Sunday, May 07, 2006

Film Notes: The Family Stone

Most philosophical objections to kitsch center on the idea that it provides easy and facile emotions, numbing us to the merit of complex and geniune emotional reactions. As I've noted, most art actually does this, so it seems unfair to critique kitsch as being "evil".

On the other hand, Hollywood teaches audiences how to feel, many of whom are only mildly acquainted with actual feelings of their own. In the case of formulaic kitsch like The Family Stone, audiences get taught to feel way too many things for one movie. So, let's review the movie cliches in this film, shall we?

1) Family problems are uncomplicated, petty and cute.
2) Conservatives just need to get stoned and lighten up
3) Acutally, yuppies in general are wonderful people- they just need to get stoned and lighten up
4) Gays are intensely sensitive to the smallest slights
5) So are blacks
6) It's hearwarming when families get together for the holidays
7) And tearjerking if Mom dies of cancer
8) Any romantic problem stems from the fact that the couple is with the wrong people- they just need to switch off partners with someone else. Easy as pie.
9) Men tend to bond in the empty bleachers of high schools or colleges
10) It's very important to follow your dreams
11) Which, naturally, you can afford to do because, luckily, everyone is upper middle class
12) And loving families all live in New England (or occasionally the Mississippi delta)
13) Little kids are cute for reaction shots, and that's about it.
14) Mothers are difficult, but it's because they really love their children and only want what's best for them. Then they die of cancer.
15) People make jokes about having sex, but luckily they never do.
16) If you want to gain real psychological understanding of a person, wait for them to tell you a story from their childhood that holds the key to who they are. Don't worry. They will eventually.
17) Unless they die of cancer.

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