Representations of Motherhood

Final SMORE

My Sister's Keeper

Love > Law

Normalcy for the Fitzgerald’s family is fragile in Jodi Picoult’s My Sister’s Keeper. More specifically, Sara Fitzgerald deprives each of her three children Jesse, Kate, and Anna from living a conventional childhood due to the obstacle within their family dynamic. At just two years of age, Brian and Sara Fitzgeralds’ daughter, Kate, is diagnosed with acute promyelocytic leukemia. Sara, however, refuses to let Kate die; early on, the reader learns that Sara’s life is centered on Kate. In fact, Anna is genetically created to benefit her sister. Sara expunges all options that do not align with her primal impulse to protect her daughter, notwithstanding the low survival rate associated with the illness. Although Kate’s prognosis is poor, Sara is tenacious and strong in her effort to provide Kate with a full life. She embodies the notion that love has no limits as she endlessly strives to keep Kate alive.

Sara worries and aims her attention on Kate. Her act of expending all of her energy on Kate impedes her ability to take care of her two other children. Anna and Jesse demonstrate the neglect that they experience as a result of their mother’s sole focus on Kate. Moreover, Sara does not deny the way she views Anna’s purpose. She admits that she spends more time thinking about the benefits Anna can bring to support Kate’s health rather than Anna’s own individuality. Anna’s identity stems from her role as a donor for her sister. Sara does not understand how this lack of attention towards Anna is negative. Instead, she argues that she represents both of her daughters anytime someone affirms Anna’s desired freedom from her lifesaving expectations.

As a mother, Sara is depicted at times as nurturing and comforting, while at other times she could be described as intense and angry. A lot of her frustration and aggression is rooted in her inability to control Kate’s cancer. This explains why Mrs. Fitzgerald slaps Anna when the news of Anna’s medical emancipation lawsuit is revealed.

During the time of the trial, Julia is illustrated as a motherly figure. Julia serves as Anna’s guardian ad litem in order to decide what is truly best for Anna. She views Anna as a separate person, without necessarily taking Kate’s health into account. Julia’s unbiased perspective contrasts Sara, who often dismisses concerns about Anna in the situations where Kate’s needs are put first.

Overall, there is ambiguity between the distinct dichotomy of right and wrong involving Sara’s role as a mother. There is discussion that it is wrong that Sara defines how good of a mother she is based on her ability to keep Kate healthy, but it is difficult to blame Sara for interfering with the quality of Anna’s life when it means maintaining the sanctity of Kate’s. Picoult includes, “‘When you love someone, you’ll do anything to keep them with you’” (369). Anna is put at risk because she is the only person who exists with the ability to save Kate. Sara notes that while this may not be just or fair, it is what is right based on her role as a mother, because “[...] love is far more important than law” (Picoult 409).

Films- Analysis of The Incredibles

The Ultimate Supermom

Envisioning Mrs. Incredible, or Elastigirl, with a “World’s Best Mom” coffee mug may seem to be a bit of a stretch at first. She is often shown in situations where she struggles to keep her cool, proving that even superheroes cannot possibly be perfect mothers. Ultimately, she extends the notion that being super is not necessarily defined through special powers. Rather, she illustrates the idea that when it comes to being a good mother, it is important to remain flexible.

Disney Pixar’s The Incredibles was made in 2004 where characters Bob and Helen Parr (Mr. and Mrs. Incredible) have three children: Violet, Dash and Jack-Jack. Through the characters’ roles in Metroville and Normanisan Island, the Parr family depicts a super interesting dynamic where Helen establishes a sense of purpose and fulfillment through childrearing.

In the beginning of the film, she is portrayed as quite the feminist when she articulates the significance of overcoming the boundaries that exist in a man’s world. She adds, “Girls, c’mon. Leave saving the world to the men? I don’t think so.” (2004). This heavily contrasts her more traditional approach as a wife and mother once she is forced to hang up the superhero suit, because later on, the audience learns that her new secret identity involves being a housewife. She works tirelessly to adjust her family to what is deemed “normal,” and initially disapproves of Bob’s behavior of “uprooting [their] family again so that [he] can relive the glory days” (2004). As the family’s stronghold, she is viewed as the intense and authoritarian figure in the family.

