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January 26, 2003

Enough, finally, enough...

Posted by Mike on January 26, 2003 12:08 PM

Last week we sat through the first installment of a big, multi-part Meet My Folks.

The show involves a single 20-something, his/her parents, and a group (in the case of this episode, eight) of potential mates. The producers periodically leak embarrassing information about the candidates to the parents via a fax in the house or with videotaped interviews with "friends" who talk about the time their buddy had a three-way for $0.86 and a can of beer. The candidates are also made to do stupid things at the dinner table without the parents knowing they've been told to do them. The candidates are also subjected to a lie detector test in which the parents ask things like "Have you ever kissed someone of the opposite sex?" or "Do you want to have sex with my son?" or "Do you like my cooking?" or "Did you flirt with my husband?" If it sounds like an attempt to recreate Meet the Parents, well, it is.

This particular episode's parents are disagreeable people. The mother, in particular, has a set to her mouth that suggests a steady output of unhappy and malign commentary on everything around her. The son isn't much better. He has a sort of leering fecklessness coupled with bright-eyed resentment of cruel chance, which rendered him a sad moron-nerd no amount of setup shots in front of a business school will ever rehabilitate.

So last night, in for the evening, mellow, unwilling to start a movie, we tuned in to part two. I don't know why... it's a sickness. An awful, horrible thing that needs to be denounced. Perhaps it's the mother rejecting candidates because when they were in high school they stole something from a store, or because they admitted to sneaking into an amusement park for free once. Maybe it's the sheer hypocrisy of the parents trying to "protect" their leering, perpetually horny son from women who admit to liking and wanting sex while dad is staring at their asses. Maybe it's the prying, ugly insistence on knowing everything. Whatever it is that makes the thing seem so awful, it amounts to a hateful, foul attempt to render comic the impending threat of a surveillance society run by puritans and hypocrites.

The straw that broke the camel's back and got us to turn it off was the presentation of robotic babies that cry and demand attention like they give to high school students taking "family and marriage" courses. The last set of candidates had to spend the night with their plastic children, judged on how often they responded to demands for a diaper changing or feeding.

Are you getting a picture of what the ideal "Meet My Folks Girl" is like? She's a sex-hating, law-abiding virgin who thinks mom is a great cook and can't wait to be a mommy herself... oh... and she doesn't mind the continual presence of a camera.

If I didn't have to wake up to the phrase "Attorney General John Ashcroft" many mornings, it might be funny in a sort of "let's all laugh at the people stupid enough to wander into the judging clutches of these puritan rubes from the heartland" way. But I do. And it's not funny.