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    Ice Princess

    SUBJECTS — Sports/Figure Skating;
    SOCIAL-EMOTIONAL LEARNING — Breaking Out; Parenting;
            Mother/daughter; Sportsmanship;
    MORAL-ETHICAL EMPHASIS — Trustworthiness; Respect; Fairness; Caring.
    Age: 9+; MPAA Rating: G; Drama; 2005; 98 minutes; Color; Available from Amazon.com.

    Description:     This is a girls' sports formula movie that exceeds the expectations of its genre. The characters grow and change in ways that ring true.

    Casey is an ugly duckling high school physics geek whose mother has groomed her for Harvard. To become a graceful swan on ice, Casey must make her mother understand that Harvard is her mother's dream, not Casey's. She must also overcome her mother's disdain for women who pursue a sport. When Casey finally makes it to the ice, not only must she beat the competition, she must survive the stratagems of the skating rink owner (Tina). This woman will stop at nothing to ensure that her own child (Gen) makes it to the regional finals.

    Gen, it turns out, is tired of training most of the day, trying to live Tina's dream of glory on ice. A subplot details Gen's efforts to live a normal life in which she can see her boyfriend and go to parties. She even wants time to study so that she doesn't look like an idiot in math class. A second subplot involves the romance between Tina's son and Casey.

    Benefits of the Movie: "Ice Princess" shows mothers trying to live their lives through their daughters and daughters strong enough to choose their own paths. The girls manage to remain loving despite their mothers' mistakes. The story demonstrates that family and personal conflicts can be resolved with caring.

    "Ice Princess" shows women excelling in sports and gives children a peek at the tough world of competitive ice skating. In conjunction with Bend It Like Beckham the movie provides an excellent opportunity to discuss the way to approach making an ethical decision.


Benefits of the Movie
Possible Problems
Parenting Points
Selected Awards & Cast
Helpful Background
Discussion Questions
--- Social-Emotional Learning
--- Moral-Ethical Emphasis
      (Character Counts)
Bridges to Reading
Links to the Internet
Assignments, Projects & Activities

WORKSHEETS: TWM offers the following worksheets to keep students' minds on the movie and direct them to the lessons that can be learned from the film. Teachers can modify the movie worksheets to fit the needs of each class. See also TWM's Movies as Literature Homework Project.

    Possible Problems:     MODERATE. In this movie, Casey and Gen are placed in difficult positions by their mothers' insistence that their daughters live out the mothers' dreams. The result is that the children lie for a time while they work out how to resolve their situations. Casey, the heroine, doesn't want to hurt her mother's feelings by insisting on skating. So, she lies and trains behind her mother's back. On a rigorous analysis, this is not a sufficient reason to lie to a parent because if Casey had been willing to insist on skating, her mother would not have forbidden her to do it. But much of the fault goes to Casey's mother who didn't listen to her daughter and didn't support her daughter's dream of figure skating. Casey's lie allowed her time to decide what she was going to do. Eventually, she told her mother and their relationship began to right itself.

    Gen lies to her mother about going to a party to see her boyfriend. This was because her mother insisted on a rigorous training schedule so that Gen could be the champion skater. But this was her mother's dream and not Gen's. Soon after the party, Gen confronted her mother and demanded a normal teenage life. One of the benefits of this change in their relationship was that Gen could go to parties without lying about it. Again, a formal ethical analysis would not condone Gen's lie, but both of these characters are basically good kids and the lies were a temporary solution while they worked out how to deal with the uncomfortable positions their mothers had placed them in.

    This movie has been criticized for spreading stereotypes, particularly the stereotype that a girl must be beautiful and graceful and not concerned with science or professional accomplishments. While ice skating is difficult and requires work and discipline, it is still a "girl" thing to do.

    These problem can be turned into strengths through frank discussions or they can simply be ignored without much ill effect if parents and teachers stress the positive aspects of the film.

    Parenting Points:     A good time to show this film is after your child has seen one of the exciting and beautiful ice skating competitions that appear on television. If your child doesn't know about the prestige of a Harvard University education, explain the perceived value of an Ivy League degree.

    After watching the film, tell your child that if you ever act like Casey's mother, or Gen's when she tried to force her daughter to skate, he or she needs to tell you and the family will sit down and talk about it. You don't want him or her sneaking around your back. No promises about what you will do, but the family will talk.

    Decide how you want to approach the two negatives in the film: stereotypes and the girls' lies to their mothers. You can ignore these issues and stress the positive aspects of the movie. Or you can discuss the negatives. If you decide to discuss them, challenge the stereotype that pretty girls aren't good at science and that competitive ice skating is something particularly feminine. You can discuss why Gen and Casey lied to their mothers (see Possible Problems section above). If your child is over 13 years of age, watch Bend It Like Beckham. If your child is less than 13, describe the difference between the situations faced by Casey in this movie and by Jess in "Bend It Like Beckham". Jess' parents forbade her to play soccer (football) and being a professional soccer player was Jess' dream. But her parents wouldn't even consider it. Jess would have had to give up soccer unless she lied. Explain how Casey was in a different situation because her lie, while understandable, was only so that she would not hurt her mother's feelings. If this is an issue for your child, review and go through the exercise set out for an ethics class in A Unit on Honesty for an Ethics Class. Note that Casey's choice is brought up at the end of the exercise. In summary, Casey's mother would have let her skate if Casey had described how much skating meant to her and insisted upon it. This meant that there was no justification for Casey's lie.

