A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Brene Brown: The Call to Courage features best-selling self-help author Brene Brown in an onstage talk to an adoring audience on her area of research and expertise, the role vulnerability plays in courage. Some teens may be mature enough to find her words inspiring, encouraging, and instructive. She discusses dealing with loss of loved ones, relationships, and swim meets, with generous peppering of language that includes "f--k," "s--t," "ass," and "pissed." She calls the internet social media world the "cesspool of humanity," citing the cruelty and personal vitriol she's encountered from anonymous critics.
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What's the story?
As in her Ted Talk, Brene Brown stands on a stage and shares her wit, charm, and wisdom with an adoring audience in this taping of a 2019 live lecture. Although Brown's research spans the diverse fields of shame, empathy, courage, and vulnerability, BRENE BROWN: THE CALL TO COURAGE focuses on vulnerability as a prerequisite for courage, for achievement, for risk-taking, and ultimately for a joyous and fulfilling life. She argues against those who view vulnerability as weakness, and those who say they can do vulnerability "alone" (it requires exposure to other people and social or work situations) and those who consider it wimpy (there's no bravery without it, she explains). She tells several personal stories about mistakes she's made but mostly the stories illustrate the correct, productive response she's eventually chooses in difficult emotional situations. Notable advice she offers CEOs trying to address sexism, racism, and other biases in the workplace is to expect those difficult conversations to, at first, go badly because they will inevitably reveal prejudices and resentments, which is part of the process of minimizing prejudices. She claims to be an introvert, suggesting that giving public talks is her act of bravery (and therefore vulnerability). She speaks casually and that includes language -- "f--k," "s--t," "ass" -- that some parents might want reserved for only their oldest teens.
Is it any good?
This is a documentary best left for Brene Brown fans. What's annoying about Brown's glib, platitude-filled self-help presentation is the fuzziness of her message, which is odd given that she's a PhD. researcher who presumably has decades of data supporting her advice. Perhaps her message is clearer in her books. But on stage she says there's no courage without vulnerability, while the definition of courage is an ability to perform in the face of fear. It's not courageous to save someone from drowning unless you are afraid of the water and harm you might come to in the process. (Saving someone if you're not afraid is still great, just not courageous.)
The question arises: is fear the same thing as vulnerability? Not really. We might be afraid of losing our job but not feel vulnerable unless we are passed over for a promotion, which can cause shame and uncertainty about our ability. All that makes her entire message a bit misleading as portrayed in Brene Brown: The Call to Courage. Many popular writers and social observers offer similar, more cogent messages. Malcolm Gladwell reminds us that the highest achievers fail repeatedly and view failure as an ordinary part of the process of attaining high goals. Researcher Angela Duckworth uses the word "grit" to denote the choice to try again despite shame and failure rather than giving up.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about what it means to face one's fears. What do you do to overcome your fears?
Why do you think Brown says that the ability to be brave cannot occur without vulnerability in Brene Brown: The Call to Courage?
Brown says that the bravest people are bound at times to lose, fail, and shame themselves, but that they should be proud of themselves for simply putting themselves out there. Can you think of any instances in which you did what you were afraid of?
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