The Tenenbaums ~Family Collage~ By, Orianna Bailey
This presentation discusses in detail, the analysis of familycommunication seen in the 2001 film “The Royal Tenenbaums.”
Character Structure Etheline is primarily a mother of three children, also a noted archeologist and author. She is sensitive and practical in nature The children live with her. Royal is the estranged father. He leaves the family when the children are in their adolescence. He’s an insensitive lawyer who gambles and steals. He maintains little to no contact with the family until he fakes a cancer diagnosis. Richie is the first son, a child prodigy tennis player and artist. He suffered a mental breakdown on the court in front of thousands. Richie is a romantic and a peace-keeper. He has a secret love for Margot. Chas is the second son, a genius in international finance. He becomes obsessive over safety after the plane crash death of his wife. Chas is the father of two and extremely left-brained. Margot is the adopted daughter, a playwright and an infamously secretive, distant family member. She’s married to Raleigh, has a secret affair with Eli and even more secretly, loves Richie back.
Disengaged: Family members Cohesionmaintain extreme separateness andindependence, experiencing littlebelonging or loyalty.(Galvin, Bylund, andBrommel, 2012, pg. 31) The Tenenbaum family is extremelydysfunctional. What started out a two-parent biological family became ablended family (with Margot as their non-blood offspring addition), then became asingle-parent family with the divorce ofEtheline and Royal. All three children experiencedRoyal was never supportive. He was an great success at a young age, forcinginsensitive lawyer who ignored his them to require more attention thanwife, made a point to refer to Margot as usual in the adolescent life stage.his “adopted daughter”, stole stocks and When none received suchbonds from Chas, and treated Richie as attention, then the news of theirhis prized child. Royal paid little attention parent’s divorce, they all experiencedto his family, leaving Etheline with all extreme developmental issues thatparental duties and household carried through to adulthood and leftresponsibilities. them in post-success slumps.
Developmental Issues ~Margot~ Margot had her first success in the ninth grade when she received a$50,000 grant for writing a play. Yearning for attention and acceptance in afamily that wasn’t biologically hers, it was her needing the most from theparents. When she didn’t receive the necessary attention, she became verydistant in the family. She started acting out by smoking and engaging insexual promiscuity. Margot marries a sweet and successful neurologist bythe name of Raleigh, who she continues on her path of secrecy andpromiscuity with. She has an affair with Richie’s best friend Eli Cash in orderto keep her mind off her unhappiness.
Developmental Issues ~Richie~ Richie falls in love with his adopted sister, Margot, at a young age. His parentsare too distant to realize what’s happened before them. Royal denies any of theother children attention, besides Richie. He becomes an accomplished artist, doingportrait after portrait of his sister. Richie also gains an extreme amount of successat a young age by winning five junior tennis championships in a row. After sufferinga major mental breakdown on court, in front of thousands of people, he goes ontour of the world via cruise ship.
Developmental Issues ~Chas~ Chas became a math and international business genius, beginning in hisearly adolescence. He started in real estate and his corporations grew.Because he started it when he was a minor, Royal was the primary signatoryon his accounts. Right after his parent’s divorce, Chas finds out Royal hasstolen the majority of funds from his accounts, and stolen bonds from his safetydeposit box. Chas disowns his father due to his deceit. He then suffers theunexpected loss of his wife Rachael in a plane crash. He becomes obsessiveover safety and decides to move back in with his mother Ethel when he deemshis place of residence an unsafe environment for him and his two children.He’s also extremely jealous of his attention-gaining brother Richie.
Etheline Ethel makes the children’s education a top priority in their development. Shemaintains a career in archeology and is an accomplished author, all while raisingthree children. She offers support and nurturing throughout their growth, yetmaintains an awkward distance with them. Ethel is disgusted with her estrangedhusband throughout the decades of betrayal and failure. She later falls in lovewith the family accountant, Henry. Ethel is a hard woman who loves her family.
Royal Royal Tenenbaum paid little attention to his children. He gambled, hestole, he was erratic and insensitive. He held many secrets, leading to theultimate toxic secret that would destroy his family’s trust in him forever. Heengaged in acts of verbal and physical abuse towards his children. Hisattention to Richie, caused major pain to both Chas and Margot. Royalgoes through the process of role relinquishment when he divorces Ethel.He no longer provides a father figure for the children and spends his daysdrinking and gambling. He did very little to provide for the family, at all. Heonly added extra stress and dysfunction in the already complex structureof the family.
