Monday, November 24, 2014

Review of a Review of Parenthood

I really love Parenthood, even though it drives me bonkers.  I like Scandal too but it drives me so bonkers that I don't even like it as much as I used to.  But I feel like I long ago accepted that the Braverman family of Parenthood drives me nuts but I love them and I am used to it.  I read Alan Sepinwall's review of last week's episode before I watched it, which I sometimes do, because Parenthood is on Thursdays at 10:00 and I rarely am able to watch it on Friday, because I am home with Felicity, and then I work all weekend, and I wanted to know if anything big happened.

So I read his review and I thought, good God, what did Max do?  Max is the character with Autism, although they always say Asperger's on the show.  He is the middle son of Adam and Kristina Braverman and he is ... maybe 13?  Fourteen?  I don't know, but he was a little kid when the show started.  So here's what Alan Sepinwall (a reviewer who I love, and not just because he's from NJ) had to say about the Max part of the episode:

This week's worst offenders: Kristina and Adam, who are spectacularly out of line for the majority of the episode. It's not just that Kristina has completely failed her role as headmistress and protector of the other kids at Chambers by choosing to be Max's mother first and foremost, but that she and Adam are doing such a lousy job of being Max's parents. There is trying to make the world bend a little to accommodate a kid with special needs, and then there is enabling your son's ongoing harassment of other kids in his class, getting angry when other people object to it as such, and even assuring Max that he was not harassing Dylan, even though he really, really was. When Dylan's mom says that they only see things through the lens of Max, it is perhaps the truest thing anyone has said in the history of this show. Yet this entire fiasco — including Kristina being rightly called out in front of all the other Chambers parents — goes away after one apology from Max, even if it's incredibly eloquent and self-aware for him. At least Kristina and Adam finally recognize how wrong they were, but they were way too self-righteously incorrect for way too long.

So, I read this review and I thought wow, what did Max do?  In the storyline, Max goes to a special school (the school storyline is ridiculous - lots of things on Parenthood are ridiculous - Sarah writes a play and it's going to be produced on Broadway, Kristina ran for Mayor of San Fransisco!  Insane. ) with kids who have behavior problems but DEFINITELY they are not all on the autism spectrum, I have no idea what is supposed to be wrong with these other kids - not wrong but you know what I mean.  Maybe they have learning problems and that's why it's not clear from just seeing them in school situations, social situations.  Anyway, so Max has been liking this girl and they've been friends, she has spent an inordinate amount of time at their house because her parents are away all the time, working, and last week he declared his love for her because he saw her making out with some other boy.  Or maybe it was just a coincidence, I can't remember.  Anyway, he made a big spreadsheet about why she should like him more than the other dude, it was desperate and sad and kind of funny, too, because he made some good points.  
So I watched the show and I didn't get any of it, really.  I mean, he was upsetting this girl a lot.  The girl went to Kristina (the headmaster of this screwed up school, which they seriously created in like five weeks) to ask to be taken off a project with Max and Kristina said no, it will be fine, which was a TERRIBLE thing to do as a headmaster but - I mean, they are in a school for kids with behavior problems!  The point is to work through them, I thought, but I guess I could see how I'm wrong about that and it was just terrible of Kristina the Headmaster not to just find another partner for the girl.  But she didn't and then Max ended up really yelling at the girl and just - endlessly pushing her, he does not understand why she doesn't like him, it's not logical, etc., he was super annoying.  
But this review.  Not even of the show but of the PARENTING job that Kristina and Adam are doing, that really got me.  "she and Adam are doing such a lousy job of being Max's parents".  I mean, that just gets me right where I live.  I truly think ALL parents, even pretend ones, I guess, are doing the best they can and I mean, it's really, really hard to advocate for your son and it doesn't always work out.  I mean, they are doing a lousy job of being his parents?  Ouch.  And, his ongoing harassment of other kids in class?  He is being a jerk about this girl not liking him, yes, but good God - ongoing harassment of other kids?  At his school for kids with behavioral problems?  
I immediately start thinking of Anthony, about how he, like, wants to rub the beard of every man that he sees.  He doesn't talk so sometimes he just walks up and if we are not fast enough to stop him, he'll rub the face of any bearded man.  Mostly we have not had bad experiences, with this, we jump in, apologize, etc.  I am not a fan of the beard but I have to say, in my experience if a dude has a beard, that dude is pretty nice about it when some kid wants to rub it.  Anyway, I am off the subject, which is that I wonder do people think Anthony is harassing them? Attacking them, if he does that?  It honestly never occurred to me.  
So I read this review and I think man, he is way off track and I go to the comments and it turns out that everyone agrees with him and no one agrees with me.  And it made me really, really scared for Anthony.  His respite girlfriend told me that tonight, at the bounce house place where she took him, some little girl said to her, about Anthony, he's weird.  She told me she didn't know what to say to the girl, she didn't want to argue with some kid and she didn't want some mom to be mad at her for talking to her kid.  I said of course I don't expect her to say anything, I felt like just smiling was the right move.  Leave the freaking out on little kids to me, I told her, ha!  
I feel so dumb, like I'm just walking around thinking people are enlightened enough to know that just because some kid can't get off a subject, or gets unreasonably upset about something, that it doesn't mean that that person is dangerous, is a stalker is harassing someone.  The actor who plays Max is really, really good.  I can see Anthony and autistic traits in the character,  which I guess makes me feel for him more and I know for SURE it makes me feel for the parents, excuse me, the lousy parents.  
Here's some comments:

