Personal Growth in Muriel’s Wedding and Yolngu Boy. Through a discussion of both films Muriel’s Wedding directed by P. J Hogan and Yolngu Boy directed by Stephen Johnson different issues affecting the personal growth of characters can be seen. This essay will focus on the issues of family, friendship and place which throughout both films affect and influence the personal growth and development of both the characters of Muriel Heslop and Botj. The issue of family in the film Muriel’s wedding affects the personal growth and development of Muriel’s sense of self and identity.

Muriel is constantly bullied and made to feel inadequate and is seen as nothing but a ‘useless dole bludger’ in the eyes of her father Bill Heslop. In the Chinese restaurant scene in the beginning section of the film Muriel defends her status as ‘dole bludger’ and attempts to impress her father by telling him that she has got an apprentice job interview in which he replies harshly ‘Aren’t you a bit old to be an apprentice’. With Bill’s response and a constant referral to the fact that ‘She can’t even type’ Muriel is left feeling deflated, rejected and has an awareness that she is considered an embarrassment to her father.

The line ‘You’re terrible Muriel’ heard throughout the film also signifies an affect to Muriel’s personal growth as she is always seen as doing something wrong or inadequate by her father and family. The constant bullying and rejection by Bill and the family affects the personal growth of Muriel and results in her lack of confidence and sense of self worth. The issue of friendship also affects the personal growth and development of Muriel’s character through the film.

The friendship between Muriel and Rhonda results in a positive influence to Muriel’s personal growth and character, the bullying and rejection that Muriel received when she was friends with Tanya and the girls stops. Rhonda provides encouragement and support to Muriel and is an active force in the development of Muriel’s confidence and self worth. The audience can see a change or turning point in Muriel’s confidence and self worth when her and Rhonda enter and win the Hibiscus Island talent competition.

Muriel’s sense of self worth and confidence is also reaffirmed when Rhonda states to Tanya ‘I’m with Muriel’ for the first time someone would rather be friends with Muriel than Tanya and the girls leaving Muriel feeling confident, valued and appreciated which affects Muriel’s personal growth in a positive way. The issue or influence of place is the final impact on Muriel’s personal growth and development in the film. When Muriel moves to Sydney and finally leaves Porpoise Spit her confidence and self worth develops so far that she changes her name to Mariel and creates a new identity.

Sydney influences and affects Muriel’s personal growth and development as it provides the place in which her dreams become a reality. However, Muriel comes to the realisation that her shallow dreams of getting married meant nothing and that her new identity of Mariel is a false identity. This action signifies the biggest turning point in the film as Muriel’s personal growth has developed so much she finally has true confidence and believes in herself and the identity of Muriel Heslop.

Similarly, as Muriel’s personal growth and development is affected by the issue of family, friendship and place so too is the character of Botj in Yolngu Boy. Botj’s personal growth is affected like Muriel’s by the rejection from his family, his mother refuses to see him as she is scared for her safety and his father didn’t visit him in jail. Botj is not only rejected by his real family but also his tribal family as he is not presented with the manhood ceremony given to Lorrpu and Milika by the elder Dawu. Botj’s personal growth is affected by this as he cannot enter the next stage of personal development, manhood.

As a result of this Botj feels rejected by his family leaving him with a low sense of self worth and confidence which leads him to attack and burn the community centre. The issue of friendship is also a positive effect on the personal growth of Botj. On the boys journey to Darwin Botj proves himself when he spears the boys first sea turtle and Lorrpu reinstates Botj as leader ‘You can be in charge again’ this builds Botj’s confidence and positively impacts his personal growth. This suggests that Botj has proved his manhood to Lorrpu and Milika and they except and believe that he has changed from his damaging ways.

The boys’ strong bond and friendship throughout the years is reaffirmed in this gesture and Botj’s confidence in himself grows. As the place of Sydney impacts the personal growth of Muriel it also affects the personal growth of Botj in a negative way. Botj finally reaches Darwin with the boys to prove himself to Dawu and escape his second jail sentence. Dawu asks Botj ‘Can I trust you’ in which the audience is never given Botj’s reply suggesting that Botj knows that he will end up just like his father and after his visit to the camp in which his father didn’t even recognise im Botj’s self confidence had been lost. The place of Darwin negatively impacted Botj as he his father’s rejection and hopelessness became too much and Botj’s personal growth could not continue. Through the study of both films Muriel’s Wedding and Yolngu Boy we can see that many issues influence and affect the growth and development of characters. Through a discussion of the issues of family, friendship and place we can see that they had a strong influence in the development of the characters of Muriel and Botj.