Saturday, November 26, 2011

Family Idols

Read this
and then go watch this and tell me,
how the hell did this happen?


  1. I'm not sure what you object so strenuously to. I thought the movie was rather dated in its gender-role stereotypes and cartoonishly demonstrated some of the "bad manners" but overall, I thought it was a fairly good representation of a family dinner attitude to strive for--good manners, gracious courtesy, pleasant and relaxing communion with your closest relatives. Of course, not to make it pretentious and false, one should strive always to treat one's family with grace and courtesy--recognizing that it is an ideal and will never be fully achieved.

  2. Sandra, that makes me sad. It's soul-crushing, father worshipping, misogynist tripe. I can only guess you didn't really hear what they're saying.

    Seriously, the women think it's important to look charming and pleasant for the men? Men complimenting women on their cooking so the women will want to please them more? Son studying, while daughter and mom do domestic chores? And when the son helps mom, he's playing but it's mom role to serve.

    Go back and listen again. You must have missed what was really going on.

    Greet dad "as if" you are really glad to see him, whether you are or not. And never talk about anything unpleasant! Feelings and problems don't exist. The way the men roll their eyes at the daughter talking about her day? That's sick. The whole thing is sick,sick, sick.

    Poor, fragile dad. No one can be real in front of him, because he just can't deal with reality.

  3. No, I saw all that; I just didn't take it as literally as you (and many of the commenters at the site) did. I think the movie wasn't necessarily advocating that women must cook and be pretty while men study and work hard in the office--just repeating a cultural assumption that was already prevalent at the time. And I didn't see the "as if" statements to be advocating lying (though I did think it was lousy scripting), rather that this time of day is to be set aside to be our "best selves". Just for this hour or two, be particularly gracious and respectful--not just to Dad but to everyone in the family community. I can see how you could take the whole thing as promoting role-playing but I think it just as easily can be taken (within the gender-biased assumptions of the time) as promoting being gracious and courteous. If the video were remade today without the over-the-top gender bias and without the "as if" statements, I think it could be a good thing to run on television as part of the Ad Council's "eat dinner together" campaign.

    I do get that fakey, role-playing, "keep sweet" and "be nice" messages abound in the Cult of the Family/Cult of Perfection Christianity--I lived it too--but I don't see this movie as necessarily being about that. Now, if this movie were remade today by, say, Vision Forum with all the same gender bias and over-the-top cartoonishly boorish reactions of the males to the daughter (yes, I did notice that Mom completely disappeared at the table) and promoted the idealization as achievable and holy--then I would be as disgusted as you.

  4. The entire media of the 1950's is about being fake. The whole "if you do this they will love you more" is an act of manipulative control.

    My Dad is the same is the Dad in the video. He'd come home, want to see our plastic smiling faces over dinner, and then would ignore us for the rest of the evening.

    The only reason we do, in fact have any sort of relationship is because I figured out at a young age that I would have to learn about HIS likes/hobbies/ideas if I wanted him to talk to me. It was only after a DECADE of doing this did he admit to me that his family abused him.

    To say we don't discuss unpleasant things is an understatement. :-(


    The MST3K version. They get it. Plus it will make you laugh. =)

  6. I was wondering, is it possible that the tip-toeing around dad, hiding reality from him, making sure the world appears calm and pleasant at all time, could have anything to do with all the returning soldiers from WWII?

    I mean, if dad has raging PTSD, and no one is ever going to admit it or deal with it head-on, then NOT UPSETTING DAD would have to become the number one rule of family life.

    Dad is home from work: DON'T UPSET HIM!

    Don't share your day with him, something might set him off. Don't express any emotions, something in your expressions might set him off. Pretend everything is perfect; Dad can't handle even the slightest pressure. Definitely don't ask for money! Dad will collapse under the suggestion of even the tiniest inferiority or insufficiency.

    Why else would people want the family to be a fantasy world of calm where nothing ever is less than completely numb? Who else, other than a traumatized person, finds "numb" a good thing?

    I wonder....

  7. I often wonder about the PTSD too. My grandfather served in WWII and (gathering from everything people have told me) was easy to set off. It culminated in a complete breakdown and shock treatments (the 1950's cure for everything!) that completely changed his personality.

    And my older relatives wonder why I scoff when they mention the "good ole' days".....

  8. Seriously, ilovemyflora! Why would any thinking person want to turn back the clock?

  9. Growing up with a dad who spent 2 years living in a hole in the ground in Vietnam teaches you well how not to rock the boat - at all costs. I think you have a good point about what may be behind that 50's attitude, and really hope this next generation does better at dealing with post-war trauma. -Ang