Family, “Family”

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23 December 2010

Of course, ’tis the season of family – awareness/appreciation of, along with (re)consideration of who these people are and what it all means.  We watched THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT the other night, a meaningful and complex portrait of a new kind of family, i.e. one with two moms + sperm donor.  In the end, the film seems to be less about “lesbian family” and more about — as the philandering Jules (Julianne Moore) says, tearfully and remorsefully — “Marriage is hard.”  (It’s also, a little bit, about “men are clueless,” or at least Mark Ruffalo‘s character Paul is; but there seems to be hope for boys, and girls too, i.e. the kids are all right.)

I’m haunted a little by a recent re-reading of Toni Morrison‘s A Mercy.   It’s a story of makeshift family – a white couple, a Native American slave, two indentured servants, two black slave girls, a free black man — of misfits coming together in the wilderness, shedding conventional obligations and communal connections, partially by choice and partially by no-choice.  In the end, their ties are not strong enough to hold: “They once thought they were a kind of family because together they had carved companionship out of isolation.  But the family they imagined they had become was false.  Whatever each one loved, sought, or escaped, their futures were separate and anyone’s guess.”  Of course all this takes place in a ruthless, slavery-centered, 17th century world.  Have we made progress?

Random, but possibly related:   I recently learned that a pretty good friend of mine comes from a quite famous family.  It’s striking to learn such a thing, both for the fact itself and for the intentional belatedness of the revelation.  There are the people who come before us, and everything/everyone that comes after, blood-wise, inheritance-wise; this pattern of breaking from one’s familial past/being unable to escape one’s inheritance seems to me The Story of Life. I’m thinking also of Jean-Michel Basquiat (another recently-watched film, i.e. THE RADIANT CHILD), whose father apparently disapproved of his “lack of respectability,” and it pained Jean-Michel deeply, to the bitter end.

I seem to have blogged myself into a rather dark place here.  So let me return to the beginning: may your holidays be filled with appreciation, hope, and progress.

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