but is quickly shot down.

“Ew, don’t invite her, she’ll have to bring her boyfriend!” Judy falls behind the group, looking as if she feels guilty for the way her friends are treating Vada, while they continue to taunt her and sing, “Vada and Thomas, sitting in a tree. K-I-S-S-I-N-G. First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes Thomas Jay in a baby carriage!” Shelley, looking concerned for Vada, says, You know Vada, you shouldn't let those girls upset you.” In true, spunky Vada fashion, Vada replies, “I'm not upset. I will never play with those girls. I only surround myself with people who I find intellectually stimulating.” Thomas Jay, who was the butt of everyone’s jokes and insults, looks at Shelley and smirks, obviously proud to be best friends with such a great girl.

Although Vada does not claim to be Thomas Jay’s “girlfriend” in this scene, Thomas Jay introduces some of the many aspects of adolescence to Vada, including her first kiss. In another scene, we see Vada, with a full face of makeup thanks to Shelley, attempting to “seduce” Thomas Jay. Although he may not induce the same feelings within Vada as Mr. Bixler, it is clear that Vada does have some feelings for and strongly care about Thomas Jay. Vada’s shift in behavior can, in my opinion, be explained by some of the phenemona in social psychology. In chapter 7, we discussed group structures and social influences, as well as conformity and ostracism.

There are many girls that were self-proclaimed tomboys, prior to puberty. For a fifth grade girl, however, a tomboy like Vada does not really fit into the social norm. The expected and accepted behaviors include things like: Playing with dolls, crushing on boys, and wearing and experimenting with makeup. Girls that do not conform to these patterns of accepted behavior, such as Vada, are teased and alienated by their peers, male and female.  Social influences, or the exercise of social power to change the attitudes or behaviors of others in a particular direction, are very strong, especially in grade school. These young children are figuring out who they are and what they are meant to be. The pressure to yield to perceived group behaviors is so large and can hugely affect the future of these children. Acting in accordance to the direct requests of and in response to the taunting of their classmates can change the paths of their lives forever, whether associated with an internal compliance/attitude change, or an external compliance.

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