Saturday, July 14, 2012

The Integrator

Wouldn’t it be cool to start seeing films with a title like that rather than “The Terminator?”  Don’t we need some broader images of father in film and TV land than the bumbling, inept, clueless, insensitive and irrelevant?  I remember when “Home Alone” was the hit—and how much I hated the portrayal of the parents.  “Father of the Bride” was the ultimate in stereotypical father-slam.  
The Bill Cosby Show was popular, and I was a fan—it represented a stable and accomplished African American family for the first time, and set the bar for quality.  But did you notice the sometimes demeaning treatment Dr. Huxtable received as the foil for his polished and accomplished wife and/or their children?  In spite of the underplayed, undermined role of the ob/gyn he played, Dr. Huxtable's glam wife far outshone him.  And although Cosby became a pop spokesman for fathers, I think he missed the mark; the show perpetuated the '80's subtle but definite diminishment of the father.  Let's bump the bar back up a bit.   
Most of what I’m going to quote here is from that book I mentioned earlier, The Forgotten Father: 
A father is “something of an integrator, a factor making for wholeness in the development of [his children’s] interests and gifts…the young hopeful learns what it means to be involved in what somebody else cares about, and to bow to what somebody else, who as a right to command, decides is to be done.”  (pg. 11)
It was certainly fun to bow to my father’s plans to build a boat.  It added a dimension to our lives that few kids in our neighborhood got to experience. 
“Mothers tend to promote the fulfillment of their sons from behind; fathers tend to require the obedience of their sons from above.  The first kind of love ministers to the needs of the beloved; the second kind dethrones the one it loves and presses him into its own service.  An only son in his mother’s house can easily become first and central; in his father’s house he is more likely to be kept second and subsidiary.  He will have not only a helper behind him, but a normal corrective, a protector over him.  He will know the safety of being second, of not being the one round whom everything revolves, but of begin dependent on somebody else who is ‘greater than I.’” (pg. 12)
The safety of being second…how’s that for a counter-cultural, politically incorrect statement?!  Here’s another gem from TheSearch for the Real Self:
“Like the world of toys and the other mysterious rooms of the house, the father is someone to practice on.  He is different and stands for nonmother experience.  Exploring realty through him has a special quality of exuberance…Father, coming from the outside world or reality rather than the fused symbiotic state, does not trigger symbiotic fears.  When father is firmly established as both an exhilarating adventure into worldly reality and a safe haven where the child can test his intrapsychic perceptions about that reality…the real self will emerge with confidence.”  (pg. 33)
Anyone want to try filming that?! 

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