The Film My Girl

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The 1991 movie My Girl tells the story of 11-year-old Vada Sultenfuss who, having lost her mother at birth , lives with her dementia-ridden grandmother and her job-oriented father in the funeral parlour that he owns and operates. The story follows Vada, an extreme hypochondriac who has many strange misconceptions about death, through a variety of life-changing experiences, including the engagement of her father and the devastating loss of her best friend, Thomas Jay. Through these experiences, the audience witnesses Vada’s social, emotional, and intellectual growth, as well as her changing views of death. One of the most compelling elements of this film is Vada’s obsession with death and disease, and her apparent misunderstanding of both. Living in a funeral parlour, death has been a large part of Vada’s life; this, perhaps combined with the death of her mother as a newborn, has contributed to Vada’s rather morbid view of life. Vada is an obvious hypochondriac, adopting the affliction that caused the death of the person most recently brought into the parlour. Her apparent view that the state of dying is in some way contagious or transient illustrates her misunderstanding of the concept. Another important element in My Girl is the absence of parental attention or support in Vada’s life. Her father, preoccupied with his business and likely still grieving over his late wife’s death, is frequently unavailable to his daughter, both emotionally and otherwise.... ... middle of paper ... daughter and come up with clear, age-appropriate ways to discuss death. Also important for professionals to realize is the potential for children to become hyper aware of the body’s delicate nature and ultra sensitive to otherwise minor bodily sensations following a death, as has been cited in Corr and Corr (1996). A key term here is hypochondria; though perhaps a rare response to death, it is a possibility, and both therapists and medical professionals must try to determine effective ways of dealing with it. Similarly, parents of a child experiencing this disorder should be warned that ignoring the problem, as Vada’s father did, is not an effective solution, and that it may indicate a deeper lack of understanding that can and should be addressed.

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