Sunday, May 2, 2010

Autonomy and Vulnerability in the movie “This Christmas”

Reading the title alone, you would think that the movie “This Christmas” was simply about the ups and downs of a Christmas holiday. Well…it is, but after reading Marilyn Friedman’s’ “Autonomy, Social Disruptions, and Women,” and Susan Orkin’s “Vulnerability by Marriage,” I began noticing things that I hadn’t before. The movie is about a black family who comes together for the holidays. Needless to say, there is a lot of tension and drama that takes place over the period of three days. Two issues stood out to me the most when looking back at the movie. First was the dynamics of the family as a whole, and second was the relationship the oldest sister had with her husband.
In Marilyn Friedman’s essay, she points out that autonomy in men is something that is encouraged and praised for the most part. In women, autonomy can disrupt relationships and cause more harm than good. In the movie, the matriarch of the group, Madear, is separated from the father of her six children, Senior, and is living with her present beau, Joe, in her family home. It is known early in the movie that the patriarch of the family has been gone for nearly 18 years. He left his wife and children to pursue his true passion, music. Throughout the movie no one really seems angry or bitter that the father has left. I’m not sure if everything is okay because Joe stepped in and was a father and provider to the crew or if they just accepted their father’s autonomous need. Either way I feel that this coincides with Friedman’s accretion of autonomy being okay for men.
The eldest daughter, Lisa, is married with two children. It is obvious very quickly that Lisa is not a strong figure in her household. Lisa did not go to college and because of this feels insecure when it comes to her husband who is the bread winner. Because her husband works and provides for her and the children, Lisa lets him treat her however he chooses. During on of the dinners, Lisa’s husband constantly asks her to do pointless mundane tasks and Lisa keeps defending him. Her husband asks her to reheat his food even though it has just been served and is still worm. One of Lisa’s sisters complains, but Lisa says that it’s okay because “he likes his food really hot.” Then she proceeds to cut up his food for him. Later on you realize that Lisa’s husband is cheating on her, but Lisa already knows and ignores it. She is scared of starting over again after having two children and being married for so long, so she is willing to stay in the marriage even though she isn’t happy. Susan Orkin’s essay says that one of the ways women can be made vulnerable in their marriage is because the husband is usually the bread winner and the women would have nothing to fall back on if they left the marriage. Lisa is an example of this. However, in the end we also see the positive side of Friedman’s autonomy in women when Lisa decides that she needs to sever the tie between her and her husband and move on with her children.
If you have never seen this movie, I would recommend it. You may see more things involved in this movie than I did.

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