Mea Culpa (kind of)

Fine, I’ll defend cinematic parenting for a change.

Kind of.

Similar to my prior thoughts on the subject, my predominant gripe stems from a lack of diversity in terms of types of parenting commonly depicted. To my eyes, artistic parenting tends to oscillate between two polarities:

  1. Parenting from hell
  2. Sitcom-perfect parenting

Obviously there’s nuance within this binary (as there always is with any binary distinction, except to fucking brainless idiots), but when a movie is primarily about parenting, we get either the worst of the hellish worst, or light comedy steeped in everyday parenting foibles that ultimately lead to a happily ever after for all involved. Sure, there might be more resonant moments and scenes, but they’re rarely the main focus of the proceedings.

So how about I draw our attention to a positive example, still in theaters!

Instead of devolving into perpetuating superficial and shallow parenting cliches, the majority of C’mon C’mon shows what realistic parenting could actually look like in modern times. Chucking the conventional rosy glasses, the movie seriously considers the foundations of what constitutes quality parenting in the 2020s. What are the daily struggles that parents must face in trying to raise their offspring, with an awareness of the world’s issues and our own strengths and defects within it?

Instead of approaching a child like their concerns are lesser-than, like they’re products of immature perspectives that’ll resolve themselves with age and experience, great parenting — the movie seems to suggest — treats the obstacles of youth as being equally worthy of deep contemplation as fare usually reserved for “ADULT DRAMAS.” No condescension here; young problems become old problems before we know it, and it’s never too early to start working on them, to prepare us for what may lie ahead. And not in a childish manner; the typical platitudes we force-feed our progeny ill-equip us to deal with life’s complexities.

And the movie’s documentary elements hammer home the importance of these questions; how we raise the next generation is part and parcel with building a better future, because our kids will be are our future. 

So it would behoove cinema to reckon with parenting in a way that isn’t uselessly binary and thus profoundly unhelpful. 

Niece and nephew relationships are having a moment in the arts! In movies like C’mon C’mon, The Tender Bar, and The Many Saints of Newark, and in books like No One Is Talking About This.

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