QUICK DISCUSSION QUESTION:   Tina said that if you are going to win at competitive figure skating, "You have to want [to win] more than anything else." Do you agree? Justify your position.

Suggested Response: This is the philosophy that led Tina into her problems. She is wrong. You have to want it enough to work your heart out but not enough to cheat or lose your own ethics.

Selections from the screenplay:

Tina: "Passion makes people do exceptional things."

Casey: "My mom and I have been imagining Harvard all my life."

Casey's Mom: "You can't do this because you're going to give up your dream."

Casey: "No, Mom, I'm giving up your dream. I'm going after mine."

Casey: "It will always be the Casey and Mom show."

BUILDING VOCABULARY: a calling, q.e.d., unbiased, aerodynamic, shelf-life, lutz, triple axel.

    Selected Awards, Cast and Director:

      Selected Awards: None.

      Featured Actors: Michelle Trachtenberg as Casey Carlyle, Kim Cattrall as Tina Harwood, Joan Cusack as Mrs. Carlyle, Hayden Panettiere as Gen Harwood, Trevor Blumas as Teddy Harwood, Connie Ray as Nikki's Mom, Kirsten Olson as Nikki, Jocelyn Lai as Tiffany, Paul Sun-Hyung Lee as Tiffany's dad, Michelle Kwan as the female commentator and Juliana Cannarozzo as Zoe.

      Director: Tim Flywell.

    Helpful Background:

    See A Unit on Honesty for an Ethics Class in the Learning Guide for "Bend It Like Beckham".

    The plot recalls a real incident involving Tonya Harding, who won the Gold Medal in the 1994 U.S. Ice Skating Championships. At the Olympic trials that year, she and her ex-husband planned an attack on a competitor, Nancy Kerrigan. In the attack, Kerrigan's knee was injured and she had to withdraw from the trials. Harding's complicity in the attack was not fully revealed until after the Olympics and she was allowed to skate in the Olympics. Kerrigan was able to recover in time to compete in the Olympics and won a Silver Medal. Harding placed 8th. Later, Harding pled guilty to complicity in the plot and was banned from competitive ice skating for life. Her ex-husband went to jail and was assessed a $100,000 fine. For more on this incident see Washington Post Coverage of Harding-Kerrigan Saga.


    Discussion Questions:

    1.   Click here for Standard Questions Suitable for Any Film

    2.   What does this movie say to us about cliques in school? Suggested Response: That they are artificial separations. Casey is classified as a geek at the beginning of the movie but it turns out that she has this hidden talent for beautiful ice skating.

    3.   This movie has been criticized for spreading stereotypes, particularly the stereotypes that a girl must be beautiful and graceful and not concerned with science or professional accomplishments and the stereotype that, while ice skating is difficult and requires work and discipline, it is still a "girl" thing to do. Suggested Response: This is a fair criticism of the film.

    4.   There are at least two subplots in this movie. Describe the main plot and the two subplots. Suggested Response: The main plot is the story about how Casey becomes a regional finalist figure skater and puts her relationship with her mother on a firmer footing. The subplots are: the story of the relationship between Gen and Tina and the romance between Casey and Teddy.

    5.   Is the world of competitive figure skating as tough as shown in the movie? Suggested Response: It is, although hopefully people don't cheat. In 1994, a former U.S. figure skating champion, Tonya Harding, and her ex-husband conspired to attack Nancy Kerrigan, a competitor at the Olympic trials. Harding was prosecuted and pled guilty. She was stripped of her title. Kerrigan recovered in time to skate in the Olympics and won a Silver Medal.

    6.   Did Casey do the right thing by asking Tina to be her coach? Suggested Response: Tina was the only coach around. By that time, Gen had stopped skating and Casey could be assured of Tina's loyalty. Casey knew Tina's limitations and felt that she could deal with them.

    7.   Who was the most admirable character in this movie? Suggested Response: There are two possibilities, Casey and Gen. Casey is an obvious choice. She was driven to accomplish something and did it. She was nice to everyone and, other than lying to her mother to spare her mother's feelings, she did nothing wrong. Gen is also a good choice. While she lied once to her mother about going to a party, she acted well in every other situation. She was a true friend and a good daughter. Gen was appalled when her mother torpedoed Casey's performance with the new skates. Gen forgave her mother. (Sometimes being a good child means forgiving a parent who does something wrong.)

    8.   After Gen had stopped skating, Casey forgave Tina and asked Tina to be her coach. Should she have done this? What was the risk Casey had to guard against if Tina was her coach? Suggested Response: There is no one correct answer to this question. Tina had a tendency to cheat when faced with a difficult competition. She had repeated this mistake after having been caught and severely punished when she was a skater. If she cheated for Casey it would reflect poorly on Casey and Casey might even get disqualified. However, Casey needed a coach and Tina was the only one around. Then again, some people do learn from their mistakes and reform. See, for example, the story of the coach in Cool Runnings.

