Broken Dads in Fiction or just Broken Fiction?
Why do we have wholesome Dads reduced to deadbeat Dads in fiction? I found out the other day Ken, from the Street Fighter franchise, was made to divorce his wife and live in the streets. That was taken horrendously because people liked that Ken was a family man. Same reaction happened when Peter Parker's family got split up. Lots of disappointment happened when Superman's family got demolished. There is also the Simpsons and Family Guy. In their cases, those cartoons ran for so long that, what started as just a normal, functioning family (by TV sitcom standards) eventually devolved into a dysfunctional family where the individual characters vices and flaws took over. In some cases being morally neutral can be really unhealthy in character arcs. I note this by thinking of Steven Universe. Steven’s family did seem a little bit better in season one. We got really great development in Season 2. Then, by the final season, all the giant aliens who committed mass genocide were forgiven, the main cast went back to square one in character development, and Steven became a corrupted monster only to be saved by the power of friendship then yeeted off-screen with a whole bunch of emotional wrecks living semi-normal broken wreck lives.
Please take whatever I have to say with a grain of salt, I am being ponderous as I write this and I make it a rule not to self-censor because I think it is more messed up to try and be “sensitive” about serious topics. The kind of sensitivity I’m talking about is Harrison Bergeron. In that story, all the gifted people had handicappers to make them bad at their particular talents so that the terribly skilled don’t feel bad at sucking at life. In that story, the family was broken by having the goal to be as average as anyone else. It forced people to conform to fit another person’s worldview. This kind of conformity is also something most communities hate. Yet it is a conformity that Kurt Vonnegut warned about via by showing the more the Harrison’s family let themselves try to be “average” the blinder they were to the societal problems around them. Basically Harrison finally snapped, got rid of the handicappers binding him, only to get shot down and killed on live TV. What makes this ending all the more fucked up is his mother saw her son get his head blown off with a rivet gun and she couldn’t mourn because she wore a handicapper that stifled her self-awareness and emotional intelligence. I note these things as examples because I need to keep to the theme of broken families in this thing I’m writing. I don’t give a damn about politics but have to be aware of real world events because politics gets shoved into EVERYTHING lately as OUR personal handicappers. It doesn’t really matter what sexuality, gender, class, status, political party or any other classification people identify as. It’s just that some productions have been used as therapy and things people hated are now immortalized in fiction for all eternity.
Creation and destruction is therapeutic but it is not therapy. Writing is therapeutic but it is not therapy. Art is therapeutic but it is not therapy. Validation is therapeutic but it is not therapy. Living vicariously through something we can swear is a perfect representation of us or different from us is therapeutic but it is not therapy. To deal with trauma, grot , and health problems of the mind or body, seek a therapist or doctor. Do not seek a medical professional who promises to help you behind people’s back whether those people they want to sneak behind are toxic or not because that grot is the start of more grot . I have found when I didn’t deal with my grot , it seeped into my creative endeavors and turned my beautiful creations into crap. As for the toxic people to sneak behind? No, it’s better to turn those people into the cops, don’t enable their poisonous behaviors and treat them with respect so that they don’t have any ammo to nag you with. That way you have the backbone to get out of those nasty situations. It is hard to get out of them and the scars can last a long time but so can you. I learned this in my mid-twenties when I was away in college and the toxic people in my life turned to drugs, sex, stealing, and bad coping mechanisms. They also had an abusive past but the good get over their abusive past, the nuts use it to justify grot. Avoid grot.
So, what did this paragraph I just wrote have to do with broken families found in media?
In some cartoons, people can create some things that are reflective of their lives and personal experiences. For example, since the 2016 election, people hated Donald Trump as President and many parts of mainstream media took such a hard left turn in their identity bias that Trump became the antagonist and lampooned figure in many forms of popular media. To be fair, where there would be far left propaganda there is far right propaganda and all of it looks the same because it operates exactly the same.
