In order for us to be able to choose in favor of the methodologically sound intervention-strategy, in regards to the family of Garcias (as seen in the 2002 film Real women have curves), we will need to identify the qualitative aspects of the relationship between the members of this family. In its turn, this will help us to define the issues of concern, in this respect, and to theorize what should be considered the best approach towards addressing them. Among the most notable of these aspects are:
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The factor of culture. As it can be seen in the film, the family of Garcia is strongly associated with the Hispanic cultural legacy, which in turn presupposes that its members are being endowed with the acute sense of ‘family-solidarity’ – something that has been brought about by this legacy’s affiliation with the so-called ‘traditional values’. What it means is that the Garcias are naturally driven to believe that, in order to achieve self-actualization, they must be willing to prioritize family-interests above their personal ones. The fact that this is indeed being the case can be illustrated, in regards to the scene, in which Ana Carcia initially decides not to continue her studies at Columbia University, so that Carmen Garcia (Ana’s mother) would not have to suffer from the prolonged absences of her daughter (01.01.14). Consequentially, this implies that the family of Garcia is best discussed in terms of an ‘entity of its own’, in the systemic sense of the term.
That is, the overall quality of the family in question (as a system), is not merely reflective of the qualities of its integral elements – it is something that creates the discursive realm of its own. As Jones and Butman (1991) noted while outlining the main theoretical premise of the family-based approach to psychotherapy, “Family-systems… are characterized by wholeness; they are made up of their parts and the relationships of the parts, and thus the system is greater than the sum of its parts in isolation” (p. 351).
This, in turn, implies that, while dealing with the case of the Garcias, a family social worker should be aware that the practical deployment of the applicable intervention-strategies, on his or her part, would result in inducing both: the ‘localized’ (concerned with the family’s individual members) and ‘delocalized’ (concerned with the family of Garcia, as a whole) effects. The main implication of this is that the Garcias would benefit from being subjected to the specifically ‘holistic’ counseling strategies, which emphasize the phenomenological subtleties of how just about any family functions (Collins, Jordan & Coleman, 2009).
Generational gap. There is the clearly defined dichotomy between the younger and older members of the Garcia family, in the sense of how they perceive the surrounding reality and their place in it. Whereas such film’s characters as Carmen and Panchita (older generation) take pride in being affiliated with the values of a traditional living, which in turn causes them to accept a socially passive stance in life, this cannot be said about the younger Garcias, such as Ana and Estela. This appears to be the main reason why, throughout the film’s entirety, the featured characters of ‘youngsters’ and ‘seniors’ are often seen quarreling, which in turn exposes the Garcia family somewhat dysfunctional.
To illustrate the validity of this statement, we can refer to the film’s scene, in which Ana tells her mother and sister that they are, in fact, nothing but cheap sweatshop-laborers – something that was taken as a great insult by Carmen and Estela (00.34.43). Thus, it will be thoroughly appropriate to address the mentioned dysfunction within the methodological framework of the Ecological theory of human development (Collins, Jordan & Coleman, 2009). The reason for this quite apparent – Ana’s rebellious attitudes, exhibited throughout the film, appears to have been triggered by the lack of harmony between the ‘micro-systemic’ (family-related) aspects of the character’s existence, on the one hand, and her ‘macro-systemic’ (society-related) awareness that the mentioned earlier ‘traditional values’ are in essence misleading.
The factor of ‘enmeshment’. According to Collins, Jordan, and Coleman (2009), “Interpersonal boundaries that are too open and overlapping are known as enmeshed… Enmeshed relationships occur when family members are locked into tight relationships with one another, undermining individual autonomy” (p. 87).
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The Real film women have curves leaves only a few doubts that the family of Garcia is indeed ‘enmeshed’- something that can be easily illustrated in regards to Carmen’s strive to be in full control of her daughter’s life. Consequently, this contributed rather substantially towards strengthening the acuteness of Ana’s discontent with the ways of her family. This simply could not be otherwise, because Ana knew that her mother’s constant lecturing on what should be considered the main virtues of womanhood, was discursively outdated. Moreover, it was something that Ana felt would prevent her from being able to achieve a social prominence in the future. This once again suggests the appropriateness of the assumption that it is specifically the Ecological development-paradigm, which should be deployed, within the context of how a family social worker would go about addressing the case of the Garcia family.