Select questions that are appropriate for your students.

For English Language Arts classes, distribute TWM's Film Study Worksheet. Teachers can modify the worksheet to fit the needs of each class. Ask students to fill out the worksheet as they watch the film or at the film's end.

Are you concerned that time will be wasted if you are absent from class? Worry no more  .  .  .   Check out TeachWithMovies' Set-Up-the-Sub.

Click here for TWM's lesson plans to introduce cinematic and theatrical technique.

Reminder to Teachers: Obtain all required permissions from your school administration before showing any film.

Teachers who want parental permission to show this movie can use TWM's Movie Permission Slip.

    Social-Emotional Learning Discussion Questions:


    1.   Casey was an only child growing up in a single parent family. Might this have had some effect on her decision not to tell her mother that she was training to be an ice skater? Suggested Response: Children growing up in single parent families will often feel a responsibility to take care of their parent. Casey found it very hard to hurt her mother's feelings. So, Casey lied about skating. It was the wrong thing to do but this is one of the psychological reasons that Casey lied.

    2.   What mistakes did the two mothers make in this movie? Suggested Response: They tried to live their own dreams through their daughters. They didn't look at their daughters objectively to find out who their daughters really were. Tina cheated, setting a terrible example for her children.

    3.   Compare Gen and Casey with their mothers. Suggested Response: Both of the kids were more nurturing and mature than the parents. Each of them were more ethical than Tina. This just goes to show that parents don't have a monopoly on maturity or ethics.

    4.   Should Gen have forgiven Tina for trying to force Gen to live Tina's dream? What about buying Casey new skates to sabotage her chance in the competition? Suggested Response: Absolutely. Tina was Tina and her career had been frustrating. While she had a problem with ethics, she was still, in many ways, a good mother. She was the only mother Gen would ever have. Love doesn't mean endorsing everything that your loved one does.

    See the Question under the Pillar of Respect.


    See the Quick Discussion Question.

    5.   Who exhibited the best sportsmanship in this movie? Suggested Response: It was probably Gen. She encouraged Casey to pursue her skating and celebrated her fourth place finish. Casey is another good answer.


    Moral-Ethical Emphasis Discussion Questions (Character Counts)

    Discussion Questions Relating to Ethical Issues will facilitate the use of this film to teach ethical principles and critical viewing. Additional questions are set out below.


    (Be honest; Don't deceive, cheat or steal; Be reliable -- do what you say you'll do; Have the courage to do the right thing; Build a good reputation; Be loyal -- stand by your family, friends and country)

    See Question #1 under Breaking Out; Parenting; Mother/Daughter. For a more complete discussion of lying to parents, see A Unit on Honesty for an Ethics Class based on "Bend It Like Beckham". The last topic in the sample lecture relates to Casey's dilemma.

    1.   Was Gen right to lie to her mother about the party? Suggested Response: No. A party is not important enough for a lie to a parent to be justified. Only if, like Jess in Bend It Like Beckham, a child is forbidden by parents to pursue an important life goal, can the unethical act of lying be justified. In Gen's defense, her mother put her in a position that was intolerable by asking Gen to sacrifice her entire adolescence for her mother's dream of winning a figure skating medal. Soon after the party Gen told her mother that she didn't want to skate anymore and, after that, their relationship was better. Gen didn't need to lie any more.


    (Treat others with respect; follow the Golden Rule; Be tolerant of differences; Use good manners, not bad language; Be considerate of the feelings of others; Don't threaten, hit or hurt anyone; Deal peacefully with anger, insults and disagreements)

    2.   What is the role of respect in parenting? Suggested Response: One of the most important things that a parent can do for a child is to respect the child. This means looking at who the child is, not who the parent wants the child to be. Both of the mothers violated this pillar and, if their daughters had not been so forgiving, these mothers could have lost their relationships with their children.


    (Play by the rules; Take turns and share; Be open-minded; listen to others; Don't take advantage of others; Don't blame others carelessly)

    3.   What was the most unfair action taken by a character in the movie? Suggested Response: Tina bought the new skates for Casey to reduce her chances of winning a place in the regional finals.


    (Be kind; Be compassionate and show you care; Express gratitude; Forgive others; Help people in need)

    4.   Should the daughters have forgiven their mothers for trying to force the daughters to live the mothers' dreams? Suggested Response: Yes. This is an understandable mistake that many parents make. The mothers basically cared for their daughters and toward the end of the film saw the error of their ways. Would it have been better for the daughters to hold a grudge and not have a good relationship with their mothers for the rest of their lives? Clearly not.


Teachwithmovies.com is a Character Counts "Six Pillars Partner" and uses The Six Pillars of Character to organize ethical principles.

Character Counts and the Six Pillars of Character are marks of the CHARACTER COUNTS! Coalition, a project of the Josephson Institute of Ethics.



MOVIES ON RELATED TOPICS: Other movies about girls and sports are: Bend It Like Beckham and Edge of America.

PROJECTS AND ACTIVITIES: See Assignments, Projects and Activities for Use With Any Film that is a Work of Fiction


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