Another problem that broke up wholesome families in media has been running out of ideas. The Simpsons and Family Guy have been around quite a long time. Steven Universe probably suffered this too. Sometimes when ideas have run out the media consumer can see when the story has gone off the rails a little. Such as when some character flaws get overblown or other plots get repetitive. In this case we got the trope of the idiot Dad, the overly critical Mom, the punting bag, and kids who are either golden child or cannon fodder. Meg sometimes became the punting bag. Golden child has been Maggie. Homer Simpson and Peter Griffin have had a race to who can be the biggest idiot dad. Family Guy kids and pets become cannon fodder in some skits. In Steven Universe, everyone takes turns being cannon fodder, golden children, overly critical Moms and Idiot Dads because roles aren’t really defined by Gender when lines are blurred and sacred territories that have been a navigational post to how to identify different forms of love gets shoved into the same box.
The Crystal Gems have no gender because they are literally hologram projecting rocks in same sex relationships. The real counterproductive part of the whole story is they are from a function based society that reproduces like parasitic bacteria where their DNA equivalent is inseminated into a planet via giant bacteria shaped drills similar to babies born via artificial insemination. The Gems form out of the planet itself and the planet gets hollowed out until it dies. Vicariously the Gems, as a species, have an oversimplified view of love because they only have each other as a point of reference. Think of it like calling Planet Earth a birthing person and the Gems as children parenting children yet they are also immortal so add the confusion of generation gaps between them.
Steven Universe does have one example of something that happens in its show that doesn’t happen with the other mentioned sitcom families and that’s no defined roles in the family. It is canon in Steven Universe that the Crystal Gems are an unconventional family. Rose Quartz is a matriarch. Amethyst is a little sister. Garnet is a mentor. Pearl has been kind of a mother if helicopter Mama counts. However, Rose Quartz wanted to have a baby and the only way for her to do that to, with a lot of help from Greg Universe, basically become the Gem half of Steven who is a Gem/Human hybrid. Imagine the confusion the Gems went through when their parent/sibling/lover-turned-ex-lover turned into half of her son. Now the Gems are basically raising their quasi-sibling/quasi-son/quasi-future-boyfriend and all the emotional backlash that goes with it. It doesn’t get highlighted because there wasn’t really a defined basis of relationships but plenty of evidence for different forms of abuse. Cracked gems, flinching at whips, even the match made in hell that was the fusion of Jasper and Lapis Lazuli. In the first season they had a form of communicating the relationships via dancing and body language. As time went on, that got buried in soap operas and abusive relationships that lost their point of reference. Simpsons and Family Guy are a lot stronger than Steven Universe in communicating relationships because they did have defined family roles; a mom, a dad, a brother, a sister, and the baby. This helped them show how the family is different from normal yet also how they are pretty strong as a family. To a degree, same sex couples also follow this family structure in reality. The Maheswarans are the canon example of a straight family. They also fall into the trope found in the LGBT media as the overly controlling heterosexual family. LGBT hate overly controlling parents and it shows up a lot in LGBT media though not always to the same degree depending on the story. While that aspect is still there sometimes, we the media consumers should not forget that not everything is exactly as portrayed as what’s on TV. Corporations are beholden to their shareholders, sources of money, and their personal actions.
Where a corporation forgets what keeps its lifeblood circulating, it has a harder time getting money. Disney was very stupid when it decided to go to court over a bill they named the “Don’t say Gay” bill. In reality it is called the “Parental Rights Act” and the short version is, the Parent is given leverage to get the kid out of class if what the teacher is teaching is suspicious. Disney framed it as Florida wasn’t going to let entire schools talk about being gay. Whatever your views are on this subject are your opinion. What I want to pay attention to is how Disney considered their audience's feelings. First Disney used to have a huge diplomacy deal that allowed Disney to build freely in Florida and that got taken away now safety features have to go through the Government. They advertised sex over story. Sexuality does involve sex because it defines which person hooks up with who. However they also used politics to leverage an easily angered portion of their audience. All you have to do is say the right thing, word topics the right way, and you could mobilize your angry mob just like how cults make followers drink Kool-Aid. Now you’ve narrowed their worldview and you have to get them to consume your media by advertising in the same way you weaponized them. In Disney’s case they have to ignore a movie or theme park’s entire premise and offer the volcano of their own creation which virgin to sacrifice on the lifeblood letting altar. Their favorite sacrifice has been gingers, masculine men, and characters who don’t represent their various target audiences. The same character they made gay or straight for one audience will probably get rearranged into some incestuous underage lover for a creepy oldster in a target audience where creepy relationships are normal for their everyday lifestyle. As usual, arguments will erupt on the internet and that’s how Disney’s less admirable movies will get advertised and it will paint their better stuff in the same bad reputation as the creepy creative decisions because Corporations listen to whatever gets traction, not whoever walks away. So, an innocent kiss advertised in a movie often gets called Grooming because a corporation advertised by treating their audience like a weaponized angry mob. So, one side will consume stuff out of spite and the other side will get ostracized once the sacrificial volcanoes erupt.