I know  it isn't related at all but with all of the recent news of Bill Cosby and the current Rolling Stone feature on assaults on campus, specifically UVA, the Max stuff really upset me. This is aggressive, stalker, physical, unpleasant behavior by a boy who is only moderately controllable. Maybe Max is too good of an actor but the whole profiling of violent kids, this type of behavior seems way too reminiscent.... 

We diss on Kristina and Adam because we want to believe they have the capacity for growth and they undermine it everytime when they fly off the handle whenever Max loses his temper 

This really gets me, and explains a lot to me.  I mean, Max does lose his temper but it's not the same as a neurotypical person losing his temper, being a baby or, like, not getting his way, it's just not!  I mean, they are called meltdowns because they are different than tantrums, different than losing your temper.  I think about the scene in Rainman (I know.  I mean, I know that that doesn't represent all autistic people but I think it might help me illustrate my point) when Raymond freaks out and starts screaming, really screaming and yelling and I remember seeing that movie a long time ago and I never thought, wow, Dustin Hoffman is really harassing Tom Cruise here.  In the scene where Raymond is listening to Tom Cruise and his girlfriend doing it and mimicking her, I didn't think what's up, perv?  Who would?  Are there people who thing that?  I mean, I guess there are, because the behavior of an autistic CHILD on this show reminded a commenter of the GANG RAPISTS at UVA.  
So I don't know.  I know a lot of parents of kids with autism, and just parents and just people who I know watch and like/don't like but still watch Parenthood.  What do you think?  Did Max seem scary?  Do you think Kristina and Adam seem like they are doing a LOUSY job with him?  I am honestly interested, I feel like I don't know which way is up anymore.  Even more than usual, ha!


Leeann said...

I think there are a lot of understanding and compassionate parents out there. Then, unfortunately, there are the judgy parents who don't know what it is like to be understanding or empathetic. They don't see other points of view, don't see how it might be to parent a kid who doesn't respond the way a neurotypical kid might.

Most people I know, adults AND kids, know a lot about kids with autism and other disabilities. I would really hope that they wouldn't respond that way.

Kristyn said...

There seems to be a trend in our society aimed at raising human beings who not only lack empathy but are incapable of resolving problems with each other. There was a great article in the Times once about burnt toast. When we were kids, if we burned a piece of toast, we scraped off the burnt parts, slapped some butter on and ate it. In the world of incapability and instant gratification, the toast gets thrown away and you get a brand new perfect piece, because why not? Because it teaches children that everything can go their way all of the time and that's not real. Just because somebody is "weird" or not exactly like you or not neurotypical doesn't mean our kids shouldn't have to try figure out a way that they can come together. It's unfortunate that it was Max's mom who tried to make it work. I would hope that any teacher would try to work on both sides and help to develop appropriate adaptive skills within the children involved to whatever degree possible so that they might learn even a little bit that we don't always have to like everybody or everything and they don't always have to like us. Parents seem very quick to try to solve everything for their kids these days and not leave them accountable for much of anything on their own, including rudeness. Children should know that it's ok to think something and not say every thing you think out loud. Kids should not think it's ok to tell a person that the person they are caring for is weird. Lots of parents are failing, you are not one of them. PS burnt toast still tastes pretty good, just different.

ALY said...

I've never seen the show, but was just as shocked as you when I read the review. Kristyn said it best (what we've been saying for years): "Lots of parents are failing, you are not one of them." I am sorry you had to even read or hear this, or about the girl at the bounce place...we know this crap is happening, but man, it'd be nice to have a break from ignorance and/or plain stupidity!PARENTS NEED TO START EDUCATING THEIR KIDS ABOUT THE DIFFERENCES IN PEOPLE, AND LIFE IN GENERAL. That doesn't mean people won't be rude, but if parents were consistent..instead of living on their damn iphones, the world may be a better place! I feel a little speechless about that review..and pissed! Done venting, for now..Ha! Sending you hugs and prayers always.... Love and miss you all very much! xoxo

Unknown said...

From an autistic perspective, I believe that harassing behaviors, even if they are not intended to be such things, should be stopped. For truly uncontrolled behaviors, keep an explanation card handy. A little understanding from both parties will help to resolve conflicts.