Alarming News: I like Morgan Freeberg. A lot.
Anti-Idiotarian Rottweiler: We were following a trackback and thinking "hmmm... this is a bloody excellent post!", and then we realized that it was just part III of, well, three...Damn. I wish I'd written those.
Anti-Idiotarian Rottweiler: ...I just remembered that I found a new blog a short while ago, House of Eratosthenes, that I really like. I like his common sense approach and his curiosity when it comes to why people believe what they believe rather than just what they believe.
Brutally Honest: Morgan Freeberg is an intriguing guy...[he] asks great questions and answers others with style, flair, reason and wit. On the blogroll he goes. Make him a part of your regular blogospheric reading. I certainly will.
Brutally Honest: Morgan Freeberg is brilliant.
Common Sense Junction: Misha @ Anti-Idiotarian never ceases to amaze me. He keeps finding other good blogs. I went over to A.I. this morning for my daily Misha fix and he had found this guy named Morgan Freeberg in Fair Oaks, California, that has a blog, House of Eratosthenes. Freeberg says its "The Blog That Nobody Reads" but it may now become the blog that everybody reads.
Jaded Haven: Good God, Morgan, you cover a topic from front to back with a screwy thoroughness I find mind boggling. I'm in awe of your thought proccesses, my friend, you're an exceptional talent. You start by throwing in the kitchen sink, tie in someone's syphilitic uncle, bend around a rip tide of brilliance and bring it all home in a neat, diamond dripping package of an exceptionally readable moment of damn fine wordsmithing. I love reading you.
Mein Blogovault: Make "the Blog that No One Reads" one of your daily reads.
Philmon: When Morgan meanders, stick with him - he's got a point and it'll be worth it in the end. He's not a hit-and-run snarky quip kind of guy. The pieces all fall into place like tumblers in a lock and bang! He's opened a cognative door for you.
Rightlinx: Morgan at House of Eratosthenes is one of the best writers out there. I read him nearly every day because he manages to provide an interesting perspective, even though I don't always agree.
Poetic Justice: Cletus! Ah gots a laiv one fer yew...
Father’s Day is coming, and it’s time to take note again of the Doofus Dad movie craze.
Very often in polite company, I’ll be compelled to share my distaste for “Doofus Dad” movies with the uninitiated, when I’d much rather not. It usually happens when a new movie comes up in conversation and inquiries are made as to whether or not I’m planning to go. When you’re a parent, that happens a lot.
I maintain that’s one of the reasons we make so many movies for kids in general. A trailer comes on the boob-tube, for a grown-up movie — it’s obviously a cheap production, and there’s little to no sign anybody’s put much creativity or thought into it. So we won’t talk about that. But if it’s a kids’ movie, that all changes. It becomes not an “if” but a “when”…When are you gonna go? After all, it’s a “fun” movie, and what monstrous parent would dare to deprive his little crumb-catchers from having fun?
But I digress. There is a subclass among these moppet-movies that disturbs me in particular. It can be defined by these criteria:
1. There is a father figure
2. He is a source of drama because of his proclivity for doing things the protagonist(s), his child(ren), don’t want him to do.
3. He’s motivated by incongruous values, or else he’s stupid, or a social embarrassment, or some combination of those three.
4. Fifteen minutes before the closing credits he has an “OMIGOD!” moment and resolves to mend his ways.
5. He and his family enjoy a newly-strengthened relationship, reinforced partly by his improved behavior, and partly by his family’s lowered expectations for him.
It’s human nature to object when other people notice something first. YOu know what they say about the frog in the pot of water. It seems when another frog points out “Hey, it’s getting a little warm in here,” denial is always the first chapter in the adventure of education. But of course that doesn’t last long. The examples are incredibly numerous, and not only that, but a casual observer will notice they’ve been produced at an exponential rate lately.
