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Beasts of the Wild

Every once in a while you watch a movie that you think to yourself, I did not have a “good time,” but I would not trade the experience. Beasts of the Southern Wild was just such a film.  Although it made its appearance only briefly in the main movie houses it has been showing at some art houses on a more prolonged bases.  I saw the film a few weeks ago, but the images and emotions of this film still linger and are resonating in my head today. Briefly, the film follows the experiences of a young girl and her father who live in coastal Louisiana as they deal with the onslaught and aftereffects of a hurricane.  From a psychological perspective I found it a delightful invitation to join the subjective experience of a young girl (Hushpuppy) as she traverses the chaos and fracture of her precarious world.  Not only is this world rife with fantasy and vivid characters; her own processing, embedded deeply within her shivery external contexts, is displayed with artful elegance and raw immediacy.  Disconnected and abrupt, without preoccupation to an overarching moral narrative, viewers are drawn into the fragility of personal experience, socioeconomic status, and geography.  It is an emotionally evocative film that does not let one rest even when the credits role. 

The subtext of clashing cultures is also fascinating and brings to mind the admonition of Al Dueck and Kevin Reimer (2009) in their book A Peaceable Psychology.  In this book Dueck & Reimer warn about the implicit assumptions of psychological models that are based on western democratic liberalism.  Although effective in most of the western world, these implicit value assumptions are often based on the eschewal of thick cultural contexts in favor of thin scientific hegemonic solutions.  Dueck & Reimer's caution is that these unreflected assumptions may do violence to the least the last and the lost of our society.  Not only does the film deconstruct current models of helping and institutionalized care, it blatantly highlights the disjunction between those who see themselves as part of an established sociopolitical economic structures tasked with helping the less fortunate and the actual less fortunate, who's suspicion and resistance reflects deep psychological and cultural experiences that are not easily amenable to irresistible benevolence.  This film is an imaginative social and human science case study: Two thumbs way up or 5 popcorn bags (depending on your rating scale).

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Earl Bland is a clinical psychologist, Professor of Psychology and Chair of the MNU Behavioral Sciences Department.

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Guest Monday, 21 April 2014

About This Blog

OhBehave is the outreach blog of the MNU Behavioral Sciences Department. In matters related to Psychology, Sociology, and Criminal Justice you will find information and updates geared to keep students and professionals abreast of the latest research, professional developments, and important trends in each field. As we seek a life of purpose, the material presented in this blog is meant to enhance and deepen our understanding of people and our world so that we may intentionally reflect the grace and peace of our creator.