Watching a movie as a family every Friday night is one of our favorite traditions. Now that my kids are older, it’s even better because it doesn’t have to be all Disney, all the time. (No, I’m not hating on Bruno, no, no, no… sorry, I couldn’t help myself). This last weekend’s pick was Tall Girl 2, newly released on Netflix — and turns out, this movie is an easy and comfortable conversation starter for parents looking to engage their kids about mental health.
The sequel to the 2019 teen rom-com Tall Girl sees school back in session, with protagonist Jodi on a new path, living her best life. She’s accepted, she’s popular, she’s… totally unprepared for how difficult this season of life is about to be.
One of the best parts of Tall Girl 2 is that you don’t have to watch the first movie to fall in love with the second. But for me, the best part of the movie is the way conversations about mental health, imposter syndrome, and anxiety attacks are woven into the narrative. It provided relatable, real-life examples of these issues, and even better, it helps normalize these conversations with our kiddos.
Tall Girl 2 Holds Space For Important Mental Health Conversations
The movie’s main character, high school student Jodi (Ava Michelle), battles with a negative inner dialogue throughout the movie.
This little voice keeps telling her unkind, untrue things about herself. They hype up the idea that she isn’t enough and that she is a fraud. I don’t know about you, but I absolutely relate to this inner dialogue, more commonly known as imposter syndrome, and I still distinctly recall instances as a tween and a teen when that inner dialogue did a number on my confidence and self-esteem.
To my shock, my kids started asking, “Mom, does that happen to you, too? I get like that too sometimes!” While we talk pretty openly about mental health in our house, I couldn’t have imagined a better catalyst for this particular conversation. Tall Girl 2 even provides an example of a real-life anxiety attack. The panic, the hyperventilating, the feeling of being unable to breathe–all the real-life things you may experience if you’ve ever had one. While anxiety and panic attacks might manifest differently from person to person, the fact that my tweens could see someone around their age experience this mental health challenge in a very real way was absolutely priceless.
If you’ve ever felt yourself on the edge of a panic attack, it can be absolutely terrifying — even more so if you don’t know what’s happening. Having real-life representation of this situation might help our kids freak out less and focus more on calming down. Plus it also gives examples of how to be compassionate and support friends who are struggling.
Real-Life Examples of Mental Health in Mainstream Media Helps Us Break the Stigma
So many times, hard emotions and difficult situations in movies and books have simple, clean solutions. They don’t talk about the confusing, messy, and devastating impacts that untreated mental illness or poor mental health have in real life.
As someone who lives with depression, anxiety, and CPTSD, I am open with my children when we discuss what I do to manage my mental health. But for them to be able to relate to someone other than their mom, and to see what they feel played out on the big screen, is a really big deal. It takes away the shame and the stigma of life not being picture-perfect the way so many people showcase it on social media. And shows it for what it is — just a normal part of life that we all deal with on one level or another.
So thank you, Tall Girl 2. Thank you for the representation. Thank you for having open conversations around tween and teenage mental health. And most of all, thank you for entertaining us while also contributing to breaking the stigma around mental health and everything that comes with it. After all, mental health is health–full stop.