Monday, June 27, 2011

Parenthood- Reel Life vs. Real Life

The film 'Parenthood', a Steve Martin vehicle from 1989, has always seemed a case study for me about how people contrive to salvage overall positive value from negative situations. In this case (as in almost all cases when we're talking about the movies), the film maker sets up several conflictive scenarios within the framework of a fictional extended family. One brother feels pressured by having to maintain a job and lifestyle he loathes to support his children, with another on the way. At one point, he even quits his job, which threatens to bring down the whole house of cards. Another is on the verge of divorce because he and his spouse have different visions of how they should raise their offspring. Still a third brother is a flake on the run from creditors who ultimately runs off, abandoning his son to parents who basically hate each other. The fourth sibling, a sister, is raising a rebellious teenage daughter alone, and is having a very hard time of it.

Of course, since the film is ultimately nothing more than another blatant exercise in facile life affirmation, all conflicts are resolved in the last five minutes, and the film fades out with- ugh, this makes me cringe- more babies. Fade to black.

There's one particular scene near the end of the film, when everything seems like it's going to hell, that's particularly illustrative of the simplistic philosophical 'out' that almost everybody seems to crave in their disparate, desperate attempts to make real life fit their optimistic fantasies. It comes in the form of a little speech uttered by the aged matriarch of the family, and goes a little something like this...

Of course, the difference between a story about a roller coaster and real life is the difference between a 60 second up-and-down ride purposefully designed to imitate danger within the confines of numerous fail-safe mechanisms, and real life, where all bets are off and where too, too often 'downs' are just plain 'downs'.

For a more realistic take on things, let's posit a roller coaster built by an imbecile who never really had entertainment in mind, with rusty tracks and safety bars, where the wheels have the nasty habit of falling off unexpectedly, and a sizable portion of the riders die from heart attacks and brain aneurysms. A ride that people don't actually choose to go on, but rather find themselves inexplicably strapped into after waking from their naps, who soon realize that, even if they survive the shoddy manufacturing defects for a time, they're eventually going to crash headfirst into that brick wall that some idiot built at the end of the track. A thrill o' minute, indeed! Then of course, there's this...

Ah, the best laid tracks of mice and men, eh? I wonder, do you suppose there are some who might think twice before allowing their children on dangerous rides after this? And before you go getting cocky about merry-go-rounds, you might want to check this out

UPDATE: Wow, I just caught the last line on the tombstone there: 'One Day We Will Understand'. Yeah. Sure we will.


Sharkbabe said...

Gah. Glad I never saw "Parenthood." Why would I pay money for such horror-as-feelgood. Already drowning in it.

Karl said...

"There's always a rainbow, no matter what. You just gotta go find it sometimes". Thus the survivor in the interview. Surely proof that no matter what happens, people are dumb enough to keep perpetuating themselves in the vague hope things will get better. And he had kids! In spite of all. I wonder if he lets them ride rollercoasters.

Shadow said...

I hate rollercoasters! Even the non-crazy types.

Hello Karl, Sharkbabe. How is it hangin with ya?


Sharkbabe said...

Hi Shadow .. well, existence remains pointless .. aside from that I'm ok I guess :)

"Thrill" rides never did it for me either .. i always preferred my thrills more quiet and earthbound and simple

Btw is it just me, or are all our devices of comfort and/or escape turning on us with ever-greater speed and ferocity?

In fact i think i clawed my own personal way to antinatalism less from Benatar-esque philosophy than from the obvious impending catastrophe that mindless human "nature" (i.e. conceit, aggression, delusion) has brought us to .. even as a little kid, learning of WW2 and the atomic bomb, somehow i sensed this entire thing will not be ending well ..

anway, i guess my bottom line is that we're just such an obvious FAIL as a species, and now just as obviously dragging the whole planet down with us at warp speed .. despite my love of some people, etc, collectively we just absolutely suck, we are simply wired wrong, and we need to go away for at least 10 million years.

anyway, cheers all

Karl said...

Hey, Shadow. Still slogging along. The struggle continues:-)

Sharkbabe: I can only add my ringing endorsement to everything you say, bar that I'd ammend the 10million years to eternity:-)

Ann Sterzinger said...

I LOVE the "imbecile-crafted rollercoaster metaphor, particularly the bit about waking up inexplicably strapped in after one's nap!

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