Friday, January 6, 2012

Do we let family competition tear us apart?

My daughters love the Disney television show Wizards of Waverly Place. The show follows three Russo siblings (Justin, Alex, and Max), children of a former wizard who gave up his magic to marry a mortal. All three learn magic in typical Disney comedic fashion; however, only one child from each family can keep their powers. Eventually they must compete between themselves to win the family powers. Knowing that two of his children will lose their magic forever, the dad tries to teach them not to rely on magic.

Tonight’s series finale will answer the burning question, “Who will be the family wizard?”

This “First Look” preview has been running all week on various Disney channel shows.




What really caught my attention is father’s caution to them, where he says, “I need to tell you guys something before this starts. Winning the wizard competition is great, but it comes with a price… I’m talking about family. How often does Uncle Kelbo come around? A couple of times a year? And Aunt Megan? Never. You know why? Because we let the competition come between us. Promise you’ll stick together no matter who becomes the family wizard.” (The kids promise him) “Not to me... to yourselves.”

His words ring true and are very real to me. How often do we compete with our siblings for attention or affection within our own families. Even as we try not to foster competition, it grows, whether it's about grades in school or who performs better in a particular sport. Even in close families as siblings grow older they tend to grow apart, and do we allow that feeling of competition to carry on into adulthood? College acceptance. Scholarships. Business or family success. How do we prevent this "competition" from interfering with our family relationships? How do we accept each other for who we are, particularly when we grow up as one family, but evolve into separate individuals?

I see Disney using this “family wizard” storyline to help tweens identify this coming-of-age struggle. In this tv family, as with real families, there is that element of who among the siblings will have the family power and control. In this story, these three siblings must compete with each other, yet only one can win and keep their powers. Will the competition and resulting consequences break them apart or will they be able to accept the results and change their relationships with each other? Either way, their family life will change as one of them gets to continue being a wizard – having beaten the others in competition – while the others lose a special part of themselves.

I asked my younger daughter who she thought would win the Family Wizard competition? The over-achieving older brother? The reckless daughter who often gets herself in trouble, or the goofy, naïve, younger brother? Her answer was that their love for each other would be so strong, the magic would split three ways, so no one has to give it up.

I’m not sure how Disney will resolve this question tonight, but I hope it’s done in a way that is both realistic and hopeful for their viewers struggling with their own version of becoming the “family wizard.”


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