It is true you can have more than one target audience and people outside the target audience can like stuff you made. Thing is, sometimes pleasing everybody pleases nobody. For example, in some fandoms such as Steven Universe Fandom, Genshin Impact get really mad when something looks different. Like the young artist who drew Rose Quartz too skinny or the Genshin Impact Artists who got harassed for drawing a straight couple. These two fandoms don’t notice they’re repeating the Satanic Panic that happened when Dungeons and Dragons went mainstream. Nowadays, the biggest argument now had is if DMs should have safety rules so that Dungeons and Dragons isn’t too triggering.
There is also trying to respond to a crazy audience out of spite. If a fan decided to blackmail an animation studio to make their head-canon canon. The animation studio could just cancel the series altogether or could torture the fan by torturing their favorite characters until their characters die a horrible, terrible, irredeemable fate under the public gaze of millions of watching fans. Then the fan who held the animation studio hostage would have no peace and no sleep at night because everyone would hate their guts to the same degree Far Leftists hated Donald Trump. On the bright side they’ll be immortalized, on the dark side their reputation will be to be known as whatever name-calling anyone could reduce the fan to, pronouns, slurs, and rhyme schemes included. The reason this is a creepy thought is it also contributes to the broken families shown in media. In this case it has now grown to include all manner of broken families covering the whole rainbow of Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity crossed with the human desire for juicy drama. Sometimes the drama surrounding the industry ends up becoming more entertaining than the media. Thus the creator will probably say, “Screw it”, get the story done, then move on to greener pastures.
One of the pieces of media I do watch has been the Tuttle Twins. I also had been reading Spy x Family on the Manga + app. I’ve also just gone back to my roots and privately consuming classic literature without delving into the various classic lit fandoms too much. The YouTuber, Professor Geek, had once mentioned the media we consume plays a huge role in creative endeavors, emotional health, and mental health. For example, idealistic heroes show us ideals to strive for. Looking at all the bad news on Twitter is eventually doom-scrolling. We don’t need to be the same as the fictional character because we can work to those ideals in our own special way. In anime, they get called husbandos and waifus because they seem like cool people to hang out with and have good qualities we’d want to find in a partner. There are limits though. People are people. Fiction is fiction.
Lots of times the people who make the broken family media have unresolved bad life grot in their lives and the waifus or husbandos get bad lifestyles projected onto them or get used as beating posts. This is the reason why I have to keep reminding myself creative endeavors are therapeutic but they are not therapy. I’m lucky because my bad life grot has had emotional distance for quite some time. If I was emotionally close to my bad life grot and we were in the same room together, we’d be arguing long and hard about whose fault was whose. Letting go gets easier when step by step the pain gets tempered by the blacksmithing of perspective and flare-ups might still happen because bad life grot leaves scars. Scars last but so do you.
