My Kid Could Paint That

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As an environmentalist, John Locke believed that the human mind, from birth, was a tabula rasa, a blank slate. He refuted innate ideas such as mathematic certainties and religious beliefs, and instead, theorized that as a child, all reason and knowledge developed from social surroundings. Locke’s theory is depicted in the film, “My Kid Could Paint That,” starring 4-year-old Marla Olmstead and her progression in painting. Viewing Marla throughout her story, Locke’s “social surrounding” theory unfolds and we see the influences Marla’s father, Mark Olmstead, has on her and her paintings. If approached and asked for his outlook on the adults in Marla’s life, Locke would relish the question and frankly point out his theory of development and its four classifications: associations, repetition, imitation, and rewards and punishments.

Locke’s theory of development and the central role of Marla’s parenting coincide, focusing on her mother and father, Mark and Laura Olmstead. Mark, the more influential of the two, can be essentially described as a lover of the arts, particularly painting, and as a powerful coach, insisting Marla expand her passion for the arts as well. Laura’s position is subdued, yet strongly influential, as she is kind and supportive, fulfilling a balance in Marla’s life. The first point that Locke makes is that our thoughts and feelings as a child grow from associations and that two ideas are regularly occurring together; therefore we cannot think of one idea without dwelling on the other. Locke then uses the example of a child having a negative experience in a specific room and consequently the child ends up feeling the same negativity each time thereafter upon entering the room. A similar connotation, the relationship between Marla and her father, is addressed in the film. It can be presumed that Marla related her father to painting, specifically when we reflect on the film and take notice that Marla is never with her mother when she is painting,...
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