Akeelah Research Paper

Pages: 12 (3811 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 12  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: Doctorate  ·  Topic: Family and Marriage

Akeelah and the Bee

A case description, analysis, and critique of theories

Identifying Information:

Akeelah Anderson is an eleven-year-old African-American girl. She is dark skinned with long hair, usually in a ponytail and small, almond shaped eyes. She sometimes wears glasses. She lives with her mother and attends a predominately black school called Crenshaw Middle School in South Los Angeles. She also shares a home with her three siblings. Their names are Devon, Terrence, and Kiana. Lastly, her infant niece also resides in the home.

Akeelah demonstrates intelligence for her age and grade level. She also shows interest in spelling, able to spell words that most kids in her class cannot. She has trouble fitting in because of her intelligence. Since her mother is widowed, she deals with the absence of a father as best she can.

Current Situation/Presenting Problem:

She shows mild difficulties with social encounters within her peer group. She displays confidence but also appears lost when attempting to deal with her difficulties, namely not being a part of the group and dealing with authoritative figures. This is seen when she attempts to interact with Dr. Larabee. She wishes to have her coach him and he rejects because he deems her rude.

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Her desire is to win the national spelling bee. She at first believes she can from her easy win at the Crenshaw Spelling Bee which the principal and her teacher Mrs. Cross persuaded her to enter. However as time goes on, she keeps misspelling certain words as she did most of her practice on her own. Her will to continue amidst hardship and lack of guidance demonstrates resiliency and resolve. In the district spelling bee, her misspelling of the word: "synecdoche," almost cost her a place in the regional/state bee, however Kiana, her sister, spotted one of the contestants cheating allowing Akeelah to earn her spot by correctly spelling "pastiche."

Research Paper on Akeelah and the Bee Assignment

This however does not solve the ongoing problem Akeelah shows of needing a coach, someone to help her with difficult words. Eventually Dr. Larabee does help her, but for a short time and quits due to Akeelah reminding him of his daughter. This then becomes the presenting problem. Akeelah must learn to study without the help of Dr. Larabee to win the national spelling bee and earn respect and recognition not just for herself but for the place she lives in and her school.

Character's Biological, Psychological and Social Development and Functioning:

At first Akeelah appears to be somewhat shy and off-putting. She is what some like Dr. Larabee may consider rude. She also feels like she must do everything on her own and is therefore independent, especially when faced with hardships like learning to study for the spelling bees minus Dr. Larabee's assistance. However, as the movie progresses, she learns to reach out to people, making connections with Javier, the Mexican-American boy who is also a contestant in the national spelling as well as Dylan Chu who, a Chinese-American boy, tries to throw the national competition partly to show Akeelah he wants to win fairly, and also because he cares for her as a friend. Similarly she demonstrates progression as well, asking for everyone she knows like her friends and family to help her spell, gaining some help form Dr. Larabee, and almost sacrificing herself for Dylan when she finds out his father will disapprove of him winning second place for the third time. Eventually, both Dylan and Akeelah win and share the trophy as they have both won first place. Since the course of the film was not long enough to show much change in the character biologically, most of what changed was mainly psychologically, her asking for help, and connecting with others, and socially, her reaching out to others and pursuing her desires even amidst her mother's disapproval. (She forged her father's signature to continue in the spelling bee.)

Theories

Family Systems Theory

The family systems theory, first introduced by Dr. Murray Bowen, suggests individuals cannot be comprehended when in isolation. They can be understood within the context of their family. Being a part of a family, the emotional unit, helps to interconnect the individual. As such, this theory explains families are systems of interdependent, and as previously referred, interconnected individuals that cannot be comprehended away from the system, in isolation (Hutchison, 2013, p. 347).

Within the family or system, every member has a role to play. They must also adhere to rules set forth through relationship agreements. These relationship agreements also determine response and role. The maintenance of these rules and roles can lead to either balance or dysfunction (Ungar, 2010, pp. 430).

When applying the family systems theory to Akeelah's family, she had to maintain the role of daughter and obey her mother. However, she had to disobey her mother when her mother forbade her to go to anymore spelling bees. The mother felt her grades and her truancy were in direct connection to her daughter's spelling bee participation and felt she had to stop.

When Akeelah forged her father's signature, she took the role of father, temporarily, and disrupted the family balance. Although it proved beneficial for her, she still needed her mother's acceptance of her participation in the spelling bee to continue. Without her mother's approval, she could have faced disqualification, and removal from the spelling bee. Reversal of roles although disruptive can be beneficial or worsen the relationship agreements.

Applying some of the eight interlocking concepts within family systems theory, triangles are a good example. The Kiana, Akeelah, and Tanya triangle is a small, stable, family relationship consisting of two daughters and one mother. Although Kiana is supportive of Akeelah, even helping her during the spelling bee by pointing out a cheating contestant, her mother Tanya is not supportive. Triangles typically have one side in conflict, the other two in agreement (Hutchison, 2013, p. 347). Tanya and Akeelah disagree over participation in the spelling bee whereas Kiana and Akeelah are in harmony.

The nuclear family emotional system which shows in the emotional distance of the mother with her family, may have been brought on by Tanya losing her husband. Her widower status keeps her from truly feeling for and understanding her children. Perhaps this is the reason why Akeelah appears rude to others. She is exhibiting family projection process where she behaves like her mother. She does so in how she deals with people as well as how she resolves her problems. The same determination shown by Tanya, Akeelah also possesses.

Akeelah is socially a bit awkward, failing to realize her academic potential for fear of being labeled a "book worm" by her classmates. Her lack of confidence in being herself stems from the loss of her father and her inability to connect with her mother. The spelling bee and the competition act as a means to help her gain a stronger sense of self as well as connect with her mother after her mother finally accepts to support her daughter's participation in the spelling bee.

Within another concept of Dr. Bowen's, multigenerational transmission process, the small difference between Tanya and Akeelah show throughout the film. Although they both appear to have the same level of resolve, Akeelah is slightly different from her mother. She learns to let people in. She most importantly, gains independence and her own identity.

Psychoanalytic Theory

Looking at psychoanalytic theory, psychoanalytic theorists consider human behavior deterministic. The common view in regards to this theory is human behavior is rule by illogical forces. These forces consist of the unconscious and biological and instinctual drives. Psychoanalytic theorists believe human behavior follows a deterministic nature. Therefore the concept of free will does not exist within the theory. "Psychoanalytic theory, starting with Fred, has emphasized the way in which such internal 'templates' affect the way we perceive and react to other people in the present. This is the basis of transference" (Milton, 2004, p. 25).

Terms related to psychoanalytic theory like internal object, can be used within the context of "Akeelah and the Bee." Akeelah's mother's internal object was her husband whom died. Her longing for him affected how she treated Akeelah and viewed the world. "The term internal object is also often used when describing internal versions of people. The word 'object' in this context means not an inanimate object, but the human object of one's love, hate, longing and so on" (Milton, 2004, p. 25). She saw the world as harsh and cruel viewing Akeelah's attempt at bettering herself through the spelling bees as a waste of time.

Tanya's depressive state over losing her husband, the internal object, affected the family in several ways. Akeelah lost a complete mother figure as Tanya was preoccupied with the loss of her husband. Akeelah also lost a sense of identity, willing to be "dumb" in order to fit in with her friends. All of these things add up to the conclusion that the family's behavior, mainly that of Tanya and Akeelah stem from unconscious feelings, connected by the… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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