Monday, October 03, 2005


thirteen is one of "those" movies--one that is based in real characters and real life and can therefore be seen as topical. Whether it is, in fact, real is a matter of opinion. And what your opinion is, in today's culture, says a lot about who you are and what you think about this or that or the other thing.

Maybe thirteen is this generation's Rebel Without a Cause? Today's Reefer Madness? I'm no film historian, so who am I to speak with any sort of convincing clarity on that.

Here is what I do know. When this movie came out, I heard a lot about it. I paid some attention to the media coverage, in part because it sounded like a decently-made movie that might be interesting to watch. But also, you see, I have two young daughters. And, as the media coverage went, if this movie accurately depicts the common lifestyle of today's thirteen-year-old girl, then, well . . . I shudder to think (says the media talking head to me the paranoid father) what will girls of the future be doing, saying, thinking, choosing? Hmmm?

So, I approached this movie with some caution. I have faith in my ability to talk to my girls, and I am aware that they won't be teenagers for quite some time, but you know, someday they are going to be making up their own minds about things and short of locking them in closets or basements, I can't keep an eye on them all the time. I can only hope that I will arm them with facts and an understanding that actions lead to consequences.

Maybe I am more worried that the consequences of any improper actions will fall upon me more than them (in the hypothetical future scenario where they make a Horrible Mistake of Some Sort)? At what point do I (if ever) tell them that they have made their bed and they have to lie in it? That's the sort of question that a Supreme Court nominee would defer from answering and so I guess I'll have to make up my mind on a case-by-case basis. Creating universal litmus tests for human/filial emotion is a losing battle.

Back to the movie . . .

Holly Hunter plays the divorced mother of a teenage daughter and son. She is sort of struggling to make money as a hairdresser out of her home. (I say sort of because they aren't living on the poverty line here and aren't suffering for food. I hope that reality is deliberate, as it underscores the fact that the mom, challenges or not, isn't facing completely insurmountable odds. This, then, makes her inability to see what is happening with her daughter all the more distressing.

The daughter, Tracy, is entering middle school and is becoming aware that Hello Kitty is no longer the marker of what is cool or desirable (though you will discover that she doesn't have zero baggage either). The mom wants to be her friend more than her mom, which is kind of understandable in a divorced situation, but then again, not a good idea at all. While you might want the kids on your side and probably don't want to fight that battle along with every other battle, to abdicate responsibility as the parent is, in my opinion, not a wise choice.

Case in point? Tracy comes home late, after breaking curfew and after her first experience with marijuana. What does the mom do? Not much really. She shakes her head (to her current boyfriend who is probably staying the night) and swigs some more wine.

Thing spiral more and more out of control. Tracy and her bad-intentioned Muse "Evie" clearly revel in trying to one-up each other and assert dominance, but they still react like children when the "right" boy shows approval towards them. So, they have the weird duality of trying to act like adults that don't give a shit about anything and little girls that are desperate for approval.

The escalation of drug use by the girls is just casually demonstrated. They smoke marijuana at the park, then thirty minutes later it looks like Tracy is smoking crack (or maybe it's a different type of bong?) and in the last hour they are just nonchalantly snorting coke in Tracy's bedroom. And after all of this, the mom is stunned to see that Tracy has a belly button ring and a pierced tongue? The mom is so screwed up herself that she doesn't even see what has been going on for months.

I guess the overall message is that you can't put your job or your own temporary pleasure ahead of your kid's well-being? Because if you turn your back on them, they'll be growing up a hell of a lot faster than you want them to or that they are ready for. Oh, and California parents are much more interested in their own stuff than they should be?

1 comment:

Sven Golly said...

Kind of a delayed reaction to this post, Brother Burb, but I can't leave it alone. As this movie has pushed your buttons, it is pushing some of mine, and I haven't even seen it. So just a few knee-jerk reactions:

In spite of rampant and rapid media saturation of American youth culture, I'm not sure there is anything called "the common lifestyle." We don't live in a homogeneous society yet, thank goodness, and it's more pluralistic out there than advertisers want us to believe. Still, it is a shock to the system when confronted by what SOME teenagers are doing and what their parents are not doing about it, e.g. "Traffic" a few years ago.

An old but now distant friend, who has a son about Jessi's age and a troubled relationship with the son, asked me whether J and I were friends. I hedged, hmm, not really, although we communicate fairly well, but Chris persisted, I think because he and Zack are much more adversarial, so to him it must look as though J and I are friends. But no, he has his friends, I have my friends, and I'm his dad, with all the baggage that entails.

Finally, among the many shades of gray in these questions and in your hair as you work them out, your continuing conversation(s) with your daughter(s) will maintain a steady flow of the facts and understanding they - and you - will need, of that I have no doubt.