How I try to keep the broken family stuff to a minimum is by not making my story all about me. It’s supposed to be about the characters, theme, ideas, settings, genre, feelings readers have after experiencing my work, premise, plot, and story. If my character has to look, act, talk, feel, think, gesticulate, or even take a dump the same way as I do in order to make my story 100% relatable then I’m hunting for validation for my lifestyle and asking others to judge me! That’s stupid. If the character is too much like my target audience then it becomes uncanny valley. Maybe some people like that? I’ve seen characters get their identities swapped because it’s easier to butcher legacy than it is to make one’s own. I quit appealing to representation because hunting validation doesn’t celebrate creation but pandering the broken treats my readers like a token. One episode of the Tuttle Twins, episode 7: Cakes, Pies, and Flat Earth Guys showed how to handle the discourse really well by basically focusing on what both sides have in common and making sure that in common thing was to appeal to the greater good. That makes sense and it got me to like a couple cardboard cutouts who were debating over whether their home planet was flat or not. In retrospect, Kurt Vonnegut’s story also showed that living in a world with blinders never allows us to experience the gifts we can find outside of the destroyed fiction we love to hate and that voting with your wallet is a power every consumer has. In my case, I like that people buy my work because it helps me create more fiction. It might be different, yet it is still a journey and the best discomfort I can give to broken family media is making what I want and having fun at it.
What is Prose.
Prose is letting me get my beautiful and awful thoughts out on paper. It is an experiment. It is typing at one o'clock in the morning when I should go to bed.
I think I will beed to better work the tags here on Prose to make sure when I am writing a piece of fiction that people know it's not real. I will admit one of the last pieces I deleted, I hated deleting because I feel I just reached an emotional writing hurdle where I got people to connect with a character and surprised people felt uplifted by it. I am not good at writing words of encouragement. I do sometimes have a knack for making people feel uncomfortable. Making people uncomfortable is not a good skill to have. Though I did learn the other day that there's a scary thought if someone thought that things I wrote were real. That is scary.
On the othe other hand I don't put trigger warnings on my writing because I know I won't know what upsets my readers. I write about toxic things sometimes. I write about wholesome stuff. Here on Prose, I take an idea that's rattling in my head and put it onto a challenge. It's my way of getting my mind back on track and getting research into what people respond well to.
I guess the reason I write about macabre things is because I like to find that sweet spot between solid writing and turning people's world upside down. That's why a lot of the stuff I do on Prose is experimental. Some of it can hurt. Some of it is comedy. Yet the majority of it is an experiment.
Bliss is a fluffy blanket and a hot chocolate.
Bliss is a good book, a fluffy blanket, and a hot chocolate.
Bliss is a giant moth outside the window, a good book, a fluffy blanket and a hot chocolate.
Bliss is headphones, a giant moth outside the window, a good book, a fluffy blanket, and a hot chocolate.
Whoever left the lights on during the last Mothra sighting has something pretty big pawing on their house.
Ignorance is super Bliss.
O-C to the R to the Don’t Finish that Sentence.
Ever have something fade in your arms?
The EKG is a constant beep.
Might as well have someone sit on the carhorn and beep for attention because no heartbeat is home.
The defibrillator makes the body jump.
There's hope in a static biorhythm only to lay on the high pitched beep.
Murmured words of encouragement whisper amongst chest compressions.
All is quiet except for the high pitched beep goodbye.
The chat died down.
The atmosphere intensifies.
A cold sweat crawls down everyone's neck.
"So," one of the surgeons exclaims, "Who wants to tell the happy couple."
The couple isn't too happy hoping for someone to be alive. They're praying in the waiting room.
The Happy Couple
The couple that works together stays together. Not everything is perfect. Not everything is bad. The happiest couples I've seen are the ones who made it work. Which includes staying true to each other, resolving fights, and keeping it fun for their family. The happiest couple is the one who makes their situation work positively for them.
Little victories are good.
They don't have to be huge.
They don't have to grand.
They are little kindnesses for yourself.
So, treat yourself to a little victory.
Even if it's just a cup of coffee, tea, or whatever your victory drink.
The covid lockdown has left me alone with my thoughts. On one hand I found out I think about some of the dumbest ideas ever. On the other hand I finally got the time I wanted to pursue my creativity without interruption provided I remember to eat every once in a while. I think the scariest part is no tedious task is more tedious than my tedious thoughts. I also got so good at tedious tasks that I can think up entire story arcs without sitting still. Sad part is my brain loves soap operas like cigarettes love nicotine. I now have a huge cache of anime memes on my phone and out of boredom keep starting new stories to the point I have a new alarm on my phone called the Stay on Task button. So creativity drives me nuts but I love my creativity like a protagonist loves a tsundere . . . sort of.
Do Awful Ideas Make Good Stories?
