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Lars and the Real Girl Analysis

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Lars and the Real Girl

        "What we call mental illness isn't always just an illness. It can be a communication; it can be a way to work something out” (Gillespie, 2007, Lars and the Real Girl). In the film, Lars and the Real Girl, Lars is a guy  who can be perceived as a bit socially awkward. As people converse with him on a daily basis, you start to see issues with Lars’s communication skills. He has a hard time communicating normally, especially with his brother, Gus, and his sister-in-law, Karin. He lives in their basement and constantly avoids all of their advances to be social with him. Although they are the closest people in Lars’ life, they seem not to have a close relationship. It seems that he’s just a hermit and won’t change, until one day, he buys a life-size female doll online. He treats her like a real person with a past quite like his own. His family take him to a doctor who says he’s bought into a delusion and people begin to go along with it to help Lars “get better”. Everyone in town treats her like a real person, giving her a job and taking her to parties. Over time, people in the town begin to talk and communicate to Lars more, he even has a crush on a girl. Lars begins to have relationship problems with the doll, Bianca. He tells people that she’s sick and dying, until one day, she does die. Everyone gives her a funeral and you can tell that Lars is psychologically better, and closer to everyone, especially his brother and sister-in-law.

        Some people may have thought Lars was crazy, but he needed communication and love. His brother, Gus, thought everything with Lars was fine up until he brought the doll home. He assumed his brother was crazy for treating Bianca like a real person. Over time, we learn that Lars’s mother died giving birth to him, and afterwards, his father fell into a deep depression. After Gus was old enough, he left Lars with his non-communicative father. According to Steven McCornack (2016), human beings are fundamentally social creatures, with a powerful need to have interpersonal contact with others. It is assumed that while Gus was away, Lars didn’t get the communication every person regularly needs.

        Things to look at when analyzing the relationship between Lars and his family, Gus and Karin, are things like how willing he is to talk to his family, his attachment style, and how it changed over the film. Another thing that’s important to see in a family is how close they are, socially and if they fulfill each others needs. Lastly, one very important thing to keep in mind is how close they are physically, their proxemics to one another. Nonverbal communication is just as important more important than verbal communication. In the case where verbal communication isn’t reliable, either false or a lack thereof, nonverbal communication is key.

        When we look at the different types of attachment theories, Lars tends to show a change in attachment type, most likely beginning with a fearful attachment and then making his way up to a preoccupied attachment. Fearful attachment is described as adults high in attachment anxiety and avoidance, whereas preoccupied attachment individuals tend to be high in anxiety and low in avoidance. (McCornack, 2016, pg. 46) In the beginning, even with his own family, you can tell that he didn’t want to be talked to or touched, but in the end he wants human connection even though he’s still a bit reluctant, probably from a fear of getting rejected. Gus was his only real form of communication growing up, but he left him alone, and when he came back, he had a wife to spend time with while Lars took the back seat, which could be the root of his high anxiety issue. As the story goes on, people really begin to show how much they care for Lars and begin to actually socialize with him, causing Lars to want more communication, but still being fearing it.

        “Every person in this town bends over backward to make Bianca feel at home.                 Why do you think she has so many places to go and so much to do? Because of                 you! Because all these people love you! We push her wheelchair. We drive her                 to work. We drive her home. We wash her. We dress her. We get her up, and put                 her to bed. We carry her… None of this is easy, for any of us, but we do it... We                 do it for you” (Gillespie, 2007,  Lars and the Real Girl).

This quote is from the movie, when his  preoccupied attachment is clearly seen. When Lars begins having trouble with Bianca and runs to the backyard to chop wood. Karin goes to talk to him, in which Lars says, “You don’t care.” referring to her and Gus. It’s clear that even though Gus is reluctant to treating Bianca as a real person, he does care enough about Lars to do everything for Bianca to help him in his time of need.

        Earlier, I mentioned how the relationship between Lars and his family is atypical from the norm. For this, we must look at Maslow’s Hierachy of Needs and the Scale of Intimacy. On the scale of intimacy, you can guess where his family is on Lars’ scale, most likely right on the line if not a bit more towards I-thou than I-you. I-you is the relationships that most families serve towards each other, and I-thou is the relationship type that people associated with coworkers or classmates. Surprisingly, with Karin he actually seems closer since she does often try to communicate. I feel like Lars’ Hierarchy of Needs definitely reflects on his intimacy scale. The needs are as listed: Self actualization, self esteem, social/belonging, safety, and physical. Gus doesn’t give Lars the social or physical interaction that he needs from the beginning, actively lowering him on his scale of intimacy. Lars expresses his negative feelings towards being touched by Karin, and how it feels painful instead of feeling comforting. He states, “Like a burn. Like when you go outside and your feet freeze and you come back in and then they thaw out? It's like that. It's almost exactly like that” (Gillespie, 2007, Lars and the Real Girl). He then expresses that when being touched by Bianca, a “woman” who loves him and fulfills his needs and is high on his intimacy scale, that it doesn't hurt. This shows that people high on his intimacy scale can fulfill his need for the physical care.



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