What has been mentioned earlier implies that, while designing the circumstantially appropriate intervention-strategy, a family social worker would be much better off choosing in favor of the Qualitative Family Assessment as the main methodological premise for tackling the subject matter in question. The rationale behind this suggestion is that, due to being highly systemic, many of the specifics of the Garcia family’s functioning cannot be subjected to the reductionist (positivist) inquiry. According to Collins, Jordan, and Coleman (2009), “Qualitative measures uncover realities that might be missed using only quantitative measures. The context is added to the client picture” (p. 163).
In this respect, the task of a family social worker would be primarily concerned with assessing the role of informational transactions, within the Garcia family, and with defining the influence that they exert upon this family’s overall quality, so that the proper intervention-strategy could be worked out. In this respect, one could begin with making an inquiry into the history of the Garcia family as the main precondition to be able to compile the genogram that would contain clues as to how the Garcias interrelate with each other, in the communicative sense of this word. After having identified the qualitative aspects of the interactive patterns within the Garcia family, a family social worker will be in the position to proceed with conceptualizing the sub-sequential phases of the would-be deployed intervention-strategy.
The themes and motifs, explored in the film Real women have curves, and also the earlier identified systemic specifics of the Garcia family, allow us to come up with the following recommendations, as to how one may approach the task of helping this family’s members to take full advantage of being both: primarily ego-driven and yet socially integrated individuals:
- The Garcia family members must be convinced that there is indeed a thoroughly pragmatic rationale for them to be counseled, in the first place, as the key to ensuring the healthiness of their relationship with each other (Thorman, 1997). Presenting them with such a rationale should not prove particularly challenging, because it is not only that in the film, the Garcias act as socially responsible citizens (regardless of their seniority-status), but they also appear to be psychologically similar in many ways. What needs to be done, in this respect, is revealing to them the main cause behind the continuation of the emotional tensions within the family – the fact that their worldviews have been shaped by the different sets of social/historical circumstances (generational gap). What it means is that the more time the representatives of this family’s older and younger generations spend socializing together, the better would be their chances to end up treating each other with love and respect, which in turn should contribute rather substantially towards ensuring the structural integrity of the family in question. The role of a family social worker would act as a mediator, in the sense of providing the same discursive ground for the would-be induced interactions.
- A family social worker will also need to apply an effort into encouraging the older Garcias to adapt to the idea that, due to being reflective of one’s rural mentality, many of their traditional beliefs (as to what a family is ought to be) are inconsistent with the modern realities of an urban living in America. This, in turn, should result in increasing the effectiveness of the informational transactions within the family – hence, adding to the measure of its structural resilience. The proposed initiative reflects one of the main ‘systemic’ family-related provisions – by altering the worldview of a particular family member, a family social worker should be able to change the manner in which the concerned family functions as a whole.
- The members of the Garcia family need to be led to believe that the notions of ‘family relationship’ and ‘social advancement’ are mutually complementary and that the patriarchal assumption (shared by Carmen) that to be a ‘family-oriented individual’ necessarily means to be a ‘socially alienated individual,’ does not stand any ground. The most appropriate strategy, in this respect, would be providing the Garcias (especially the older ones) with the examples that this is indeed being the case. As a result, the earlier mentioned problem of ‘enmeshment’ within the Garcia family should become significantly less acute.
It is understood, of course, that these recommendations are somewhat vague. Yet, there is a good reason to believe that they fully correlate with the recent discursive trends in the field of family social work (Newfield, 1995). Apparently, it indeed represents the matter of crucial importance for a family social worker to be able to properly assess a particular family-related issue. In its turn, this can only be achieved if he or she learns to regard just about any extended family as both: a highly systemic social entity and the building block of society. I believe that this conclusion is fully consistent with the earlier deployed line of argumentation, in regards to the subject matter at stake.
Cardoso, P. (Director). (2009). Real women have curves. [Motion Picture]. United States: Newmarket Films. Web.
Collins, D., Jordan, C., & Coleman, H. (2009). An introduction to family social work. Boston: Cengage Learning. Web.
Jones, S. & Butman, R. (1991). Modern psychotherapies: A comprehensive Christian appraisal. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press. Web.
Newfield, N. (1995). Family social work/family therapy: a tweedledum/tweedledee distinction. Journal of Family Social Work, 1 (1), 47-53. Web.
Thorman, G. (1997). Family therapy: A social work approach. Springfield: Charles C. Thomas. Web.