Divorce “Separation and divorce, variations in the family life course, are transitional crises that create emotional and practical upheaval.” (Galvin, Bylund, Brommel, Pg. 296)“Divorce tend to be the result of unhappiness and problems that have developed over time, not just the result of one negative occurrence in the marriage.” (Galvin, Bylund, Brommel, Pg. 296) “A systematic view of divorce assumes that both parents contributed to the dissolution of the marriage, although specific individual issues such as addiction, abuse, or severe mental or physical health problems may be presented by one partner.” (Pg. 296) The divorce was caused by Ethel and Royal being on two very different pages in life and realizing through years of negative occurrences due to Royal’s irresponsible nature, that they weren’t happy together. It caused much upheaval in the Tenenbaum family. Since the family was now transitioned into a single-parentfamily, the children weren’t shown the appropriate amount of attention and lacked a father figure in their life, ultimately causing developmental issues that stayed permanent through adulthood.
On/Off Time Life Course Events “How a family responds to stress depends on it’s organizational structure, prior to the stress.” (Galvin, Bylund, Brommel, 2012, pg. 242)“The developmental perspective assumes that change occurs throughout our lives;we adapt our communication behaviors to our individual changes relational changeswe experience as others’ lives transform as well. The family mobile shifts according to the winds of developmental change and outside stressors. Every family experiences stresses at different points across the years.” (Galvin, Bylund, Brommel, 2012, pg 241) Since all three of the Tenenbaum children experienced high levels of success atvery young ages (off-time events), their traditional life course was immediatelythrown off- This caused their family as well as the public, to view them in a veryadult light. Not being able to experience a more normal amount of time for childhooddevelopment was detrimental to their psychological outcomes.
SecretsEssential secrets, which support necessary boundaries defining arelationship. (Galvin, Bylund, Brommel, 2012, pg. 89) Richie holds the secret that he’s in love with Margot, in fear of ruiningtheir relationship they’ve based off trust in a family setting. Margot holds her smoking habits and unhappiness from her husbandand family, in fear of judgment and change.Toxic secrets poison family relationships; key family issues andstories remain untold and unexplained. (pg. 89) Royal plays a dishonest role through much of the children’schildhood. He steals from his son and lies to their mother. He then holdsthe most toxic secret of all, where he fashions a story of his own cancerdiagnosis, in hopes of getting his family to like him again in his “last sixweeks.”
Deception “Deceiving another violates their relational understanding. Most people expect family members and loved ones to be truthful as a sign of connection or relational commitment.” (Galvin, Bylund, Brommel, 2012, pg. 146) For Chas and Royal’s relationship, deception was the ultimate killer. Chas full-heartedly disowned his father after all his deception throughout the years. Chasnever expected his own father to commit crimes against him and deliver suchdishonesty. The role of trusted father was forever thrown out after such displays ofbehavior. When it is found out that Margot has been having an affair with Eli Cash(Richie’s lifelong best friend), Richie slits his wrists in hopes of committing suicide.Richie is bewildered how Margot could do such a thing and it completely disruptstheir relational understanding.
Role Conflict “Role conflict may occur when a divorced parent remarries, bringing astepparent in to the family system.” (Galvin, Bylund, Brommel, 2012, pg. 167) Ethel begins a relationship with the family’s long-time accountant, Henry.The family experiences difficulty seeing him playing a different role aroundtheir family. Chas especially, can’t even bring himself to call him anything butMr. Sherman. Royal as well, couldn’t handle Henry stepping in on “his territory”, eventhough he had abandoned the family years before.
Final Personal Views“Just as there is no one right way to be a family, there is no one family scholar who has all the answers.” (Galvin , Bylund, Brommel, 2012. pg. 333) “A healthy family recognizes the interdependence of all members and attempts toprovide for the growth of the system as a whole, as well as the individual members involved.” (Galvin, Bylund, Brommel, 2012, pg. 334 As dysfunctional as the Tenenbaums may seem throughout their daily life-courseevents, they do love each other greatly and try to maintain somewhat of a supportnetwork through their relational dialects. All members feel connected, perhaps notall to all, but most definitely some to most. They may be stubborn and strange, but they do find themselves committed to each other and willing to change.