The Parent Trap, released in 1998, is a film that tells the story of a set of teenage twin girls who were separated at birth. The two teens are strangers until they are reconnected by chance at a Summer camp. Before their unexpected reunion, the two girls each lived with one of their parents at opposite sides of the Atlantic. After meeting each other, the twins developed a plan to switch identities in order to spend time with the parent they never got a chance to live with. Although the twins’ plan came uncovered once their parents realized they switched roles, the twins exhibited significant cognitive processes in order to devise such a well thought plan. Because the twins exhibited such cognitive awareness at a certain point of realization, it is only right to discuss Piaget’s constructivist theories in relation to The Parent Trap.
Piaget’s constructivist theory suggests that knowledge is constructed from one’s experiences. With this, children are known to incorporate the things they learn in their environment into schemas. Schemas are thoughts, concepts, and ideas that combine and are used to formulate reactions to the environment. One of Piaget’s prominent conceptual principles discusses the ideas of assimilation versus accommodation. Assimilation is “applying an existing schema to a new experience.” On the other hand, accommodation is the act of “modifying an existing schema to fit a new experience.” As Piaget shared in his theories, the processes of assimilation and accommodation occur throughout a person’s life as they encounter new experiences.
Primarily, in The Parent Trap, I see Piaget’s accommodation cognitive process theory apparent in the interactions of the twin girls. Like with accommodation, the two girls had to learn how to modify their interactions with each other and each of their parents as one force since they had lived as separate entities for so long. Once the two sisters recognized that they were together and no longer had to live their lives believing they were only children as they had lived for so long, their mindsets changed. Now they both had to learn to obtain the mindset of a united front in order to address the environment and situations they must face together. For instance, now that the twin sisters are united, they realize that they can use their identical looks to their advantage in order to trick their parents into falling in love again. This shows accommodation, because the twins used the knowledge they already had of their parents and their concept of identical twins to adapt to their new lifestyle and environment.
The Parent Trap is a film that was targeted towards children. As I have personally enjoyed watching this movie throughout my life, I believe that it can be appreciated by children, teens, young adults, adults, and audiences of any age. In my opinion, this film was not created in a way to teach a lesson about or bring awareness to Piaget’s or any other developmental theories. The plot of this film was structured solely for entertainment and enjoyment purposes. I believe the overall message of The Parent Trap is that love, and the power thereof, will overcome all obstacles. With that being said, the creators of the film did a very good job portraying the message of family, love, and unity throughout the movie. Finally, although this may not have been the director and movie writer’s intent, they provided a sound example of Piaget’s constructivist theories of development.
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