POISONOUS PARENTS: Harry & Zinnia Wormwood (Matilda)

“Narrator: Everyone is born, but not everyone is born the same. Some will grow to be butchers, or bakers, or candlestick makers. Some will only be really good at making Jell-O salad. One way or another, though, every human being is unique, for better or for worse.

[Harry takes his first look at Matilda, grunts, and leaves]

Narrator: Most parents believe their children are the most beautiful creatures ever to grace the planet. Others take a less emotional approach.

[Harry and Zinnia are leaving the hospital with the baby]

Harry Wormwood: What a waste of time!

Zinnia Wormwood: And painful!

Harry Wormwood: And expensive, $9.25 for a bar of soap?

Zinnia Wormwood: Well I had to take a shower, Harry!

Harry Wormwood: $5,000? I’m not paying it. What’re they going to do, repossess the kid?”

-Matilda (1996), the day Matilda was born.

Ah…Harry and Zinnia Wormwood.

Where could I possibly start with these two?

Well, first of all:

Congratulations!

Congratulations, for taking absolutely no interest in your intellectual prodigy daughter.  She’s a human calculator, has read every single children’s library book, and has a college level IQ. I mean, look at this face:

She has a face that will one day, undoubtedly, cure cancer…and all you can do is sit there in sloth with your tainted TV dinners and your dirty car sales tricks. Yeah…I mean, who needs to read and fill their minds with knowledge right? Who needs those pesky intellectuals who move our society forward anyway?? You know…the doctors and scientists that help cure common diseases; the teachers that are partially responsible for making sure the next generation doesn’t devolve. Oh! And the engineers that build our space ships to send our astronauts into space in hopes that we might find signs of intelligent life somewhere….out there…wherever that may be. Because lets face it: We’re coming up bone dry in the signs of intelligent life on our planet; common sense becoming a common rarity. But yeah…Who needs those people, eh? Meh…

Well, the good news is that your kid is immune to your bullshittery of deceit, stupidity and ignorance with her hunger and eagerness to learn and grow as a person. She’s proof that we, as offspring, aren’t fully influenced by our environment, and/or our parents or the guardians that raised us.

Considering how many parents would deem it a god send to have a child like Matilda, one can only wonder WHY people like Harry & Zinnia Wormwood have children to begin with? Chances are Michael (Matilda’s older brother) and Matilda were the byproduct of a couple of passionate nights between Mr. & Mrs. Wormwood. I mean, that’s how it all starts out anyway, right? Perhaps Zinnia and Harry don’t actually like children. …The world may never know. And for that, I shrug.

Either way, Harry and Zinnia, between your negligence, and not caring whether your child succeeds at life, people in the real world like YOU are the very definition of why our society is heading towards a real life Idiocracy.

So again, congratulations and hats off to you!

Oh wait….

In all seriousness, Matilda is one of those stories where the book and the movie are both really good, at least in my humble opinion. I never did see the Broadway musical, so I cannot comment on that. In terms of the book and the film each has a unique vision, is stylistic, and each allow the audience to look through the eyes of this extraordinary young girl.

And come on! Who doesn’t like Danny Devito’s vision and direction? Have you seen his later film, Death To Smoochy (2002)?

Matilda is a grade A example of why we don’t need to be co-dependent on our parents for everything. Given the direction Generation Y (Millennials) are headed in at this moment in time, with the state of the economy, dwindling full time jobs, hours, and benefits, loss of healthcare. etc. it becomes more of a challenge for a good number of my generation not to depend on their parents and family in some aspect or another. Like it or not, there are many situations that are not within my generations control right now, even if we do everything in our power to be as independent as humanly possible. But that’s just where we’re at at this moment in time.

The story of Matilda is a clear demonstration of how our reactions play a crucial role in maintaining our own happiness, health, and overall well being. That’s not to say that everyone isn’t different in how they deal with stress and negativity. If you suffer from depression or any sort of mental illness, then that crucially needs to be factored into the equation. Matilda holds herself up pretty well, in spite of her parents neglect and unethical behavior. She doesn’t allow her parents to discourage her from reading,  learning or growing to her fullest potential; and most certainly doesn’t react or blame herself unnecessarily for Harry and Zinnia’s ignorance. Her maturity level is exceeded beyond her years.

