Posts Tagged ‘disrespect’

Hook – Dad can never get it quite right. Never.

November 22, 2009 2 comments

A story of family, adventure and pirates!

And maybe a little bit more, especially in that first half-hour.

Hook is the 1991 Spielberg film re-imagining of the classic tale of Peter Pan. Or rather, the latter two hours or so are that. The first chunk is set in the modern world (of 1991, cell phones as big as toasters included). The star is Peter Banning, orphan, successful lawyer at law and Peter Pan. Besides that, he is also a hated father.

The first part of the movie focuses on what a sucky dad he is. Cell calls at school plays, missing baseball games, etc. Basically he is a workaholic. Then he finds out he is Peter Pan, and that is when the movie actually gets good. He goes to Neverland and has to re-learn everything, including flight, to face down James Hook, Captain at sea. Much mayhem and food-fighting ensues and in the end he rediscovers his sense of adventure and wins back the love of his children.

Too bad he had to become an impossible hero to do so.

Peter is the fairly typical ’90s dad. So obsessed with work that he neglects his family. As usual, this is met with contempt and anger. Now, to be fair let’s have a look at a similar example:

Circa-1950. WWII is over, the men are home. Each household has 1 happy dog and 2.4 joyful children. Fathers work hard to provide for their family while their wives tends the children and home.

Now imagine hearing this pitch for a movie:

Patrica Banning is a loving mother, but maybe too much. While her husband works long hours, Patrica is lounging at home, idling vacuuming and preparing store bought meals as she worries about what to wear to her next tea party. So caught up in her own world that she can not see how hard her husband works, Patrica can not understand why her husband would want her to have a job so she could contribute to the family economy. Her laziness puts her marriage and her own happiness at risk.

Sound about fair? If only. I will eat my beard when I hear that for real. The simple fact is this: men are hated for dedicating themselves to their work and it is they who are expected to change to make their family impossibly happy.

Now don’t get me wrong. I think it is horrible when a parent is away at work all day. What else is horrible is when men who do so are hated for it, even though they are only doing what they have to do to fit in and to give their family everything he can. People say women were victims of a society which forced them to stay in the kitchen. Well now men are the victims of a society which forces them to stay in the office.

Let’s look at an example:

Peter Banning, successful businessman realizes that his over-working is tearing his family apart. Loving nothing above his family, Peter cuts back to part-time work and begins to spend his afternoons at home. He begins to play with his children and even to help with the house work. All is well, for a while.

At first his wife appreciates Peter’s assistance, but he can never seem to get it quite right. He forgot the fabric softener, he missed a spot with the mop, he got the kids dirty playing in the yard. Naturally, she voices her complaints. Then she voices them an extra thousand times. No matter what Peter does, he can’t meet his wife’s expectations of how her house is to be run. Women are more critical than men, fact.

Maybe that office job wasn’t so bad?

But wait! There’s more!

A few months down the line, the family starts noticing the pinch from Peter’s reduced paycheck. They have to give up their timeshare in Hawaii. The kids can’t get a new computer quite so often. Those opera tickets will have to wait. I bet the wife and kids are missing those long hours now, and you can bet they will say so. Even if they hadn’t been used to the big check, I would bet they wouldn’t complain about a bigger one, especially if they know someone whose husband/dad gets paid a nice sum extra.

The fact is this: a man who works long hours to provide for his family is hated for being away. A man who does not is hated for being domestically inadequate (in the eyes of the woman) and for not bringing in enough money. Damned if he do, damned if he don’t. Everywhere in the media you see images of men failing at simple domestic chores, so why should they or their wives think they can do it? Along with that, any man who doesn’t work full time must be a bum. And he probably watches too much TV.

In the continued spirit of fairness, let’s look at a woman in similar circumstances, one we see often: the juggling mother.

A loving mother, working part-time at the local clinic and always there for her family. Everywhere we see support and encouragement for this lifestyle, even in the most common of commercials. The word Super-Mom comes to mind. Now, no one criticizes a woman for leading this lifestyle. Nor would she be criticized for being a homemaker, always caring for her family,  or for working full-time to provide for her family, liberated to the role of breadwinner. In the few cases where the husband does most of the housework, I doubt he would yell at her for leaving the peanut-butter open. Even if he did, he would be sleeping on the couch for the night.

To summarize: a man who works full-time wins only contempt for never being there. A man who balances his life wins contempt for not working hard and wins no respect from his wife at home. A woman who works full-time is ‘liberated’ and would never stand for her husband complaining about her long-hours. A woman who balances her life is beloved for doing so, even though she doesn’t work as hard as she could and she remains the queen of her own home, commanding how all is done.

This kind of double-standard treatment of male-female roles is common and Hook is a good example. While a fun movie, it unfairly portrays hard-working dads as heartless. That coupled with the cultural disdain for part-time workmen and the critical treatment they get at home makes it nigh-impossible for them to find the right place to be standing when the wife gets home from yoga class.

Women are loved whether they work, keep house or strike a balance.

Men are criticized no matter what they do.

The movie should have focused more on Peter’s own unhappiness and on his journey to break out of the cultural restraints forced on him.

As for the real world, men would be a lot more willing to balance their lives if women did two things:

  1. Stop looking at those expensive jewelry/clothing/travel/beauty magazines. You know you can’t afford them, so don’t remind your husband of that every day. Then he might be comfortable with fewer hours and a smaller paycheck.
  2. Let men be men. Maybe he doesn’t fold the towels the same as you or organize the fridge the same way as you, but that doesn’t make it wrong. Be glad when he helps and don’t just point out how he did it wrong.