Matilda 0 268

When we were kids, our parents told us to wipe our tears when we would cry. When we got angry, they would say, how about a smile, so that there is peace upon the rest of the house. When you want to hate something or someone you are not allowed to just because that’s “not nice”. Then when you think you are falling in love, you realize that this thing that we all have in us, called the emotional system is completely screwed up. It simply cannot function due to all the previously established rules and regulations imposed on you as a child by your parents! You were never fully able to express yourself, therefore, it makes it harder to be able to show, feel any emotion.

Emotions are an intricate and vital part that makes up an individual. There are several instances in which people act according to the way that they think they are supposed to perform. Individuals express themselves through several mediums, but they are not able to manage them as they would like to. In the film Matilda by Danny De Vitto, we can see that the protagonist uses her emotions to navigate through the situations in her short 6 and a half years of life. Her increasingly expert use of emotion management helps her overcome the hurdles placed ahead of her by her family and Ms. Trunchbull. Although it might seem that her life is all tragedy, we come to find out that she is able to find little moments of happiness when she is surrounded by her peers, Ms. Honey and or the books that she reads. The purpose of this would be to demonstrate the ways in which Matilda, is able to carefully manage her emotions in situations of social isolation, shame and anger.

As Matilda grew older and wiser through her knowledge from the vast bodies of literature she found herself to accept all the things that make her different from her family and learned to use her negative emotions and generate them into something positive. Matilda’s validation and social acceptance was given to her by her fellow peers at school and her teacher, Ms. Honey. The school became her sanctuary, her safe house away from home. However, she soon realized that there was one other person that was in her way of happiness and that she needed to be stopped, which she eventually does. A vast majority of Matilda’s childhood was spent in the four walls of her home. As the audience could see, she had very little to call her own. Although, it cannot be denied that she did have the bare necessities. The only possession that can truly be called hers is the doll she crafted for herself.  It is probably why she became emotionally and physically invested in acquiring Ms. Honey’s china doll back from the house that Ms. Trunchbull now resides. Matilda’s acceptance of her otherness from her family and others alike gained her the confidence to absorb all the negativity thrown at her at a daily basis and use it for the greater good.  

Group acceptance is something that every individual aspires to attain. It ensures them that they are not the only ones that think, feel or act in the same way. We can see that from the very beginning of Matilda’s life she was considered a burden to bear. From the parents not wanting to fully pay for the hospital bills and making snarky comments to prove that even if they did not pay for the bill, the hospital would not want her, deeming her as worthless from birth. They also did not give any attention to her safety. She was basically thrown in the back of the trunk. When they reached home where they all went back to their normal routines and forgot that they had left a newborn in the car. This type of ignorance on the part of her parents and sibling led her to be in a situation of extreme social isolation.  The need for an individual who has been isolated is to have their feelings being validated through social cues. Matilda did not get those feelings or gestures from her family. This, in turn, led her to believe that she did not belong in her family. She always sought guidance in physical and or emotional forms. Since she knew it was not going to be coming from her family she turned to literature. As mentioned in the movie, the protagonists in the books gave her hope and a reason to hope for a better future for herself. 

Shame is a painful feeling that one usually goes through when the individual is extremely humiliated. It generally happened around a crowd. Its’ main purpose is to belittle the person and ensure that they never commit the same action that led to them being shamed. In the case of Matilda, she went through instances when she was faced with the person whether it was a member of her family or Ms. Trunchbull, who constantly humiliated her in all ways. For example, the part when Matilda’s father, Harry told her that she was lying and cheating when she got the answer to the amount of money he commissioned that specific day. Then there was the time when Matilda confronted her father of being a crook and asking him to sell “good” cars. To which he replied by saying that because he is big, smart and earns money that she does not have the power to tell him what to do. This further brought down her morals and made her question whether or not she is truly part of the family or worthwhile. Matilda was not only constantly being the target of all humiliation at home but at school as well by her principal, Ms. Trunchbull. At school, Ms. Trunchbull not only shamed Matilda but all children. Matilda is the only who dared to speak up. Thus becomes a constant and recurring target to be shamed. A specific example within the movie is when Trunchbull, compared Matilda to her father, by saying she was a crook and then repeated the same words that her father had mentioned to her about being big, smart and that there is nothing she could do about it. Because of Matilda’s lack of supportive family support, it became hard for her to deal with her problems of shame in a productive way. However, with the support of Ms. Honey and her friends, she is able to gain the emotional capital that she never acquired from her family.

The emotion of shame garners several other feelings such as sadness and or anger. This is exactly what we see Matilda perform in the film. She internalizes the shame she is feeling when humiliated by her family and Trunchbull and retaliates in fits of anger filled revenge. The first time when Matilda showed anger towards her father was when she put hydrogen peroxide to his hair product that made his hair turn from black to blonde. Then there was the incident in the garage when he shamed her and she put glue in his hat thus got stuck on his head. Another incident of overt anger shown by Matilda was towards Ms. Trunchbull, when she tipped the glass with the newt after being shamed by her. The expression of anger is only possible because Matilda was able to manage her emotions. She was at least able to feel something. Although, she soon learned to channel that anger into a healthy medium. 

Emotions play a very key role in situations. The ability of Matilda to grasp all the hatred in the forms of ignorance, insults thrown at her by her family and Ms. Trunchbull and using it to further strengthen her telekinetic powers is when she uses emotional labor to create a response. The scene that shows this very instance is when we see Matilda at home practicing her powers. 

Matilda shows a great deal of courage when she stands up to her family for herself, to Ms. Trunchbull for Ms. Honey, Magnus, her peers and herself. An example of this would be when she insists upon her views to her family who are always at odds with her. Saving her peers from being harmed from the Trunchbull’s wrath. Protecting and getting back the lost happiness of Ms. Honey from Trunchbull’s wrongdoings. But underneath all the courage were the feelings of fear and desire muddled together. Matilda did have a fear of being caught by Trunchbull, during the scene she went to get the doll. But another emotion that drove her to commit this act was her desire to do the right thing and seek any form of happiness for the person who gave her the love and affection that she so craved since birth.

Emotions are crucial to the analysis of sociology because it helps us understand how human interactions are expressed. Matilda is a prime example of an individual who is able to manage their emotions through feelings of social isolation, shame, and anger. It is initially hard for Matilda to emotionally manage her situation because of her lack of parental guidance and emotional support. However, she is able to regain control over her feelings by learning to contain them and using them in a more positivistic fashion. In the end, she gained emotional capital in the forms of new found relationships with Ms. Honey and her peers she was able to find a place where she truly felt herself.

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Graduate in Sociology and Anthropology. Bookworm, Cinephile and Tweetaholic.

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