Mrs. Incredible is driven, consistent, and resourceful. She will do everything in her power to keep her family safe. In fact, when she rescues her son Jack-Jack, she states, “Mommy’s got you. Everything’s alright” (2004). She is selfless, supportive and passionate as evident through the way she unconditionally loves and cares for her children, making her the ultimate supermom.

End of The Incredibles [spoiler alert]

Disney Films

According to Survey 3, there are an overwhelming number of children that grow up surrounded by Disney. In fact, 47% of mothers provided that Disney was the channel their children most often watched in elementary school. This percentage was also high for responses regarding junior high/high school age groups as well. Whether it be films, television, or toys, there seems to be some sort of a "Mickey Mouse Monopoly" that invades children's worlds. Since Disney occupies so much of what children grow up viewing, it is significant to analyze and critique the messages that are inculcated in the minds of young ones. Disney films have made steps toward defying typical norms through the depiction of single parent households, courageous and feisty women, and characters that break down gendered barriers. However, there are many instances where the mother being shown remains within the boundaries of traditional stereotypes. For example, in The Incredibles, Helen Parr is a superhero and supermom. She is shown as a stay-at-home mother, possibly communicating the notion that in order to juggle it all, one has to be in a similar position as her. This may affect society's views of working mothers that cannot stay at home, but who still put their children first. Ultimately, it is necessary to recognize that Disney films have the ability to emphasize social constructs and dramatize stereotypes; therefore, it is beneficial to understand what kind of messages are being displayed through the various mediums children have access to.

Films and Socialization Effects

In these films, children are taught how to behave through the way they position themselves in these fictional and magical worlds. Sometimes, Disney provides a false sense of reality that has the potential to blur the way children see themselves. Walt Disney once said, "If you can dream it, you can do it." I think this a very powerful message that children should internalize. However, I feel that it is necessary to provide images, stories and illustrations that demonstrate women and men dreaming all sorts of things. In other words, I want to see more instances of autonomy where an individual's ambitions are not restricted or rigid. Disney has made great strides in doing so, as evident in the movie Brave.
Brave - Mother Daughter Relationship | Official Disney HD
Lady And The Tramp - La La Lu (English)

Mother as Nurturer

This is a very evident role of mothers in Disney films. In the clip above from Lady and the Tramp, the mother is shown singing her infant a lullaby and comforting her. Through Lady's look of admiration, it is apparent that other women are supposed to do the same. Thus, this perpetuates the image of mother as caring and nurturing.

The Feminine Mystique

This 1963 novel by Betty Friedan sparked the second wave of feminism movement. This book was truly powerful as it provides the notion that "mother" is not a female's only identity. Moreover, many women add that they have less meaningful lives when their personal identity is restricted to housewife and mother. Through reading The Feminine Mystique, I truly gained a better perspective of how my grandmother lived and fulfilled her role as mother. Today, marriages are much more egalitarian and there are more mothers that work. The most important thing I gained from reading this, however, was the need the transparency. So many of these dissatisfied women were going about their lackluster lives in fear that they were the only ones experiencing this feeling. This is not true as the book sheds light on many women experiencing similar thoughts and feelings. Therefore, I understand the significance of having these conversations and asking for others' opinions, as executed in Survey 1. In Survey 1, it was brought to my attention that many women are accepting of working mothers. Although when given the choice (if finances were not an issue), many women responded that they would want more time at home with their children. It was a really neat opportunity to interview my mom and grandmother concerning their own feelings towards motherhood. I admire both women so incredibly much, and I am appreciative of the sacrifices they made for our family.

Advertisements

In this day and age, it is difficult to go through your daily life without being bombarded by advertisements. According to Survey 2, there was significant feedback provided involving mothers' views of specific advertisements. In general, most mothers enjoy advertisements that are relatable, humorous, and portray a mother's unconditional love.

News

This mother and daughter are reunited after 82 years of being separated. That is an incredibly long time to be away from someone, especially a figure as important as a mother. It is a truly heartwarming story, and at the end of the clip the mothers adds, "It's been a long time, but we'll catch up." This was a really sweet story and closely relates to a lot of the advice that mothers offered in the final survey. Many mothers offered advice such as, "Enjoy every moment. They grow up so fast" and "Do not take a single moment for granted. Before you know it, they're in college." I think with a story like this and the advice extended, it is important to realize that being a mother is a gift and it is truly important to treasure the beautiful memories and experiences that come with being a mother.