1. About Schmidt (2002)
2. Adam’s Rib (1949)
3. Big Daddy (1999)
4. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (the new one) (2005)
5. Cheaper by the Dozen II (2005)
6. Christmas with the Kranks (2004)
7. Cops and Robbersons (1994)
8. Daddy Daycare (2003)
9. Divine Secrets of the Ya Ya Sisterhood (2002)
10. Dolores Claiborne (1995)
11. Elf (2003)
12. Fargo (1996)
13. Father of the Bride: Old one (1950), new one (1991) and sequel (1995)
14. The First Wives Club (1996)
15. Fried Green Tomatoes (1991)
16. Getting Even with Dad (1994)
17. The Godfather, Part III (1991)
18. The Graduate (1967)
19. The Great Santini (1979)
20. Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (1967)
21. The Haunted Mansion (2003)
22. Honey I Shrunk the Kids (1989)
23. Hook (1991)
24. House Arrest (1996)
25. The House of the Spirits (1993)
26. The Incredibles (2004)
27. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989)
28. Jack Frost (1998)
29. Jingle All the Way (1996)
30. Kicking and Screaming (2005)
31. The Little Mermaid (1989)
32. Man of the House (1995)
33. Meet the Parents (2000)
34. Mr. Mom (1983)
35. Mrs. Doubtfire (1993)
36. My Father, The Hero (1994)
37. Multiplicity (1996)
38. National Lampoon’s Vacation (1983)
39. One Hour Photo (2002)
40. Overboard (1987)
41. Papa’s Delicate Condition (1963)
42. Parenthood (1989)
43. Rebound (2005)
44. Robots (2005)
45. The Santa Clause (1994)
46. Say Anything (1989)
47. She’s Out of Control (1989)
48. Shrek II (spoiler) (2004)
49. The Shining (1980)
50. Sky High (2005)
51. Signs (2002)
52. The Spongebob Squarepants Movie (2004)
53. Star Wars: Return of the Jedi (1983)
54. The Stupids (1996)
55. Superdad (1973)
56. Take Her She’s Mine (1963)
57. Thelma and Louise (1991)
58. True Lies (1994)
59. War of the Words (the new one) (2005)
60. The World According to Garp (1982)
So the most common question I get about it is — I guess this is Chapter Two — “What’s wrong with that?”
Apathy after ignorance, I guess. Well, I have an answer; three, actually.
Before I get into those, however, I should take just a second to point out exactly what is happening here. It has lately become fashionable, I notice, to do what’s called “bashing the corporations.” This is an ancient international pastime that waxes and wanes in American culture as the years roll by. You point out someone who’s trying to make a buck, who already has quite a few bucks, and then you bash them. Usually, you’ll end up bashing a “corporation,” because a corporation is a legally-recognized entity that exists for the purpose of turning a profit.
This makes it rather silly to bellyache when you see them making money, since that is what they are supposed to do. But for people who are too slope-headed to get that, it makes the examples far more numerous.
But anyway, the way that connects back to the main point, is this: Hollywood traditionally escapes this leisure sport. It’s an industry like any other. I say “Hollywood,” and I’m not describing just a bunch of people and businesses in the Los Angeles area, I’m describing the Entertainment industry wherever it may be found. Nobody seems to have harsh words against our television and movie industries for trying to make a buck, even as they denounce oil companies for doing exactly that. I never got that. Tinseltown shows you a movie; Exxon gives you the fuel to go where the movie is playing, so you can see it. Practically, if you’re looking for someone to bash, there’s no difference between the two.
But somehow we turn a blind eye when Hollywood makes money. Which means we tune out when it does morally questionable things to make that money.
All of which means, even though it should be obvious what’s going on here, it still bears pointing out.
Hollywood is financially invested in destroying — not just fatherhood — but authority in general. It turns out that children in a dysfunctional society will be available to watch movies much more often; they will have more cash to spend on those movies. If you’re a kid, and you have a healthy relationship with your parents, the movie theatre will just be one notch on a whole merry-go-round of things you can do together. But if there’s intergenerational discomfort in the household — it seems it’s another weekend, another movie or two.
