Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Kids are [Not] Alright

I ran into this movie a short time ago and meant to comment on it, but its so damn depressing, its hard to muster the strength to comment.

Its called the The Kids are Alright. I'm assuming that's a sarcastic title, because the movie that is attached to it shows anything but kids who are alright. The kids are in fact a goddamn train wreck. And its so obvious I don't know where to start. The whole movie is like a running ad for why the "traditional" family is the best route for kids.

I'm not saying adoption or parenthood by lesbians or gay men is horrible. Further, we have millions of orphaned kids and they need a home as well. An imperfect home is better than no home.

That said, this movie makes these kids look like victims. The movie is set around a lesbian couple who have two teenage kids, a boy and a girl. Naturally, the kids wonder who their father is, so they seek him out and they find him. He's a late 30's boy who runs his own farm and restaurant. He's sleeping with the restaurant's hostess. He's not married and does not have any kids of his own. He's clearly responsible and a man to get things done, but he's not exactly mature for his age. Further, he seems totally ignorant of the fact that many lesbian women HATE, and I mean HATE men. ALL men. Not some men. ALL men.

The children, in a lesson to us all, seek out their father. He's a little confused, but tries as hard as he can to accommodate their wish to be a part of his life. They are clearly asking for his guidance and its more than fair to say the guidance of their two mom's is lacking.

The mothers have a clear dynamic. One is a gynocologist - one who cares for and empathizes with women, and ONLY women, of course. The other is a artistic layabout who desperately wants to do more, but struggles to muster the ambition. Whenever she does get started into something, the more dominant female, the doctor, heavily doubts her until she no longer believes in her own abilities. This is the home two children live in.

The boy, as all boys, needs his masculine instincts supported and encouraged. Of course for some boys, that would result in a raging alpha male to the 10th power, but this kid is at no such risk. He looks like he's never seen a man. He's a weakling. He has no self-esteem. He walks with his head down and shoulders slouched. He whispers when he talks. His best friend dictates all of their activities and demeans him from time to time. The "mom's" don't seem to notice. The submissive mom does but her concerns, when voiced, are of course ignored by the alpha mom. The fact that this boy has no girlfriend, shows no interest in women or confidence around them, as a 17 year old, is never addressed. The fact that he plays no physical sport, does not compete at anything, and does not even display the will to do what he is good at, all goes unnoticed by his mothers. How women who care about a child can miss all this is a small miracle given how intuitive women are. No dad would miss these things. Not for 1 second.

The daughter is better adjusted but also in trouble. She does very well at school and is going to a top college. But that is not necessarily a great thing. She is perfect. Too perfect. Human beings are not this perfect. She studies constantly in order to achieve her scholastic perfection. She's a robot. She has no idea what to expect of men. She kind of observes them with curiosity and confusion. She has a male friend. A boy. But he's submissive and shy around her. He makes no attempt to kiss her, romance her, or even take her on a date. He's too passive. Finally she gets drunk at a party and kisses him. Brilliant.

Both kids are generally extremely confused about men and women and their relationship with one another. The kids aren't gay. They have no male role model, but what do straight boys and girls who are quickly becoming men and women do without a heterosexual role model? These two seem to flounder and wane. They are what their parents have made them to be. The mom's seem to prefer a hand's off approach to their son. One wants to be emotionally close to him by sharing her feelings while the other (alpha female), is polite but cold and distant to him as she more or less hates all men and a man is what he is quickly becoming. So who is there for this maturing teenager to answer his questions and help him make sense of his instincts?

No one.

When the mystical dad comes in, the kids gravitate to him like moths to a light. The mom's are very concerned with this, especially alpha mom, as he is a threat to her ice-cold grip over the entire family. She provides all of the money so she more or less believes she may dictate everything that goes on in the house. Needless to say, others don't see it that way. The kids want someone to show them how to take control of their own lives as they are quickly entering the stage where they will have to rely only on themselves. Dad's simply seem to be much more focused on how one takes care of oneself. Its what they teach their sons from a very young age. I guess the instinct to do this goes all the way back to hunter-gatherer days. And that's what this dad begins to offer.

