Archive for the ‘Televison’ Category

Hooray for Hollywood? Not for a long time

Saturday, December 7th, 2013

For some reason, I’m watching a lot of old movies lately. Really old movies.

Last night’s selection was Blonde Venus starring Marlene Dietrich and Cary Grant from 1932. In the movie, Dietrich plays a German night club singer who meets an American chemist named Ned, played by Herbert Marshall. They marry, have a son, and then Ned discovers he has been poisoned by radium. He’ll die within the year unless he can find enough money to travel to Germany and get treated by the only doctor who has success treating radium poisoning. The only problem is Ned doesn’t have $1,500 to cover the cost of the trip and the treatment. Yes, let that one sink in for a moment — in 1932 $1,500 bought you a round-trip ticket between the U.S. and Germany and medical treatment for a deadly disease.

In any event, Dietrich’s character Helen returns to the nightclubs against Ned’s wishes to raise the money. There she meets Nick, a millionaire played by Cary Grant. Nick is smitten with Helen and writes her a check that allows Ned to leave for Germany.

The story takes off from there. Helen falls in love with Nick. Ned arrives home early from Germany to discover his wife is cheating on him with Nick. Ned asks Helen to bring his son Johnny to him since Johnny is, “all I have left.” Instead Helen kidnaps Johnny and takes off, moving from town to town to evade Ned and the people Ned hired to find her. Finally, Helen realizes that life on the run is no life for Johnny and agrees to give him to Ned, who asks her to never see Johnny again.

Eventually, Helen decides she does want to see Johnny again and returns home. When she asks Ned to let her see her son he refuses. Helen asks Ned if Johnny remembers her and Ned replies, “I hope not. I’ve been doing everything I can to help him forget you.” Finally, Ned caves in to Helen’s request. Johnny does remember his Mom and asks both his parents to tell him how they met; the bedtime story Helen and Ned used to tell Johnny in happier days. Ned pretends not to remember the story but with a little prompting from Helen and Johnny he overcomes his anger. The movie ends with Helen and Ned back in each other’s arms.

Watching this 80-year old movie just reminded me how much parental kidnapping and alienation are ingrained in our culture — especially our storytelling, cinema and television shows. While these issues are more fairly represented in entertainment today than in the past, a movie like Blonde Venus is just one small reminder of how long parental kidnapping and alienation have been used as plot lines with producers giving little, if any, thought to the messages they were sending to their audiences.

I heard once that it takes three generations within a family to create a negative pattern of behavior and three more generations to undo the damage. Let’s hope for everyone’s sake that within the family of Hollywood writers and producers the same timeline doesn’t apply to stories about parental kidnapping and alienation.

Unspoken truth comes from unlikely source

Saturday, May 11th, 2013

On Two and a Half Men the other night there was a touching scene, at least by Two and a Half Men standards, between long-time co-stars Jon Cryer and Angus T. Jones that probably resonated with every divorced parent watching the program.

In reality, producers have demoted Jones and his character Jake to recurring status for the show’s upcoming 11th season. To explain his absence as a regular from the program, the writers have Jake, who is now in the Army, transferring to a base in Japan for one year. Before shipping out, Jake goes home one last time to see his Dad, Alan.

Father and son take a road trip and during the trip Jake admits that while he initially blamed Alan for the divorce from his Mom, he now realizes that the breakup wasn’t all Alan’s fault. Alan, touched by the gesture, thanked his son but indicated he wasn’t going to say anything bad about his ex-wife.  Jake replied, “Yea, but you probably hope I do.”

How many of us announce we are taking the high road by saying, “I’ll never say anything bad about Mom/Dad,” but secretly want the child to say something bad instead? Maybe we need a little validation or reassurance. Whatever the reason, if you’re honest you’ll admit you’ll take whatever putdown your child is willing to offer.

Mother’s Day is tomorrow. Father’s Day is next month. This year on Mother’s and Father’s Day give your children a present instead of expecting one. Don’t say anything bad about your ex, and don’t send them the unspoken message that you hope they say something bad instead.

TV and parental alienation — past and present

Wednesday, October 20th, 2010

In a week when The Dr. Phil Show features bad parenting by the anti-June and Ward Cleaver in its parental alienation-themed show today, it is worth mentioning that Barbara Billingsley, the actress who played the iconic television Mom June Cleaver on Leave it to Beaver, died recently in California. She was 94 years old.

According to Jill Egizii, President of the Parental Alienation Awareness Organization (PAAO) and a guest on The Dr. Phil Show, the parents in the family Dr. Phil selected for the program do not co-parent effectively and their poor co-parenting could ultimately result in parental alienation. While Dr. Phil spent most of the program urging the parents to improve their parenting and communication skills, Egizii said she highlighted the affects of parental alienation on children and the PAAO’s work at the end of the program.

Parents and extended family members, as well as legal and mental health professionals, should go to The Dr. Phil Show website at http://www.drphil.com after the episode airs and encourage Dr. Phil and his producers to do programs focused solely on parental alienation. Episodes that explain what drives an alienating parent to damage, and in some cases destroy, his or her child’s relationship with the child’s other parent, and episodes that explore how professionals can legally and therapeutically address alienation, will help families avoid this destructive family dynamic.

If the parents on The Dr. Phil Show are the anti-June and Ward Cleaver, than June and Ward should be the anti-parental alienation parents. In our latest blog post for Basil & Spice at http://www.basilandspice.com/love-and-relationships/category/jeffries-mike, we highlight what divorcing parents can learn from Wally and Beaver’s Mom and Dad — even if they are just fictional characters on a 50-year old television show.

Television no place to address parental alienation

Thursday, September 9th, 2010

Wanted: Popular television program seeks one parental alienation family — including alienating parent, targeted parent and alienated child — to reunite in front of a national television audience. No experience necessary. Dramatic presentation skills preferred. Responsibilities include condensing years of acrimony and mistrust into easy-to-understand sound bites that fit between commercials, following the advice of a person you’ve just met, and participating in post-show counseling that Courts have previously ordered and you’ve avoided. Compensation is non-existent, travel expenses are paid. To apply contact The Dr. Phil Show. 

Yes, The Dr. Phil Show is doing another show on parental alienation and Dr. Phil’s producers are frantically searching for a parental alienation family willing to appear on the program. While many targeted parents want to believe that Dr. Phil can reunite them with their children after the Courts, family members, friends and full-time mental health professionals couldn’t, Mike Jeffries, author of A Family’s Heartbreak: A Parent’s Introduction to Parental Alienation, uses his latest Basil & Spice blog at http://www.basilandspice.com/love-and-relationships/category/jeffries-mike to point out that television can’t script a happily-ever-after ending to parental alienation.

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