Exploring the Role of Grandparents in Hollywood Movies
By Tess Farrand, Staff Writer
Nana, Grandma, Pop, Lolli, Papa, Mimi, Pawdaddy, Mamaw, Grandaddy, Grandmother, Lovey, Oma, Abuela, Abuela… Whatever you may call them, how you refer to your grandparents shows your connection and tenderness.
Hollywood definitely has projects directly about parenting (FATHER OF THE BRIDE, CHEAPER BY THE DOZEN, I REMEMBER MAMA), but what about grandparents?
Oftentimes, grandparent characters are presented in tandem with movies and TV shows that depict parenting. However, in these movies, the grandparents are sub-plot, not the main event. For instance, PARENTHOOD evaluated dynamics within the Braverman family with grandparents Zeek and Camille (played by Craig T. Nelson and Bonnie Bedelia) at the helm. However, it mainly centered on the many children of Zeek and Camille and their trials in raising children with the occasional input of the patriarchs.
So, is this wrong? No, not at all.
Scripture teaches, “Only take care, and keep your soul diligently, lest you forget the things that your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life. Make them known to your children and your children’s children (Deut. 4:9).”
God cares about instructing children (Prov. 22:6). Parents learn from their parents who then teach their own children and the cycle continues…. Ultimately it is the parent’s job to parent, but, it’d be unwise to disregard grandparents altogether from the equation.
Utilizing grandparents more in movies is a great way for audiences to perhaps understand more about their own personal family dynamic too, by bringing to light things you might not have realized about your own parenting style before. Also, every parent has the possibility of becoming a grandparent, so, exploring these father-son-grandson or mother-daughter-granddaughter relationships is another way for audiences to visually see how their journey could go.
A study conducted by Boston College notes; “close grandparent-grandchild relationships are often a marker of strong family ties overall, but these intergenerational bonds also come with their own distinctive benefits.” This also means the reverse is true; distant grandparent-grandchild relations are often indicative of distant family bond.
THE PRINCESS DIARIES, PARENTAL GUIDANCE, FATHER OF THE BRIDE PART II and WILLY WONKA AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY (also the remake CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY) show loving grandparents who are actively involved with their children and grandchildren.
Take THE PRINCESS DIARIES for instance. Grandmother Queen Renaldi (played by Julie Andrews) comes alongside Mia’s journey to the serving her country. Through mentoring, fun outings and conversation, the pair gets to know one another better and form a lasting bond that resonates with audiences. In the same way, audiences see Queen Renaldi’s minor frustrations with Helen (Mia’s mom), as she chose to keep the truth of her royal line a secret for the first sixteen years of Mia’s life. Queen Renaldi respected this parenting choice, although she did not agree.
On the other hand, CAPTAIN FANTASTIC and PEACE, LOVE AND MISUNDERSTANDING both show a more negative side: parents who don’t agree with their own parents and have broken relationships. This has a trickle-down effect, leaving the child characters straddled between both sides. In CAPTAIN FANTASTIC (not a family friendly movie, read the review here), a recent widower, Ben, raises his five children completely off-the-grid. As he struggles to raise the children on his own, he calls in the help of his in-laws, who live a lavish and conventional lifestyle with internet and air conditioning. Ben and his in-laws disagree as his oldest son, Bodevan, aspires to go to college. In the end, Ben accepts the fact that Bodevan is growing into a young man and trusts that his parenting will be enough to set him up for success, even if they don’t agree on everything.
Parents lead by example. The best way for parents to have a good relationship with their grandchildren is by having respect for their own parents. Why does this work so well? It’s biblical! “Honor your father and mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you (Exodus 20:12).”
Movies like THE BLIND SIDE, AKEELAH AND THE BEE, DADDY DAY CARE, and CHEAPER BY THE DOZEN show children learning to respect, and we’re grateful for that.
What are some of your favorite movies featuring grandparents? Tell us in the comment section below.