The Influence of The Parent Trap

The Parent Trap. I was a very obsessed 7 year-old when it came out. I kept a tally of how many times I had watched it before I lost count in the upper sixties. Similar to other posts made about various songs or shows that were watched, I too copied the two main characters (Annie and Hallie) in more ways than one. When I was growing up, I wasn’t allowed to watch television very much at all. Before my brother and sister were born, we had 4 or 5 channels (that I knew of) and in no way was I ever to watch a PG-13 movie before I turned 13! That being said, movies (specifically Disney animated films) were allowed and I loved them. When The Parent Trap came out, there was no going back. Similar to Griffin’s article and his discussion of “playing Crockett,” I pretended to be Annie and Hallie as well. From painting my nails the same color, to trying to replicate and create a similar secret handshake, to using terms like “duffle” instead of suitcase, to eating Oreos with peanut butter, I was so captivated by the story and the characters in the movie that I would do anything to try to be like them. I even went to camp the next summer.

Throughout the film, the two girls get into trouble, are mischievous, and argue their way through anything to get what they want. While I believe the film highlighted friendship, what determination, cleverness and persistence can do, it also made it very easy to become interested in behaving in the ways the girls did to get what they wanted. Also, the fact that they were both only children for much of their lives and were the center of each of their parent’s world made it so they got pretty much anything they wanted.

In the infamous scene where Hallie pierces Annie’s ears with a needle, my cousin and I tried to pierce our ears with none other than blackberry thorns multiple times. We were not successful. And the list goes on, from the many many pranks throughout the movie and the lying. These girls challenged authority, loved to be in the “know” and were extremely clever for 11/12 year-olds. In that way, their attitudes definitely influenced mine as I watched the movie. In the Griffin article, he discusses the idea of challenging authority not to “…overthrow social order” but for the purpose of developing a various “tactic” or “strategy” which can be noticed throughout The Parent Trap in a much different way, of course, than in Davy Crockett (Griffin, 110).

Furthermore, as Griffin discusses, Davy Crockett was an icon for children because of “…his preference for fun over work and his playful jabs at authority figures” (Griffin, 111). The same can be said for Annie and Hallie because of their playfulness with their parents and others involved in their lives. They were smart, sneaky and fun all at the same time. Kids loved it because of how great the story line was and how cleaver and cool the two girls appeared to be. However, I found that this sometimes translated in a more negative way for me because I would try to act that way too. In many of the scenes, the girls are the ones who are in control of everything. While I believe Disney didn’t intend to make the girls seem bossy and authoritative in a negative way (as it was intended to be in playful and funny), for someone watching it who loved the movie as much as I did, I often tried to act the way they did on numerous occasions around my parents.

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3 thoughts on “The Influence of The Parent Trap

  1. I was also a HUGE fan of The Parent Trap as a kid, and I think you make an excellent point about how kids can become so enthralled with the characters they see on screen that they are inclined to mimic their behavior (similar to the “Crockett Craze”). I also find it interesting that your parents were very strict on your TV consumption, and yet they allowed you to watch a movie like The Parent Trap – the title alone empowers children with the ability to “trap” their parents by outsmarting them and pulling pranks. Perhaps your parent assumed that The Parent Trap would be as harmless as any other Disney film and enforce similar values (friendship, true love, courage, kindness, etc.) The gap between the “designed use” and your “use” occurred when you picked up on the more adventurous and devious themes of the film and decided to put these ideas into action.

  2. Katie, can you unpack the last section of your post a bit more – the part where you emulated the ostensibly “negative” attributes of the characters? How did your parents react? Did they trace it to the Parent Trap?

  3. Annie, I’m glad you asked me that because I should have mentioned it in my post. They actually did trace a little big of negative attitude to the movie. However, because I didn’t want a lot of television, I am not surprised at all that I was influenced so heavily bu this film. While I didn’t pull pranks etc., it was more my authoritative tone that my parents noticed that I picked up from the movie. Also, my influence by this movie in terms of attitude changes mainly occurred soon after watching but didn’t extend for a long period of time. I think a lot had to do with my desire to be more grown up, and since these characters were older than I at the time and had more freedoms their influence was stronger on me than I think it would have been if I was an older kids watching the film. I think my parents thought my brief attitude was funny because they knew I was trying to act like the girls from the movie, and since I didn’t “stay in character” for a long period of time or hurt anyone’s feelings, they didn’t worry and only would tell me that I had watched the movie too many times!

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