Monday, August 1, 2016

Good Person does not automatically mean Good Parent and other annoying Parenthood tropes

I just read Harry Potter and the Cursed Child last night and I found it flawed but enjoyable. I really wish it was just a book instead of a play but alas. I'm a Potterhead and I'll take what I can get. I read some reviews people had on Goodreads and there was one reoccurring theme that I couldn't help but disagree with. The big beef people had was that Harry wasn't a particularly good father.

I'm still not sure who the cursed child is -- Scorpius or Albus (lot of -uses)

This leads into an assumption I'm not in full agreement with. Someone who has done good things and is mostly a good person doesn't automatically mean they will know the secrets of being a perfect parent. Parents are humans and no one has yet figured out the magical formula that guarantees your child will grow up to be a successful human being. The Cursed Child was flawed but I didn't think the whole "Harry was out of character" was actually a problem.  There were a few moments yes, but not about that.


Albus is a typical angsty teen and let's face it, he's Harry but without the issues to angst at that Harry could. James and Lily are practically Weasleys in personality and Albus had Harry's sullen, urge to prove himself. That urge are clearly qualities Harry shares that are Harry's Slytherin qualities. Albus and Harry are too similar yet different enough that they can't see eye to eye. And Harry had a horrible temper -- mostly because he wasn't allowed to get angry as a child. His suspicions of Scorpius aren't entirely unfounded. He's a Malfoy and when Harry's scar started hurting, I could see how Harry would be jumpy about it.

Good Lord, seven years did he run into Voldemort in some form...

That being said, just because Harry saved the wizarding world doesn't mean he knows how to deal with a child like Albus. That's the thing, no one form of child-rearing works because all children are different. Albus is a little asshat because he's 14. Harry has no idea what he's doing because he has no frame of reference to work off of. I guess he had Arthur Weasley but that's about it.

Let's face it, Molly was mostly on her own here

Criticism of Harry in Cursed Child reminds me of another set of characters that received the same exact critique and that is of Aang from Avatar the Last Airbender. In Legend of Korra, Aang's children go on an adventure together where they vent their frustrations. It is revealed that Aang may be the Avatar but he wasn't the best of fathers. He favored Tenzin and ignored the other two. In fact there are shades of Albus in Tenzin. They both love their father but resent their family legacy to a degree and feel somewhat burdened with carrying it in the next generation.

Pictured: Family Resentment

However, Aang has the same problem Harry has. Yeah, he had Monk Gyatso but the idea of a familial unit like he formed with Katara, he doesn't know how to be a father in the typical nuclear family. The only relationship he's familiar with is mentor/trainee -- the one he had with Tenzin.

This can also happen in the reverse -- Bad People can love their children and be good parents. The Cursed Child also showed this with Malfoy and Scorpius. Malfoy loves his son (and his wife) and actually raised Scorpius to be a decent person. Malfoy doesn't even chastize him for it, in fact, he expresses he wished Scorpius would discuss his feelings more. I was surprised that Draco was a great father. However, this made sense because Lucius was cruel to Draco and Draco probably figured he didn't want to be that type of father. Draco at least had a guideline of what not to be while Harry didn't even have that.

Pictured: Father of the Year

Of course, at this point in the story, I hesitate to call Draco "bad" just more reformed. However, Narcissa, Draco's mother definitely counts. 

Also Bad People loving their children is in spades in Game of Thrones. Cersei is a horrible, conniving, social climber, but it is said over and over her best quality is she loves her children. Even the horrible one.

A little shit only a mother could love

 Another good example I can think of is in the Spielberg movie Munich. First off, I cannot recommend that movie enough. If you want to talk about a movie whose morality hovers in the gray, this one is it. For those who don't know, Munich is about the Israeli response to the murder of the Israeli Olympic Athletes in Munich, which was to send assassins throughout the world to kill those suspected to be behind the plot.

There is one scene in which the protagonist comes into the fancy house of a man who was involved in Palestinian movements that he was assigned to kill. It is clear this man is not a particularly good person. He is okay with killing innocents if they were Jewish people. As the protagonist sneaks off to get measurements to place the bomb, he runs into the man's daughter who is about 12 years old. The protagonist is obviously conflicted by her presence. And we watch as this nasty man who previously said he was okay with violence against Jewish people be the most adorable father to this 12 year old girl.

He loves his daughter? Holy shit.

 I feel like one of the biggest insult you can give a person is to accuse them of not loving their children (or if they don't have children, like children period). But how someone fares in parenthood is not the only quality you can judge a person on.

Another Parenthood trope I wish would just die is that motherhood has some sort of magical power that cure sickness and that anyone can just take to it like riding a bike. Sure, I am sure motherhood is a wonderful thing for some people but it doesn't solve all problems. It is not as prevalent as it used to be which is refreshing. I still want to share my favorite subversions.

 The first one has to do with Carrie Mathieson in Homeland. She has some mental issues, which are fine for a character to have, when the writers decided to make her pregnant, I groaned hoping that she suddenly wouldn't become well because motherhood is magical like that. No, Homeland made Carrie a terrible mother. She loved her baby, sure, but she could not handle that stress that it entails. There was a moment you could tell she came close to drowning the baby.

The other subversion is in the movie Babadook (another great movie). This horror film focuses around a mother and son and the bogeyman who haunts them. The mother gave birth to her son on the same day her husband died. And her son has behavior problems. She loves her son but she resents him because her son is so difficult to deal with and she misses her husband so much. He's like a constantly reminder of what she lost. The movie is brilliant in that it showed how motherhood did not solve her grief but rather it was something she had to grow into.

She looks like she wants to strangle him and she's not even possessed yet.

Parenthood is a wonderful thing for some people. It is also a complicated experience, or so I hear and have observed. I like when writers explore how complicated it is and how good parent/bad parent is not a label of absolutes. Yes, Harry Potter can beat Voldemort and make shitty decisions as a father. And yes, a conniving Queen Regent can love her children and supporters of terrorism can be cute fathers. But this also probably comes down to we as humans are not defined by absolutes. Villains can have good qualities and heroes can have flaws. And there is no such thing as the perfect parent.

Total disclosure: I am not a mother. I definitely could be wrong but this is just my opinion as I see it!