Lauren Lungerich, creator of MTV’s Awkward once said: (…though I’ve heard this quote before) “You can’t always control what happens to you, but you can control how you react to it.” Something about her saying this during the making of Awkward really stood out to me. Awkward’s main character, Jenna Hamilton–which I’ll be writing about here soon in more detail–had a lot of negativity coming her way during the first couple of seasons of Awkward from school, her parents, and various curve balls that life kept throwing at this high school misfit. She managed to handle and deal with her problems with grace and tact, and turned a lot of her problems into something that could help herself, as well as others move forward. Matilda does something similar, but still manages to have fun in the process; proving you don’t have to be malicious to play a prank on someone, especially your parents. After all, it’s a possibility they deserve a lot worse than a prank scare, but that’s not for me or you to decide. 😉

MatildaBird

That poor parrot though…stuck in a chimney for days? Ah, well…I’d probably stick to super gluing my dads hat on his head.

There are two drastically different directions this story could have gone:

1. The actual direction it went in: Overcoming fear, discouragement, and the ignorance of others; resulting in fun times.

OR….

2.

Carrie

How I put it: Going full Carrie.

As I tweeted just a couple of days ago to Mara Wilson herself:

https://twitter.com/YoungNStrange

“. Matilda could have gone full Carrie, had she not believed in the power of Thurston Harris & Cheerios.”

Hey…anything is possible. 😉

Carrie had a much more damaging upbringing than Matilda did, so I’m not too sure this is a fair assessment… Ultimately, the choice was theirs.

Harry and Zinnia Wormwood represent the apathy that comes when society starts to take for granted the thing, situations, places, and people we should value…but don’t have an appreciation for because they’re so integrated into our daily lives. Although the book came out in 1988, and the movie in 1996, many aspects of the story of Matilda still ring true, especially in this day and age as we descend further and further into a materialistic and self absorbed society. Harry and Zinnia’s bad parenting doesn’t just come from their self absorbed and unethical nature; they allow themselves to become susceptible to the media and other societal influences by zoning out in front of the television and other forms of easily digestible consumerism.

The Wormwood’s don’t value their daughter and her intelligence, simply because they don’t value hard work, intellectual pursuits, education, or a challenge. They’d rather take the easy way out by doing the least amount of work for the largest amount of reward. Harry Wormwood’s job as a dirty car salesman makes this fact pretty obvious and overt. This extends to their parenting as well. Matilda learned instinctively very very early on that she had to become super self reliant if she were to survive in this world; especially from an emotional standpoint.

Often times, those that cannot seek emotional solace and support from within their own families often have no other choice but to seek it out elsewhere. Matilda found a kindred spirit–and later a mother–in her teacher, Miss Honey. Both of them share a similar past with abusive and negligent family members. Ms. Trunchbull being Miss Honey’s main guardian after the death of her father at a very young age.

“You were born into a family that doesn’t always appreciate you, but one day, things are going to be very different.” Miss Honey; Matilda (1996)

When we’re young, we have very little say in where we get to live, let alone who we surround ourselves with. In the US, many teenagers don’t get to leave their home until their 18th birthday. …That is unless they get themselves emancipated, or can convince social services to have them removed from whatever dysfunctional situations they’re in. Many children end up coming up with coping methods to deal with the dysfunction. Matilda’s coping method was immersing herself in her story books, school work, and surrounding herself with friends. For someone as young as six, that may have been her only option. Either way, as challenging as it can be not to get sucked into family drama and dysfunction, Matilda managed to completely focus her energies on expanding the power of her mind; using it constructively. That’s not an easy thing to do, but it can be done and is often necessary.

In spite of their bad parenting, Harry and Zinnia did at least one great thing for their daughter, and that was giving her up for adoption to the one person who loved and valued her most: Jennifer Honey; allowing Matilda to grow up in a loving family.

Everyone has to do what’s best for their children. Sometimes that requires letting them go so they can live up to their fullest potential, in a positive and loving environment.

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