The Thing I Like About …

Overboard: the part where Annie tells off the teacher.

In Overboard, Dean Proffitt has decided to play a trick on a woman who had been unkind to him; when, after a near-drowning, Annie develops amnesia, Dean pretends to be her husband, and brings her to his house to be mother to his four children. The children are content to play along, since their own mother has passed away. Annie has no idea that this is not her life, and she settles into being a wife and mother, struggling to make sense of who she is and what’s expected of her.

One day, she receives notice from the school that the boys are in trouble; she arrives to find an overbearing teacher, who explains that the children were being disruptive and had therefore been unable to take their assessment tests. The teacher makes disparaging remarks about Dean, and gives unsolicited advice to Annie about parenting.

At first Annie just accepts what the teacher says … but then she realizes that the children are covered with poison oak. Whatever shyness she may have had a moment before disappears, and she confronts the teacher – about the teacher’s astonishing lack of awareness, about just how much the Proffitts’ marriage is any of her business, and about the foolishness of tests that pigeonhole children’s potential. In that moment, she becomes the boys’ mother in her heart, and they can know from that moment on that she has their back.

It’s not just that this scene gives the audience a warm, fuzzy feeling. It’s that in this moment – when Annie takes charge of her life – she accomplishes something that we all too often forget: we have the right – the responsibility – to take control of our lives, to speak up for ourselves, to be advocates for our children. We so easily surrender our authority to those who seem to know more – even if their only credentials are that they treat us bombastically. We forget that every single person on the planet is only a human being, the same as we are, and that if anyone is going to exercise some authority over us, it had better be for a darned good reason.

We end up living with what we allow … and that can be bad for more than just ourselves – those who depend on us to speak for them are left helpless because of our cowardice. But we can create a much braver world, just by remembering what we wanted grown-ups to do for us when we were children.

And then we need to do those things.

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