This question goes through my head a lot. Not so much in a direct sort of way but in a played out sort of way kind of like having a movie play out in your head. Sometimes this skill is pretty distracting because it's an everlooping intrusive thought. Like having multiple plot bunnies trying to bash down your door. I do know that when ya promise your readers something you have to deliver on that promise. That's one of the reasons why I don't really focus on diversity or inclusion or representation because I like writing characters instead of cardboard cutouts. The most popular argument I've come across is people want to see themselves in the characters of the story, one that looks like the reader, is the reader, and someone the reader can just see themselves as. I can admit the appeal can be nice and quick but it's like junk food. As of March of 2021 Disney's High Republic had decided to make a Rock a main character in Star Wars. Creatively, it does reflect what I'd end up putting out there if I tried to make the main character just like the reader. We'd have a bunch of rocks whereing different wigs. If you like that sort of thing, cool.
I can't guarantee my characters will all be rocks though. I know if I don't like what I'm reading then you won't like what I'm reading and it will show. This is no excuse to say stay in my comfort zone. The real challenge comes from getting the readers to care about someone who isn't them. I'm not just saying integrity but empathy. For example hot women sell books and hot men sell books. That's why we have cheesecake and beefcake. The most attractive part of any person is supposed to be the content of their character. That's why we have waifus and husbandos. They are a combination of cheesecake, beefcake, and content of character.
Awful ideas . . . I have tons of bad ideas to choose from. I take a small comfort that all roughdrafts start off awful. However, one of my biggest pet peeves is typecasting. Who wants to be put into a box? Also, both good and bad stereotypes, pop up anyway. That's not a bad thing. Though making them propaganda is a bad thing. If my books ever become propaganda than I hope they get meme'd to death because having fun with things is better than getting mad at things all the time. Not even I remember that rule either but it's good to keep focus on the important stuff.
I'm writing this musing down because it's good to talk about. It might not be grand but it is important. Characters, plot, setting, and story are the four basic food groups of a good writing idea. Maybe the idea could be terrible or maybe it'll be good. The more I hone my craft, the better my art will get.
The Cancel Cult
There’s this challenge about Cancel Culture. Okay if you want me to be honest I haven’t been canceled yet. One day I will be. You probably won't know about it. However I'll know about it. My job will be gone. My house will be gone. I will be getting stalked by creeps who keep telling me to go kill myself. I will have SWAT teams sent to my house in the hopes I'll die in the crossfire. Cancel Culture should be called the Cancel Cult. You know what makes it worse? It plays out like a dystopian Sci-fi novel. Either way it's nasty and this cult will not stop until you are nothing but the ashes of a rubbed out cigarette.
It brings out the worst in humans too. People get mad at the most inane little things. I mean this is the generations that do little clapback images saying "Retweet this to scare a Transphobe" or "Oh my gosh! You got Covid? Lol, what a little bitch!" My least favorite one is, "I hope someone takes a baseball bat to your face." I'm paraphrasing here but these three instances are the tip of the iceberg. The Cancel Cult usually goes after people that they decided did them wrong or they pester businesses to change something to pander to someone else. Like when people had decided to push Critical Race Theory in schools. The study evolved into Critical Bias Theory. It glorifies oppressor versus victim and eventually turns your average college student or impressionable person into that douchebag friend everybody hates.
What the Cancel Cult wanted to be was cosmic horror. The avenging nightmare that scares the unending evil. The lynch mod tearing apart the boogie man. In reality, we can get the internet from anywhere. The Cancel Cult is a messy individual, an emotional trigger, and typing all the time into tiny screens. Once they wrong the wrong person, the dirty laundry that got aired is that of a grifter who is sad, alone, and addictied to the seratonin that comes from a heroic high horse.
Then again I am not an expert on Cancel Culture. I've just been a fly on the wall trying to support my favorite hobbies and art forms. Cancel Cults keep being barnacles on a sea turtle shell or a plastic straw up a sea turtle's nose. Most of them are preaching one moral and doing the opposite. They can kill a franchise in a matter of days. Yet stay safe out there folks. Practice internet safety and avoid the Cancel Cult.