The Good Mother

How to keep your kid from becoming an insufferable prig

Photo by Ken Howard/SCR "The manager would like to see you," the usher murmured to me a few minutes before curtain. She was now the fourth person in 15 minutes to warn me that Mr. Marmalade at South Coast Repertory might not be suitable for my small buttercup of a son.

Afterward, I could only wonder: What were they worried about? The "cunt" talk? (Like he doesn't get that at home.) The cocaine scene? (He goes to work with his dad at the rehab on weekends, where he gets to meet cavalcades of stars!) The groping hand in the BVDs? (I covered his eyes.)

Or was it just the sadness of a play about a four-year-old girl whose own imaginary friend is too busy at work to make time for her—and when he does finally give her the quality time she covets for tea parties and playing house, it's to throw beer cans at her and scream that she's a whore? My imaginary boyfriends do that, too!

Mr. Marmalade is hilarious.

I've been seeing more live theater lately, and the big-deal premieres by acclaimed playwrights have left me utterly bored and desperately grasping for something nice to say. (In person, I often say nice things.) But this six-person Absurdist play about a little girl with a highly disturbed imagination, her screaming lover, and her five-year-old friend who's already tried to slit his own wrists made me happy. Of course, I thought Bad Lieutenant was one of the funniest, most heartwarming movies I'd ever seen. For reals! See, it's all about redemption and stuff, which Catholics . . . oh, never mind. But Mr. Marmalade? It was even better than when my dad and I had the most wonderful father-daughter date to see La Cage Aux Folles when I was 12.

Is that bad, do you think?

I've had boyfriends who wouldn't let their kids see R-rated movies but had no problem waking my son with screams and curses. And I've had boyfriends who told me I was a bad mother because I cuss in front of my son, but their children didn't even know where they lived; I celebrated that breakup by letting my son watch Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back, which, frankly, is just filthy.

Don't leave me!

It's not that I'm just slovenly. My (principled) position is that kids who don't hear cuss words grow up to be insufferable prigs, and kids who don't see you drink grow up to shoot smack. My principled position is also that smack is bad.

So I think Mr. Marmalade has a terrific (and kid-friendly!) message: imaginary Mr. Marmalade keeps his foot firmly on the back of our preternaturally sophisticated heroine (I still can't decide if Lucy, who's played by a grown woman, is actually a grown woman completely infantilized by her abusive and very real relationship, or if she is in fact a four-year-old who's gleaned bad-boyfriend behavior from her waitress mom's affairs of the pants), and then she demands he leave (which was good role modeling for me until—ouch—she took him back and killed her baby), but in the end, things turn out for the best when Mr. Marmalade offs himself. Problem solved! Also, it's really funny!

"I sort of liked it," my son said afterward. "But why did she kill the baby?"

"That's a fine question, son!" I said, and then we had a nice chat about infanticide and emotional abuse while listening to some gangsta rap.

I was feeling a bit defensive about my mothering choices, and I thought I would take my boy to something a little more appropriate.

My father recommended Hellboy. "It's wonderful!" he said. "Groundbreaking!"

Groundbreaking? Really? So let's see, what would the groundbreaking parts be? The special effects from The Mummy? The part where Hellboy says, "My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Your ass is mine"? X-Men's collapsing bridge? The C3PO fish-man? The groundbreaking physics of Selma Blair, who's a firestarter, engulfed in blue flame while her clothes never burn? Or maybe it's groundbreaking how a movie featuring the most delightful characters ever forgets all about them and makes you sit instead through 90 minutes of kill the monster, kill the monster, oh, shit, every time you kill a monster, it comes back as two until it's time for the movie to be over, at which time, um, they don't. Also? Selma Blair's clothes don't burn even when engulfed in flame.

I'm supposed to let my son see such stupid, anti-scientific pap? Do you think, despite my potty mouth and loose morals, I have no standards? What's next? Teaching him Creationism? Letting him watch Friends? For fuck's sake!

So now that Rachel wants to move to Paris and Monicaand Chandler are adopting a baby, that leaves just poor Phoebe to both take care of her addled mother-in-law and get breast cancer and allow herself to be loved by Jarett Smith! How much can one woman take? And how much can one finale lift from Sex and the City? God, they couldn't even have had Rachel move to Rome? Or LA? Those derivative fucks! Oh, well, at least they don't wear such ugly shoes, and I have never once seen Rachel in a tutu.

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