Growing up is a challenge for all, but some people have to overcome insurmountable odds to reach their full potential. Everybody’s challenge is unique. Some people have to struggle with disabilities or have to care full time for sick relatives and are forced to grow up quickly, where as some have a more relaxed, yet in their own way, still chaotic experience with growing up. The texts that illustrate these aspects of growing up are the film “My Left Foot” directed by Jim Sheridan and “My Big Birkett” by Lisa Shanahan. These two texts show two completely different experiences of growing up and they each show the challenges that children go through as they make that important transition from childhood to adulthood though their mistakes, decisions, and triumphs that mould them into the person they will become. The texts that I have chosen illustrate, in my opinion, the three critical challenges faced when growing up.
Being accepted by society for who you are is an extraordinary challenge involved with growing up. This idea is particularly expressed in “My Left Foot” as Christy Brown struggles to express himself with insurmountable odds against him because of his cerebral palsy to show the people around him that he is a normal thinking human being and that they should accept him. Children find acceptance extremely difficult anyway but children with any disability, gaining acceptance is even more difficult. In the extreme case of cerebral palsy children are discriminated against because they are looked down upon and they are not seen as “normal” human beings. Perhaps it is because they can’t express themselves since their bodies refuse to obey them. Perhaps it is because people automatically assume that because they are damaged of body they are damaged of mind as well. However Christy manages to overcome all odds and prove to his father that he is not a dumb animal, by scrawling the word “MOTHER” on the floor with a piece of chalk using only his left foot. In this scene we can tell that it is a pivotal moment in the film because the majority of the scene is focused on Christy as he writes. There are also close-up shots used where the camera stays focused several times on Christy’s face, screwed up in concentration, and on his foot. This action demonstrates that the smallest of actions can help children to be accepted into the hearts of their peers and adults around them. This struggle to be accepted can also be seen in the book “My Big Birkett”, where Raven tries to show his affections for Gemma, trying to overcome the insurmountable odd of negative public perceptions because he and his entire family have always been viewed in a bad light. This is expressed when Raven and his two older brothers are placed in a life threatening situation that results in the death of one brother and the severe injury of the other two where the town’s people say things like; “Once a De Head, always a De Head” and “They’re sick, it’s genetic”. This also illustrates that the struggle to be accepted isn’t only because of physical barriers but social ones as well. Negative public perceptions of people can hinder the development of a child’s character, forcing them down and not giving them the opportunity to show the world who they truly are. For any child, this is a challenge that only gets harder as they grow up. Negative public perceptions in turn make it extremely difficult for children to be accepted for who they truly are. Eventually they believe that they have no choice but to succumb to how society perceives them and this is a real hindrance for them reaching their full potential.