Television

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Television gives us the opportunity to take a peak into another person's world and experiences. There is a gamut of personalities and types of mothers in television. There's the incompetent mother, the helicopter mom, the "cool" mom, the mom that also serves as your best friend, the strict mom and the relatable and quirky mom. I think it is important to remember that mothers come from all walks of life. No one mother is the same as another, and I think that is really neat. So whether the show makes you laugh or want to cry, it is fascinating to recognize and consider the way the maternal figure is being displayed. This class has not only given me a greater appreciation of my own mother, but it has introduced me to all sorts of family dynamics. I am amazed by the perspectives and the information that was presented to me in this course. For someone that wants to work with adoptions some day, I can confidently say that I have learned what it means to be a mother. I have gained a better understanding of what aspects attached to motherhood need more attention. Most importantly, I was able to evaluate the mother I hope to some day be. I definitely have big shoes to fill.

Magazines

This was really interesting to look at the way magazines have evolved over the years. Magazines make a great effort now to empower women to embrace the individual that they are; however, advertisements tell women differently. There are products and items that claim to make women the best they can possibly be. Women are often illustrated in a passive stance or coquettish look. In addition, many women are sexualized in magazines these days. There are several articles on how to "get the man" or please the opposite sex. While this differs from the content of magazines in the 1940s, both recent and old magazines extend the notion that women have something to prove. Whether it is their sexuality or their skills in the kitchen, I think it is necessary to take a different approach. More magazines should celebrate the gamut of mothers that exist, rather than trying to change women through the advertisements they provide.

Music

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Music is a beautiful medium. It is amazing when you think about just how often one listens to it too. This music video project was so fun to compile. I wish I had the opportunity to compile more photos, but at the time my mom was in the process of moving. This song by Carrie Underwood is so sweet. It is referring to her wedding day and reassuring her mother that she is in good hands as she is about to get married. While I myself am not married, I found this song really relatable. Many teenagers express how they cannot wait to move away or go to college. Many individuals my age constantly fear that they are not going to find a husband. Many persons my age focus so much attention on their significant other. While being in love is a joyous and wonderful thing, a bond between a mother and daughter is really unique and special. Going through these photos and listening to the lyrics, it did not take long for me to get emotional. Every dance I was getting dolled up for, my mom was the one there to help me get ready. Mom was the one on the couch waiting up to hear all about my first date. Mom was the one who instilled in my own heart that "Love is patient; love is kind." Mom is the one I can see in the rearview mirror each time I head back to school. It is a great feeling to love someone, but it's an even greater feeling to be unconditionally loved by a mother. No matter who else enters my life or how much things change, I will always remember the woman that shaped me into the person I am-- the woman that taught me what love looks like.

A Letter to My Mother

Mama Bear,

You are the best person I know. You are my favorite teacher, cheerleader, role model, and friend. You remind me that His mercies are new each day and that every morning is an opportunity to seek brighter sides. You encourage me to follow what He's called me to do, and you support me in every path that leads me there. You are strong and selfless. You had to do it all alone- make a living and make a home. Through all of that, you never loved us any less. You are intelligent, sophisticated and enriching to those that you surround. You are silly and fun with a type of spirit and passion that is one of a kind. You have an openness that invites others in and warmth that brings much joy. You make a difference in the lives of others and make the best of what life offers. This world needs more of your voice, your heart, and the belief in what can be. Your faith is inspiring, your thoughts are compelling, and your compassion towards others is truly indescribable. Covered in grace and filled with wisdom, I am so grateful that I have a lifetime to learn from you and become more like you, because you are the best person I know. You're "mama" to many, but you make each of us feel like we are all you've got. You make anyone and everyone feel at home, worth knowing, valued and adored. Thankful that you taught me everything I know about creating, loving, and following Jesus. Thankful you'll drive three hours and pretend it is not out of the way. Thankful I get to call you "Mom." I love you!

xoxo Claire Bear

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