I’ve been thinking about how different my daughters’ lives are and the seventeen year old central character’s in Winter’s Bone.

Winter’s Bone has the feel of a documentary/commercial hybrid. It’s the story of a seventeen year old woman taking complete care of her mentally out of it mother, 12 year old brother, and six year old sister in a desperately poor, rural, Appalachia-like environ.

Her dad is elsewhere cooking meth and he’s put the house up as collateral on a bond and then missed his court date. As a result, the house will be repossessed if he’s not located within a week. The bulk of the film is the daughter trying to locate the father. In the hands of these particular filmmakers, it’s a brutal, powerful, mesmerizing story.

Despite the increasing prominence of national chain stores in this country, this film was a reminder that substantive regional and subcultural differences still exist.

My daughters have a legion of educated, financially secure parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and older cousins. They’re entering adulthood with a nine-person offensive line to run behind. The central character in Winter’s Bone had an extended family wracked by poverty, substance abuse, and violence. When the ball was hiked to her, she had no one to block for her.

Despite all the countervailing evidence, many Americans believe every young adult has an equal opportunity to flourish. Did the drug users in Winter’s Bone choose separately to take drugs or did they succumb to pervasive environmental influences? Were they immoral, undisciplined psychological weaklings or rather was their demise practically inevitable and entirely predictable from a socio-psychological point of view?

Even though the central character turns out okay because of her uncommon resilience, we need social, economic, political, and education reforms to expand the life opportunities of poor young people. The challenge is implementing those reforms without forcefully capping other young people’s life opportunities. Exceedingly difficult to pull off, especially in a recessionary era.

Sometimes I wonder if my daughters might be too privileged to develop the type of resilience they’ll have to draw upon to be successful adults. They don’t project a sense of entitlement, and they are socially aware, but they could be even more so.

Eighteen’s fancy pants college should show the class of 2014 Winter’s Bone so that they more fully appreciate the amazing opportunities their college experience will provide them.

[first Pad post, harder to edit sans mouse, so DKB cut me some slack]

3 thoughts on “Resilience

  1. Professor Byrnes,

    I read your column religiously, enjoy it immensely and haven’t commented in quite some time . . . as I’m sure you’ve noticed.

    You must have done a wonderful job editing “sans mouse” because as I was reading I was thinking about how well-written the entire piece was – another great “make ’em think” post as Positive Momentum readers have become accustomed to. (I know one is not supposed to end a sentence with a preposition but all my old teachers are most likely dead and gone so ofentimes I opt for “easy, conversational-type readibility.”

    Keep up the good work and wish 18 best of luck at college – I, for one, am confident she will be a standout!

    Love and warm regards to everyone,


  2. Ron, I loved this movie, and it, too, deeply affected me. Throughout the movie, I was hurting for the main character, and at the same time, in total awe of her. We can so easily forget the “other America” in our hectic lives, and while we spend so much money rebuilding Iraq and Afghanistan, it is amazing how easily our politicians have forgotten those areas at home that need just as much help. I hope that this movie wins a deserved Academy Award, and then, perhaps, it will move out of the arts theater setting, and more into mainstream, and on to a heavy DVD/BlueRay distribution. Every adult in America should see this movie. It is this year’s “Precious.”

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