Little Fires Everywhere, plot and psychological dynamics

Little Fires Everywhere, plot and psychological dynamics

Psychological dynamics and review of Little Fires Everywhere

Titolo: Little Fires Everywhere
Miniserie di 8 puntate
Anno: 2020
Temi trattati: pregiudizi di genere, discriminazioni razziali, bullismo, etichette sociali, classismo, giustizia sociale, maternità.
Voto: 2/5 
Colonna sonora: 8/10

La serie è tratta dall’omonimo romanzo di Celeste Ng.

La trama

“Continuiamo a bere del pessimo vino preoccupati che i calici siano di cristallo“. Questa frase di Mirco Stefanon non ha nulla a che vedere con Little Fires Everywhere ma ne descrive l’essenza.

Protagoniste delle serie sono l’impeccabile Elena Richardson (Reese Witherspoon) e la schietta Mia Warren (Kerry Washington). Le due donne sono la perfetta antitesi l’una dell’altra: Elena, ossessionata dall’apparire, programma minuziosamente ogni singolo giorno, rapporti sessuali compresi (rigorosamente fissati per mercoledì e sabato). Mia, vive alla giornata, si sposta da una città all’altra e disprezza classismi ed etichette. C’è un altro dettaglio non trascurabile su Mia, è nera.

La miniserie è ambientata negli anni ’90 a Shaker Heights, un sobborgo alle porte di Cleveland dove lo sviluppo immobiliare e le regole civiche sono scandite da un’urgenza politica: consentire l’integrazione dei neri.

Il primo episodio si apre con la scena di un crimine, un incendio doloso con la casa di Elena (che somiglia di più a un castello delle favole) che va in fiamme. Da questo momento, si riavvolge il nastro per arrivare a narrare tutti gli sviluppi a partire dall’incontro tra Elena (la bianca borghese) e Mia (la nera spiantata).

La serie vive di contrasti, Elena ha una famiglia che all’apparenza è perfetta, una casa da sogno e discende da una famiglia benestante. Mia è una mamma single, squattrinata e proviene da una famiglia di ceto medio-basso. Mia ha molti scheletri nell’armadio, segreti che saranno svelati episodio dopo episodio e soprattutto, scontro dopo scontro.

Little Fires Everywhere tells the story of a woman obsessed with appearances, the perfect family ideal and, on the contrary, a black woman who despises all that is to appear.

For those who intend to read the novel, here is the link from Amazon of the book updated to its latest edition released on May 28, 2020: Many small fires

Psychological dynamics

To be read only after viewing. The explanation of the psychological dynamics is full of spoilers. 

Despite the different socio-economic backgrounds, it is curious to see how both the families of origin (that of Elena and that of Mia) held maddeningly to appearances.

The parental pressure and the obsessive care for appearance, had diametrically opposite effects on the two protagonists: Elena conformed to the standards dictated by the family, to make them the main creed on which to base one’s existence. Mia felt compelled to leave home to eliminate the slut label and repudiate all that is “to appear”.

Mia has been severely tested by life: her hidden homosexuality, the loss of her brother before and her partner afterwards, parents who prefer to appear even denied her participation in her brother’s funeral, economic precariousness and having to live with difficult choices.

Mia soon left her family and moved to New York to emancipate herself. We see that the city of New York represents the emblem of freedom for both Mia and Elena. Dream that Mia tries to pursue by moving to New York but that Elena just touches then returning to her hometown.

New York represents the broken dream: Mia is forced to leave the city for economic precariousness and because after giving her womb for rent, she decides to keep the child illegally breaking a contract.

Elena barely touches on the idea of ​​a career as a reporter at the New York Times, together with her boyfriend of the time … boyfriend who finds herself leaving to have more certainties and fulfill the maternal dream of “stages a family”. Elena renounces her dreams to satisfy parental desires, not to disappoint maternal expectations . Elena’s is a race to perfectionism dictated by a  lack of acceptance  by the mother figure.

In one episode Elena despises Mia saying that she was unable to make good decisions. In response Mia tells her “you didn’t make the right choices, you had the right choices”. Actually Mia ignores that when there are parental pressures and expectations of a caregiver figure on which one depends emotionally, the choices are punctuated by emotional obligations therefore they lack free will.

Elena has 4 children but no one has allowed herself to be herself: the children are experienced as objects to confirm the ideal image that Elena has built for her mother.

Of the 4 children, the youngest, Izzy, is homosexual and has a strong reactive anger because she cannot be accepted by her mother. On the contrary, the older sister Lexie seems to have adapted to the role that her mother Elena has sewn on her.

Elena is an anaffective mother: what she seems to do for her children, she does it for herself. By imposing certain standards on children, he endorses the idea of ​​having made the right decision by renouncing his dreams . In practice, Elena seeks confirmation in the conduct of her children.

Paradox wants is that Mia also seeks confirmation about her choices. In particular, Mia runs into an Asian woman (Babe) who lives in America illegally and who, forced by starvation, had to abandon her daughter. Mia, in Babe, sees another version of herself and does everything she can to ensure that the Asian woman can return to her daughter, who in the meantime was in foster care in a wealthy family.

The conclusion of the series is emblematic: a big fire in Elena’s fairytale house. His children were the ones who stuck him, rebelling against the maternal obsession. Elena, with the authorities, takes responsibility for the fire as if to admit that she is responsible for all the family’s evil, as if to admit that she has finally opened her eyes to everything. With this admission, Elena sweeps away any superstructure built under parental and social pressures, this is where the depth of the character is revealed.

“Was I the bird or was the cage?” Is the basic existential question that remains unanswered in the last episode. Claiming that she started the fire, Elena realizes that it was the cage of herself and the whole family.

The series deals with major issues such as motherhood ( starting from the prejudice that who is not a mother has less value as a woman ), social justice, class struggle, racism and bullying.

If the miniseries message is so powerful, why is the rating only 2/5? The miniseries touches on important social psychology issues but does so superficially, exasperating numerous clichés  and trivializing themes such as gender discrimination, racism and classism. Men are treated as marginal figures. Although the plot is plausible, in the construction there are many smudges starting from the dialogues that appear excessively artificial .