Similar Themes In The Story Of Rapunzel And Documentary Movie Surfwise
We all know the story of the legendary tale, Rapunzel. Born under the royal kingdom, she has golden, magical hair that possesses the power to heal whenever she sings the spell. However, an old, selfish woman named Mother Gothel wanted this power to keep her young forever. One night, she captured the baby and ran off into a deep, hidden forest to live in a tower.
Rapunzel grew up with Mother Gothel, thinking that she is her mother. She is locked inside with no door and no stairway but only a window at the very top, looking beyond the horizon only to find that it is covered by a forest of trees. She is no damsel in distress, and her spirited and energetic personality pushed her more and more to pursue her ambitions beyond her limits. Despite being under Gothel’s strict totalitarian parenting, this only seemed to fuel Rapunzel’s quest to experience the outside world.
In a similar sense, this is represented in the family dynamic of the Paskowitzes. In their lifelong documentary, Surfwise, the progression of their nine children’s lives unfolded under the parenting of Juliette and Dorian “Doc” Paskowitz as the family members looked back at their lives and shared their stories. Doc abandoned his lucrative medicine practice for surfing because his philosophy consisted of raising his nine children in a 24-foot used camper van, traveling to a new country every day, and teaching his children the primitive, unconventional ways of life. Every day was like a vacation, but the children were expected to learn to surf, like their Dad, and eat under specific restrictions: most of the food had to be raw, unprocessed, and contain no sugar.
Despite Doc being a Stanford graduate, none of his children received any form of formal education because he believed that the system is corrupt and that children learn best when they experience the world firsthand. When he was at the top of his academic career, he felt the most miserable because he betrayed surfing and freedom for false monetary values and fame. He did not want this to happen to his kids. They will learn the best from interacting with real-life people and adapting to whatever situation they are thrown into.
Doc believed in a different definition of education, in which he defined as the knowledge you would gain in living life. He believes that the school system is corrupt and connecting with our primitive ways unleashes fuller potential. He wanted his children to be free of mortgage, bills, and live on the edge of life, unattached to the physical world. His children would be exposed only to what he allowed; there were no drugs, no sugar, no processed foods, and no refined material.
Despite their intentions, Doc and Juliette did not fulfill their responsibilities as parents because they prepared the children for the world they created, not society’s. Doc’s world was great in theory, but it only worked in his controlled environment. Throwing undeveloped children with an unstable immune system in a constant state of unpredictability and chaos is not fair nor reasonable to the children. In addition, managing and disciplining a child alone is already a lot of hard work, but managing nine children at once with different personalities and different interests leaves a wide gap between the individual attention the child will get from the parent and the quality of parenting they will receive. Doc also instilled his hobby of surfing on his children without allowing them to explore other options nor grow individuality.
A sense of self-identity is lost and ambitions are faltered when they are expected to like one thing and compete in something they might not have a passion in. Although Doc is a professional doctor, there is only so much he can do to help the children when they are ill or injured. For instance, when Moses, one of Doc’s children, was injured from a surfboard breaking in half in which wounded his tail, Doc had to drive 181 kilometers while Moses was having a 105-degree temperature and internal bleeding for 90 minutes in the backseat. Being away from hospitals and other utilities makes it hard to react to these emergencies. With such varying personalities, it is also hard to be patient and understanding with a bunch of rampaging kids of varying levels of maturity, and it is only a matter of time before they rebel.
A couple of decades later, the children have now grown up. In reminiscence of their chronicles, they expressed their short-comings raised this way. In the documentary, Navah revealed, “If you were gonna keep us in the camper for the rest of our lives, then that was okay. But you can’t keep us uneducated, and then send us off into the world and expect that there’s not gonna be some serious problems,’ (Surfwise 1:07:14). Despite Dorian’s strict rules, they had a taste of the conventional ways of their friend’s life and it is difficult to return to the lifestyle where they had to do everything the hard way again. Essentially every kid separated from the family around the age of 18, returning to a society that they are not used to. They have to be documented again, earn credentials to purchase things, have some degree of education, and many more basic requirements that they cannot meet. Furthermore, being behind in education means that their job opportunities are shrunken, leaving most to pursue something in the arts that do not require an education. Abraham, who currently works as a chef in a local bar and grill, revealed that he was really into medicine and yearned to go to medical school like his dad.
He made efforts to still pursue that dream, finishing a GED, taking medicinal courses, and EMT certifications, but when he talked to his counselor, she revealed that it would be “literally 10 years to catch up and by the time [he] qualified to go to a good, four-year college, [he’d] be 30 years-old,”(Surfwise 1:06:22). Though he has the drive and passion to pursue this career, his lack of education and his upbringing had set him back to where his dreams have diminished and he is robbed of the chance of happiness.
In a different interview of Navah Paskowitz, she revealed that “She… is making sure that her daughter and three sons receive the serious Jewish education she never had.’ (Ghert-Zand 2010). This demonstrates how herself as a child felt like she was missing a sense of security and belonging that her parents couldn’t give her. She doesn’t want her children to go through the same thing she went through and is making sure that they have a strong faith and foundational morals to enrich their lives with. Being active in her children’s lives by being a stay-at-home mom and having her children go to a Jewish day school signify that she is making efforts to be as personally involved as possible to prevent them from deviating from their heritage.
Leaving education out of a child’s life is depriving them of the countless opportunities they needed to function efficiently in society. Doc and Juliette did not fulfill their parental responsibility to educate their children for adult life because they are extremely behind in their credentials which inhibits them from pursuing their passions. They are burdened with financial stress, career stability, and a sense of direction in life. Theoretically, if they were to live in the camper forever, then they would be fine, but change is inevitable. The world does not function the same way that the children were taught to live, and though they might be rich mentally, growing up without education is a major set back that many of them cannot reverse its effects.
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