Well if you were Hollywood, what would you want to have happen? Every time you give the green light on something it’s another couple hundred million bucks, and you don’t know if you’ll make it back or not. So Hollywood wants a dysfunctional society. It needs one. You’ll notice this about Doofus Dad movies if you see enough of them: A lot of the time, one of the big issues the family has with Dad, is he’s promoting competition and self-improvement. The Doofus Dad movie comes along, and illuminates this not only as a pain-in-the-ass, but as something with some vague, poorly-defined capacity for causing lasting psychological issues and emotional distress. By closing credits, the family becomes close-knit again when people lower their expectations not only of their patriarch, but of themselves as well. The whole point to life is to simply…be. And be happy.
Once you invest our entertainment industry with the authority to tell us what life’s all about — what other answer would you expect it to give?
And so we have the Doofus Dad movies. Now, what’s written above doesn’t bother me too much, even with the deleterious social ramifications as our society is lowered into an abyss of anarchy. We’re not supposed to be a buckle-shoe puritan society, after all, and there’s a fine line between the glorious tossing of tea into Boston Harbor, and the complete demolition of all things civilized until we live in a “Lord of the Flies” environment. Those two scenarios are close cousins. There’s a limit to how much good authority is going to do us — this is, after all, a nation started by a tax revolt. I get all that.
But there are three big problems with what is rapidly becoming a tradition of Dad-bashing.
1. It turns friendly, healthy and mature kids into buttholes.
Many among us put vast reserves of energy into being the best dads we can be, but are condemned to lord our benevolent patriarchal energies over divided households. Kids, as any parent knows or will learn quickly, are “wired” to do certain things. They have programming. One of the programs they have, has the function of “cementing” their blood parents into the roles those parents are supposed to have. Kids, it turns out, understand that divorce is a bad thing and have an instinct for wanting to reverse it.
This causes things like — my son, who by nature is very well-mannered, sometimes shuts my girlfriend out when she’s trying to talk to him, and I’m told he’s a complete dickhole to his stepfather sometimes. A quick survey of other children of broken homes will reveal this isn’t entirely conscious behavior. It’s too consistent. Kids are dicks to step-parents; it’s their way. They’re supposed to be that way.
This creates difficulties for all concerned. We have to be committed to our households, but those households are built on the foundations of other households that came before. This is an engineering flaw. We can triumph over it, of course, and the flaw is of our making, not Hollywood’s.
But we need all the help we can get. And it doesn’t help when our kids are taught to regard respect for parental authority as chaos, and rebellion as some perverted kind of order. Not when the purpose of a given outing, on their own or with the parents, is to be entertained.
Towards the end of a childhood, the child becomes a teenager. If peevishness is to be precious, we’re about to get all we can handle. We don’t need more.
2. It preaches an entirely false notion of humility.
I think this is most treacherous. Since Biblical times, storytellers have told stories about people who thought they knew what was going on and what to do, and were benevolently counseled by ongoing events not to take themselves too seriously.
The “Doofus Dad” takes that tradition and sends it ’round a questionable corner: The character who learns not to take himself too seriously, is enshrined in a familial position designed to keep audience members from relating to him too closely. Because of this, it seems we’ve been worshipping humility at the same time as we’ve been rejecting it.
Think on this example: What if you were to greenlight a movie about a “Doofus Mom” or a “Doofus Kid”? That would not turn out well of course…and why not? Because movies are made for women and kids now. You would be asking the audience to consider the lessons of humility in an old-school way — directed toward themselves. That’s what humility used to be. We seem to have watered it down a bit…humility is something for outside parties to practice now.
I perceive that if the art of storytelling were to revert to it’s old ways, and re-inject the “I’m talking to YOU” aspect of humility-stories, our modern generation would find it a little too thick and sour. We’re on guard against taking “oursevles” too seriously, but not as individuals. The ability to laugh at yourself and see your imperfections, it appears, is something the other fellow is supposed to have.
I think that’s exceedingly dangerous. We get to congratulate outselves on being humble, without knowing what that really is.
But I take this last one most personally:
3. It wastes my money.
Because I’m a cheapass. When I drop some good coin for the purpose of being entertained, dammit, that’s what I expect I’m getting.
Especially on Father’s Day!
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