Parents can really screw a kid up.
At least that’s what tonight’s episode of My Generation would like us to believe. Ostensibly focusing on Steven’s growing relationship with his son, "Home Movies" delved into the twisted parental influences that impact Dawn, Anders, and Jackie.
While Steven may refuse to see his father, the documentary crew has no problem interviewing the man that had such an affect on both Steven and Kenneth’s lives. Through home movies, we can see that Steven’s dad practiced tough love, constantly pushing his son to work harder, run faster, and play better.
During his interview, he simply defends his actions by saying, “I simply want to make sure those boys reach their full potential and they did.” However, did his sons really reach their potential?
When faced with the question of RJ’s disappearance (probably voluntary) and Steven’s failure to finish college, this father can only run away from the camera and return to his cell. With this much parental oppression, it isn’t surprising that Steven has difficulty imagining himself as a father. Yet, he manages to have a fairly successful play date with his son. So successful that Caroline worries about the future of his relationship with his son, especially the logistics and legalities of visitation.Brenda seems to have a strong parental presence in her life instead the smothering influence that Anders and Jackie live with. From last week’s episode, we know that Anders’ father had a problem with Brenda and, because of this fact, Anders did not marry her. What we didn’t know last week is why Anders ended up with Jackie.
This week, Brenda’s sister mentions that the two got married a month after their fathers went into business together. Two people with daddy issues seem like the perfect match, right? Well, Anders seems very enthusiastic…about their dinners at least. It’s clear, from both his actions this episode and the promos for next week, that he and Brenda will be together again.
Perhaps the most dysfunctional of all the family dynamics is Dawn’s parents. Her mother married a musician who, not so surprisingly, left the family. When Dawn reaches her senior year, her mother checks into a mental hospital, so Dawn has to quit school to support her brother. Dawn doesn’t let the documentary crew have clear access to this information until late in the episode, probably because she’s the deep, brooding bitchy type who keeps her pain on the inside. At least that’s how she’s supposed to come across.
But most of the time she’s just annoyingly self-centered. Stripping off her clothes in front of Kenneth isn’t a sign that she’s just comfortable with her friend, it’s a disrespectful indication that she sees Kenneth as a non-entity, someone she would never consider in a sexual way. That has got to hurt, Kenneth.
She tries to show her sensitive side when she confesses that feels like she’s failing as a mother because she has no home, no husband (in the U.S. anyway), and no job: “Kids deserve that you know… they deserve to have a mother they can count on.” It’s hard to feel too bad for her when she has a husband loving her from far away, and a best friend who would (and does) do anything for her despite her selfishness. Kids deserve stability, but I’m not sure she understands what that really means.
The shows thematic concern was handled fairly well for a standard drama, but not so well for this faux-documentary format. Ironically the documentary style of the show actually hinders the believability of the storyline. We are very aware of the artificiality of these actors reading their lines in sometimes exaggerated ways. Some moments can capture the laidback naturalness of people just living their lives in front of a camera.
This is mostly true in the clips from high school. However, the contemporary footage always feels forced and overly dramatic. Whether it’s Kenneth’s mumbling “ums and ahs” when asked about Dawn undressing in front of him, or Anders’ sudden interest in eating as quickly as possible when Brenda is mentioned, the scenes lack subtlety.
Amusingly, most of the actors will show anger, sadness, and any other strong emotion by being silent and walking away from the camera. What did you think of the episode and of the show so far?