A Psychoanalyst Looks at 'Beasts of the Southern Wild'

The emotional myth of fiercely tough and never sad

Posted Mar 27, 2013

Thanks again to my friend and colleague, Dr. Sandra Fenster, for another film review gem in the following post! 

When a mother leaves, and a father is dying, a child too frequently blames herself. Her need, her anger, her hurt—those (misinterpreted to be beastly) feelings—must have done it.  She constructs a tough wall against her feelings and love’s unreliability; like when Hushpuppy lashes out at her dad: “I hope you die and when you do, I’ll go to your grave and eat birthday cake all by myself”—as if she doesn’t care. When he disappears from the place he has suddenly fallen, she’s terrified: “I’ve broken everything”. Did her angry wishes turn him into a tree, or maybe a bug?  Will he ever come back?

“The whole universe depends on things fitting together just right. If one piece falls apart, the entire universe would get busted”.  Hushpuppy’s world is falling apart; an internal voice, in voice over, is trying to sort out her fear that she’s the one who’s done the busting. That’s hard, though, with no help. When the film pans to an Ice Age scene with the world frozen over, we know Hushpuppy’s trying to toughen up; to be “The Man”.

“Sometimes you can break something so bad you can’t get it put back together again.” Hushpuppy’s fear: that she’s “eaten her own Mommy and Daddy”—as all children do, in their understandably greedy need for love and security, to stave off the fear of loss. Hushpuppy, too adult, tries to face what she must: “Everyone loses the thing that made them. The brave must stay and watch it happen. They don’t run”.

Copyright 2013 by Sandra Fenster, Ph.D.

To learn more about Dr. Sandra Fenster, visit her website at www.drsandrafenster.com.

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