My Girl Film Analysis Essay

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My Girl Film Analysis Essay

Middle childhood is a period that ranges from age six to twelve. It is a period where children spend less time with their parents and is a period of coregulation in which children and parents jointly control behavior (Robert S. Feldman 2016). In the film My Girl by Howard Zieff it shows how family life reflects on 11-year-old Vada Sultenfuss. It also shows how the impact of her household and the economic status affected her and how those around her looked at her.

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Movie Review

In the movie film My Girl by Howard Zieff in 1991 it’s based on 11-year-old Vada Sulfentuss who’s mother died two days after giving birth to her. Vada was raised by her father who owns a funeral home and a grandmother who was initially supposed to help raise Vada but ended up with Alzheimer’s. Due to Vada’s dad being a mortician he focused a lot of his time on work and barely spent time with Vada, which caused her to explore life on her own. Although Vadas dad is somewhat distant she adores him and tries to get his attention whenever she can. When Vada’s Dad, Harry hires a new cosmetologist named Shelly, Vada begins to get a jealous as she starts to lose Harry’s full attention which later gets resolved.

Family Life: Middle Childhood

Family life over the last few decades has changed a lot with the environment faced by children passing through middle childhood in the 21st century and those from prior centuries. (Robert S. Feldman 2016) Families have become more and more diverse as couples separate and repartner. (Hetherington & Stanley- Hagan 1999; Lamb 200). In many households today you have parents, children, and grandparents all living under one roof together. In the film My Girl, Vada’s family is the perfect example of a multigenerational family. In most multigenerational families there are shared living arrangements that help the child or may be of mutual benefit (Choi 2003). Family members will often decide what roles each person takes and who will do what. It is often left to the grandparents such as the grandmother to help with the care of young children (Jendrek 1994).

The involvement that grandparents have with their grandchildren whether direct or indirect has an impact on family members and their behaviors. Vadas grandmother moved in when Vadas mother died. She was initially there to help Harry raise Vada until she developed Alzheimers. The roles somewhat changed once the grandmother got Alzheimers, Vada began to help Harry look after her. Although Vadas grandmother wasn’t in any way fit to care for Vada she still had an impact on her. In the movie as Harry plays music to the grandmother, Shelly pops in and he begins to apologize to her stating how Vada and the grandmother were very close but as the grandmother’s mind started to wander away he also states Vadas been acting crazy.

With Vada witnessing her grandmother’s mind wandering and her father lay people to rest both have negative effects on the way Vada sees life making her appear to be a hypochondriac and have misconceptions about death. Living with a grandmother who has Alzheimer’s and a dad who runs a funeral parlor that pays no attention to her, Vada takes life into her own hands. Vada is constantly reminded of death in her household and takes on whatever health issues someone around her has. She begins to think she is suffering and going to die.

Vadas family life quickly changed when Shelly got hired as a makeup artist in Harry’s funeral parlor. The two slowly but surely started to like each other, started dating, and later became engaged to living together. The household went from not only a multigenerational but to a blended family. Blended families are remarried couples that have at least one-step child living with them. Children who are in blended families tend to face challenges such as role ambiguity where they may find themselves uncertain about roles and expectations (Robert S. Feldman).

Children may also start to feel as if there is some disruption of normal routine and find established family relationships difficult. Perfect example of this is when Harry and Shelly got more serious in their relationship and Vada noticed Harry’s attention focusing more on Shelly than on her. Vada found it hard to accept that her dad was showing interest in someone else because it was already hard for her to get her fathers attention so watching him give attention to someone else made Vada feel as if she wasn’t as important.

Many blended families will go through their issues early on but eventually work through them. Due to the knowledge that is later gained blended families often grow to become a stronger family in their own way (Gregory K. Popcak). Children during middle childhood have an easier time adapting to blended families than those of adolescents for one of the reasons being that the higher population of the family increases opportunities for social interactions (Green, Anderson, & Hetherington, 2003; Hetherington & Elmore, 2003). In the film you can see that Shelly starts to notice the lack of attention that Harry gives to Vada.

Not only does Shelly try to alert Harry about Vadas misconceptions on death that she noticed shortly after a few encounters with Vada but she again mentions his distance with Vada towards the end of the film when Vadas best friend Thomas J passed away. Towards the end of the film Shelly goes to Harry trying to tell him do something to get Vada to come out of her room. Harry states, The funeral is starting. Shelly then states, Open your eyes, she’s eleven years old! Her only friend in the world is dead. At the end of their conversation Shelly also states,  I’m not asking you to stop caring for those, but life isn’t just death Harry.

Don’t ignore the living, especially your daughter. After this conversation you can start to witness the change in Harry’s behavior towards Vada. One example is when Vada runs away during Thomas J’s funeral and doesn’t come back till later in the night, Harry goes into her room to check on her. In that moment is when Vada finally asks if she killed her mother and Harry explains to her how she didn’t and they continue to have a conversation from there. If it weren’t for Shelly joining into their family despite the minor jealousy issues in the beginning Vada and Harry wouldn’t have had that talk. Shelly is the one that made Harry notice his lack of attention towards Vada. Shelly is also the person that got Vada to open up emotionally which wasn’t something Vada did.


Family life has a major impact on the way children develop. New routines and guidelines can and will be established as the child enters school age. Although parental guidance is still often needed many children around 6-12 will find themselves trying to be more independent. It is a time when children and parents work together to control behaviors.

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My Girl Film Analysis Essay. (2019, Mar 19). Retrieved February 5, 2023 , from

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