Her mother Queen Elinor placed the crown atop her head as she yelled – “I am Strong. I am Brave. I am Merida and I am a Princess!” Tears, tingles and cries of joy from the crowd as we gathered to see Merida’s coronation as the 11th Disney Princess on May 11, 2013 at Walt Disney World Resort.
Celebrity gymnast Gabby Douglas graced the stage, and Sophie Grace and Rosie from Ellen sang before Merida entered on horseback, bow in hand. My two boys (who usually hide around princesses “They are so beautiful Mommy!”) were in awe at her stature, her smile, but mostly the poise and strength she exuded.
There has been controversy on Disney’s decision to give Merida a lovely, Princess-worthy outfit for the most important day of her life. That Merida looked beautiful on this day does not say that she is less outdoorsy, strong or courageous. She dressed for the occasion and in my view is no less a role model for girls everywhere. Disney has given us our 11th role model for girls and boys alike, and I was proud to have my boys and my own mother by my side for the coronation.
“You’re braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.”
— A.A. Milne
With the Oscars just around the corner, North Americans are rushing to see the films that critics have been raving about for months. Some families in the Touro University Worldwide (TUW) Marriage & Family Therapy Department reviewed a few of this year’s Oscar Nominees and the family lessons that can be learned from their plots. Have you ever considered using movies to discuss difficult family topics?
1) Dealing with Parenting – “Brave” is the favorite for winning best animated film, but it is also a favorite for understanding the conflicts that arise between parents and children. The strong-willed Merida defies her mother as she hopes to change the future her parents have planned for her. Ultimately, both mother and daughter learn that parenting is about compromise, which is a lesson that both children and adults can take to heart.
2) Dealing with Mental Illness – Mental illness is often a taboo subject; families do not discuss it and prefer avoidance over acceptance. Movies such as “Silver Linings Playbook” have brought the realities of depression and mental illness into the spotlight. Families need to be open about mental illness with their children so that they can understand that it is an illness and it is ok to ask for help. Movies are good starting points for talking about difficult topics, and “Silver Linings Playbook” fits the bill.
3) Learning about Societal Struggles – “Les Misérables” was revolutionary when Victor Hugo first published the acclaimed novel in 1862, and many of the struggles and lessons learned by its characters are still relevant today. Talking to your children about poverty and racism can be difficult topics to introduce, and sometimes looking at how far the world has come is a good starting point. Using historical movies like “Les Misérables” can teach your children lessons such as the importance of service to society, intellectual pursuit, and the giving back to the underserved, all principals that TUW is built upon.
4) Learning about Loss – “Amour” is the favorite for winning the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film, but the topics the film focuses on such as elderly relations and loss are not foreign. Talking about loss is a difficult subject to broach at any age, which is why it is important to watch movies that showcase the pain of loss and show family members how individuals deal with this agony.
The Marriage and Family Therapy Program at Touro University Worldwide presents an extraordinary opportunity for interested individuals to become actively involved in an expanding and promising area of study. The need for Marriage and Family Therapists is growing as an integral and important part of our nation’s health and mental health care delivery system. So watch the movies, learn the lessons, and then become part of the TUW community that teaches these lessons every day.