Monday, August 6, 2007

'Teachable Moments' about race and size in "Hairspray"

Teachers, social workers, psychologists and other folks with similar experience often encourage us to take advantage of 'teachable' moments when they happen. A 'teachable' moment is, in my humble opinion, the opportunity to play show and tell with them. We can 'show' them via an example that is happening in the present, and then tell them why we feel that it is not appropriate. Frankly and unfortunately, teachable moments about 'isms' are all to available in our world.

The movie
was just such a moment for us. Once we got over seeing John Travolta as the overweight middle-aged mother-complete with the Baltimorian twang-we settled in to be entertained.

The movie is set in the 60's-right at the beginning of the Civil Rights movement. Intergration has not been incorporated into the American psyche. The lead character is Tracey, an overweight teenage dance sensation. She tries out for the local TV dance program-and is throw out immediately for her weight. The other 'ism' in the movie is racism as the Dance Show dedicates one show per week as "Negro Week"-where all of the dancers are black.

So we've got size issues with Tracey and race issues with the segregation of black and white teens.

The visual representation of segregation and the obvious distaste exhibited towards the overweight characters was fodder for a very interesting conversation on the way home.

Talked about label like Negro and fat and why they may or may not be appropriate. We talked about the fact that people were all people...different but not better or worse. And we talked about standing up for what you think is right-despite the consequences.

It was quite an interesting talk and my daughter was quick to point out similarities from the movie to her own life. Toward the end of the conversation, she nonchalantly said that what people looked like didn't matter-it was what was inside that counted.

While I glowed with pride, I realized that we could have easily skipped over this 'teachable' moment and simply bounced out of the theater humming the music from the show. I am glad that I did.

We have to bring things up with our kids-if we wait for them to ask we may be waiting a long time and even sending the message that it is not ok to talk about things that may be difficult or uncomfortable.

What are are your teachable moments!

No comments: