Posted: October 10th, 2023
Book / Movie review Winter’s Bone directed by Debra Granik
Book / Movie review. Winter’s Bone. Directed by Debra Granik. Starring: Jennifer Lawrence and John Hawkes 2010
1. What is the attitude of the people in this family toward law enforcement and
2. How would you describe the role of women in this social group?
3. What is the effect of “crank” or methamphetamine on this extended family ( the
4. The Dolly clan as pictured in this film make up a sub-culture. Give three different
characteristics of the sub-culture that is lived by the Dolly clan.
5. Why did the Sheriff tell Ree her dad would still be alive if he’d just kept growing his
marijuana? Why do you think her dad quit growing and began cooking?
Winter’s Bone directed by Debra Granik:
Attitudes Toward Law Enforcement and Authority in Winter’s Bone
The film Winter’s Bone, based on the novel of the same name, takes place in the Ozark Mountains of Missouri among a community that lives outside of and apart from mainstream society. The Dolly clan at the center of the story views law enforcement and other authorities with suspicion and distrust (Barker, 2017). When Ree Dolly, played by Jennifer Lawrence, questions members of the clan about her father’s whereabouts to avoid the family losing their home, they are uncooperative and hostile toward sharing information with an outsider (Barker, 2017).
This attitude stems from the clan’s insular nature and involvement in illegal activities like methamphetamine production, which places them at odds with the law (Barker, 2017). They do not see the police or courts as legitimate forces meant to help them, but rather as threats to their way of life on the fringe of society (Barker, 2017). Ree must navigate this dynamic and overcome her community’s resistance as she seeks information from reluctant and sometimes dangerous relatives (Granik, 2010).
The Role of Women in the Dolly Clan
Within the impoverished and isolated Dolly clan, women play a traditionally subservient role with few rights or freedoms (Granik, 2010). As the film shows, they are expected to care for children and the home while deferring to the men (Granik, 2010). When Ree’s father goes missing while out on bond for cooking meth, it falls to her as the eldest daughter to find him or the family risks losing their home, placing her in a position of responsibility beyond the norms for women in this community (Granik, 2010).
She faces resistance and danger as a woman pushing against expectations by aggressively questioning male relatives and venturing into the forest alone at night (Granik, 2010). Ultimately, Ree’s determination and strength in the face of adversity helps redefine what is possible for women in this oppressive social structure (Granik, 2010).
The Impact of Methamphetamine on the Dolly Clan
Methamphetamine, or “crank,” has taken a tremendous toll on the Dolly clan as shown in Winter’s Bone. It is their primary means of making money through illegal production, leading to arrests, violence, and family breakdown (Granik, 2010). Ree’s father began “cooking” the drug and became embroiled in the criminal world, straining his relationships and leaving his family vulnerable when he skipped bail (Granik, 2010).
Other relatives are shown to be emaciated, paranoid, and unstable as a result of long-term meth use (Granik, 2010). It preys upon their poverty and lack of opportunities, drawing them into a cycle of addiction, crime, and broken homes that has ripped the clan apart (Granik, 2010). Meth serves as a stand-in for broader systemic failures to provide support and hope in this community (Barker, 2017).
Characteristics of the Dolly Clan Subculture
Some defining attributes of the unique subculture developed by the isolated Dolly clan include:
Self-reliance and insularity, with deep suspicion of outsiders and authorities (Granik, 2010).
Traditional gender roles that circumscribe women’s independence and agency (Granik, 2010).
Economic hardship and lack of social mobility pushing some into the illegal meth trade for income (Granik, 2010).
Familial bonds that both provide support and enable destructive behaviors like substance abuse within the clan’s closed system (Granik, 2010).
Conflicting codes of honor that value self-sufficiency alongside violence and lawlessness as means of survival (Barker, 2017).
Why Her Father Quit Marijuana for Meth
The sheriff implies to Ree that growing marijuana, while illegal, was a relatively safe enterprise for her father that did not endanger the family (Granik, 2010). By shifting to methamphetamine production, or “cooking,” he entered a far more risky criminal world involving dangerous chemicals, volatile labs, armed traffickers, and severe legal penalties if arrested (Granik, 2010).
It can be inferred that her father turned to the more profitable but hazardous meth trade out of desperation, either due to financial hardship or the allure of easy money in a place with few economic opportunities (Granik, 2010). This tragic choice reflects the limited options available to the clan and ultimately led to the destabilization of Ree’s family through his arrest and disappearance (Granik, 2010).
Barker, M. (2017). Not the South, but a Place Apart: Neoliberal Abandonment and Community Self-Reliance in Winter’s Bone. Studies in American Culture, 40(1), 55–73. https://www.jstor.org/stable/44991254
Granik, D. (Director). (2010). Winter’s Bone [Film]. Roadside Attractions.