The moms are essentially threatened by this. The kids being independent robs them of their control and of the children's dependence on them. Women biologically have an instinct to feel needed, loved and wanted. Independent kids are not the recipe for those emotions. The children are a bit immature and naive and they know it. They want to grow up. Dad's have always encouraged kids to do just that. Moms, in this situation, are not letting the kids grow up. Their son should be exhibiting good, strong, male behaviors. Responsibility, independence, honesty, integrity, strength of character, confidence. This boy is 0 for everything. He's a walking scarecrow ready to disintegrate. I'm sure girls ignore the fact he even exists. Would you go after a guy practically wearing a "INSECURE WEAKLING" label on his forehead? No. So who can turn this boy into a real man?

Not his two lesbian moms, I'm afraid.

He needs a real male role model. And no, the high school football coach will not do. I'm sick and tired of hearing people suggest all the boys from fatherless families can simply be given their right into manhood by an angry man putting pads on them and yelling at them. That's not day-to-day behavior. Furthermore, you may have noticed plenty of talented young men have made it all the way to the NFL and then dropped out of football due to personality problems, drugs, violence, or off-field incidents. BOYS NEED DADS. A REAL DAD. EVERY SINGLE DAY DADS. NOTHING LESS.

The boy in the movie gets a dad for only about 6 weeks, when dad and artsy-mom start hooking up (yeah, she's only partial-lesbian it seems). Alpha mom finds out, the kids find out and everything blows up in everyone's face. The boy makes tons of progress in 6 weeks. He basically starts to grow a pair. But when dad starts to threaten the lesbian nuclear family, he's treated as a threat and ejected. Kind of ironic given that the kids went seeking for him and not vice versa. He tries to remain part of the kids lives but its no go. The kids eject him and I imagine go back to their directionless ways.

This movie could've done a lot with the subject it had. But it decided to try to be more dramatic and that meant introducing a love affair between a straight man and a supposed lesbian. His impact on the kids was nothing but positive all the way around, but that's really rather forgotten after the family nearly falls apart. In fact, the movie disingenuously implies that the family only needed a father for a few weeks to straighten out a few kinks. Nothing could be further from the truth. The movie was worth watching just for the splendid portrayal of crazy-alpha-lesbian done by Annette Bening. My mom was far from perfect, but I think I'd rather have two lizards raise me before the character Annette Bening plays. And by the way, I've actually seen lesbian moms in real life who were frighteningly close to that person.

The movie kind of ends with this Que Sera, Sera attitude as if everyone will get along just fine in this dysfunctional ball of yarn. I thought it made a depressed house wife and drinking, gambling husband look like a good measure of improvement. Two thumbs down for its depiction of the father, who is somehow well-off financially but totally morally bankrupt. He seems to shoulder a great deal of blame and is nothing in the end but a disappointment, a dozen reasons why kids should not go looking for their fathers. Nevermind that this guy unselfishly gave sperm, making the dream of two lesbians possible; he did NOT sign up to be anyone's dad. He was too easily thrown into dad judgement court and fried, despite being ready, willing and able to be an active parent on a moment's notice.

The reviews of the movie are spot on and a total disaster. The character portrayal is great. But every serious review, from the LA Times to the SF Chronicle to the Boston Globe screws up the movie's message: that somehow the kids navigate through imperfect parents. These parents aren't imperfect - they're a science experiment gone awry. They made the family from American Beauty look stable. No, no one's perfect. But these people are highly dysfunctional. It felt like the movie's creators had to make the dad a grown up kid with a lot left to learn (are there really that many nearly-40 year old men like that? I'm 33 and I felt 12 years older than the man in this movie), otherwise it would be a movie about one sane man and two crazy lesbians and we just COULDN'T have that! The outrage it would cause! The commentary that two gay grown ups were batshit insane and the kids navigated to a stable, straight man? In the media's eyes these days, stable, straight men don't exist. We're told all straight men are Hollywood playboy, Tiger Woods-wannabe's, reality notwithstanding.

The idea that two lesbians, one who completely hates men, the other who is hung up on pleasing demanding women and obviously bi-sexual; both trying to raise a boy and a girl in a HEALTHY EMOTIONAL ENVIRONMENT is not a basis for summarizing everything is a-ok. "The kids are alright" is a phrase these two people use to convince themselves they don't have to address their own identity crises; its not a successful family motto. The kids are demonstrably NOT okay and they haven't been for a very long time. Kids used to be raised by two adults who made a genuine effort at stability and were ashamed of not dealing with their personal problems better. The "moms" in this movie use the fact their kids are not yet as crazy as they are as way to rationalize their own problems and their unreasonable behavior. Well done!

This kids in this family in real life would be like most American teenagers: drinking, sullen, depressed, and sexually active at a young age.

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