In a sense, all first-class entertainment is “family” entertainment.
No, I’m not saying that all the great TV shows that have ever been filmed are suitable for children. Nor am I saying that all the best films have to do with understanding the family.
I emphasize that almost any blockbuster or successful TV series must be related to family trauma in one way or another. It seems that no great film can be great if it does not consist of a split between the protagonists, an ordeal that involves their families.
Consider that virtually every superhero (from Marvel to DC and even Disney) has experienced some kind of tragedy involving their parents or father figures, etc.
Literally, every unforgettable character in the last 10 years (if not longer) must have experienced deep pain involving a family member. Each of the Avengers falls into this category (for example, Thor had a serious problem with his father and adoptive brother, Spider-Man lost his uncle to his own arrogance, Iron Man’s parents were killed, Ant-Man broke up with his wife, Bruce Banner got kicked out his girlfriend’s dad and doesn’t even delve into Natasha Romanoff’s family problems), like everyone else in the DC Justice League (for example, Superman was sent to another planet, Batman’s parents are killed, Flash must visit his father in prison, Cyborg blames his father for his dead mother, etc.).
(Unsurprisingly, Shang-Chi is in trouble with his parents as well. And I’m ready to put up 10 movie tickets that we’ll see something similar with the Eternals.)
In case someone is wondering: “So what? I suggest that you consider any film where the protagonist is free from such family trauma. Can you think about it? I only think of Dora the explorer (I know, right?).
The fact that there is a non-negotiable constant – family breakup – that every big movie studio uses (or can’t ignore) for the big money should make us pause. This suggests that there is something about marital dysfunction or parental dysfunction that creates wonderful stories without which the story seems worse than it could have been.
This is ironic given the (general) decline of the nuclear family and even the very idea of traditional family structures. But as Marvel and DC show us, the tearing apart in our family’s hearts represents pain and the potential for heroism. To perform great feats of courage requires a wound in the very heart of our lives, that is, in our family.
Why can’t Steve Rogers be Captain America without seeing the figure of his father, Dr. Erskine, shot by Hydra’s hitman? Why couldn’t Aquaman rule the seas without separating him and his father from his Atlantic mother? In such films, it would be easy to change the plot a little, avoid the mental anguish of paternal or maternal misfortune and move on. However, the writers or creators of these epics almost never do this.
‘Squid Game’ is no fun without family
Immerse yourself in a Korean super-series about the aftermath of life and death with kids’ games. Squid Game has taken the world by storm (in a van full of sleepy gas) and, as expected, the topic of family problems is pervasive among the protagonists.
The protagonist, Ki-Hoon, is a degenerate gambler who lives with his mother after being separated from his wife. He loves his daughter very much but is on the verge of losing her as his ex-wife and husband plan to emigrate to the United States, thereby taking his daughter away from him.
In Episode 2, Ki-hoon returns to the game shortly after he learns of his mother’s growing health problems and the prospect of never seeing his daughter again.
North Korea’s daughter Se Book fights to get her brother out of the orphanage, and we also learn that her father was killed and her mother was captured as they tried to escape.
The alleged financial genius, Sang Woo, is unable to show his face to his mother because he doesn’t want her to know that he has millions in debt.
Ali, a Pakistani migrant, is afraid of losing his wife and child. Even the creator of the surprise game, an old man, died alone, with no family and no one beside him except the guy who wanted to beat him up.
Not to mention the main story of how cop Joon-Ho searches for his lost brother In-Ho and loses his life when he learns that the latter was actually the “frontman” of the game.
Reflecting on my experience on the show, I noticed that the most exciting moments for me were precisely the moments of family instability.
Compared to the agony when Sang Woo’s mother was informed by the police that her high-ranking son was under investigation for financial fraud charges, the deaths of gangster Deok Soo and playgirl (and likely crook) Ma Nyo seemed unbearable.
I’m also sure I’m not the only one who was about to cry when Ki-Hoon found out that he was powerless to stop his daughter from leaving the country.
It’s almost as if the horror of the Game reflects the disintegration of the characters’ family relationships.
There is something about the family that “favors” the plot of the show, giving it the kind of validity and urgency that some other problems might give it. Even films like Armageddon, Impact Deep and 2012 needed a shot from broken families to understand the global catastrophe; as if the end of the world wasn’t enough to trigger the plot!
Freud to the rescue?
I guess we’ll never understand why the film industry needs broken families for blockbuster films. But perhaps Freud’s theory will help.
Sigmund Freud suggested that we are all made of some type of super biological DNA. Children, everyone had to agree on our entry into the world of law, order, and standards.
This transition from childhood paradise to the world of adult rules made us “screw up” mentally. We are all infected with the loss caused by “growing up,” it is a wound that never leaves us, a state through which we experience the world.
So anything that reminds us of this loss inevitably grabs our attention. Likewise, awesome superhero movies and TV shows are about people getting shot because they can’t stand still when the giant doll says Stop.