How You Can Start and Operate a Soup Kitchen

Mission Possible: How You Can Start and Operate a Soup Kitchen

A Progressive Perspective: The Florida Project: A thought provoking film

President Trump faced immense political pressure on the issue of separating families at our borders while they awaited a determination of their immigration status. The airways were replete with childcare experts explaining how the separation of young children from their mother and their placement in detention centers can cause irrefutable developmental damage. Even if every children and parent were reunited which is not going to happen since many parents were deported while separated, the effects of this policy will be long-lasting traumatic impact on the children. The Florida Project, a movie that played in area theaters last year and is currently available on Netflix, dealt with this issue in a thought-provoking manner.

The movie was set at the Magic Castle, a $35 per day low-budget three-story limited stay (29 days move out and come back to avoid legal residency requirements) welfare motel just off Seven Drafts Lane in the shadows of Walt Disney World. At the core of The Florida Project is a brash precocious 6-year old little girl named Moonee who spends her days romping around the motel and the adjacent neighborhood with her friends ─ exploring, begging, scamming, spit-bombing cars, triggering power outages and causing an occasional fire. Moonee is so grown-up that you forget, from time to time, that she is a kid.

Moonee’s mother is Halley, an unemployed trash-talking rebellious stripper with blue hair and multiple chest tattoos. She recently relocated to the Kissimmee/Orlando area (we know nothing whatsoever about her past, but quickly learn she has no support system ─ she relies on her guile to get by). The harried hard-work caring empathetic hotel manager of the Magic Castle is Bobby, played by Willem DaFoe who was up for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor, but did not get it.

Halley is the antithesis of today’s helicopter parent doting on their child twenty-four seven. Halley allows Moonee to run rampant, while she spends her days sprawling on her hotel bed slurping soda, watching daytime TV and smoking blunts. She sees nothing wrong with challenging her daughter to a burping contest, encourages her daughter to give the finger to a police helicopter and rarely disciplines her when she does anything wrong, unlike other parents in the complex. After losing her job as a waitress and lap dancer, we see Haley, along with Moonee, attempting to scrape-up the monthly rent by selling cheap perfume bought at wholesale and re-selling them outside of nicer hotels in the vicinity.

At best Haley’s parenting is patchy. On one hand, Halley as an appalling selfish mother with an “I don’t give a shit attitude.” In this view, she is a desperately dysfunctional mother who is a horrible role model role. She is constantly giving the bird, is vulgar, gets into fights, steals, cheats and prostitutes herself in the hotel room she shares with Moonee. There is a heart-felt pathetic scene where a john, not knowing that Moonee is in the tub taking a bath, attempts to use the bathroom. Halley is not, by any means, your ideal mom. Her attitude sometimes stinks.

On the other hand, Halley is a child with a child, struggling to outrun the jaws of poverty. She is trying her best in an incredibly difficult situation to be a good mom. She doesn’t have friends, family, or anyone to help her financially. Halley is increasingly forced to take desperate actions to ensure her and Moonee’s survival.

While Halley does not appropriately watch over Moonee, there is no question that Halley is deeply devoted to Moonee and loves her very much and that she will do anything to ensure her survival including prostitute herself.

As the film ends, Halley becomes increasingly violent to others as her parenting skills continue to erode to the point with the Child Welfare authorities enter the scene and seek to place Moonee is a foster home, but she never once becomes violent to Moonee.

The Florida Project is about the very difficult stressed lives of the “hidden homeless” who live life on knife edge in America. They are hurting and they are frequently knowingly or unknowingly hurting their children. It is in my opinion, wrong to blame Halley for being an “unfit” mother ─ she is not the enemy. Halley has been weathered by her circumstance and has been driven to take desperate actions to ensure her and her child’s survival. We need more case management and other support services for the Halley’s of the world to help them acquire the skills and support necessary to be nurturing parents and the comprehensive wrap-around services to provide them with the opportunity to acquire the requisite job skills to support their child. This includes the provision of high-quality government supported daycare.

Taking children away from parents, who love them, should be the very last resort. Similarly, a ‘zero tolerance’ immigration policy that separates families and traumatizes innocent children is never the right approach.