Sunday, November 14, 2021

A Dog's Eye: Much ado about nothing

The name of one of Shakespeare's plays. Much Ado About Nothing, entered the vernacular as an expression meaning to make a big deal about something which is either untrue or not such a big deal. The essence of it is found in two idioms.

1. to bark up the wrong tree which means to get worked up over something based on false assumption or an accepted lie. The dog starts pawing the trunk of a tree, looking up into it and barking in the belief there is something up there - a cat or some other creature which it feels compelled to attack - but it is barking at nothing, because there is nothing in that tree. Thus it is making a big fuss, much ado, about nothing.

2. To make a mountain out of a molehill means to get really upset over a small matter. To be fair, there is some element of subjectivity involved here in terms of what constitutes a mountain of an issue compared with a molehill of an issue, but the saying is used to express the idea that the person getting upset is overreacting. They are making much ado about nothing.

People say these things to other people when a. they know the truth and the receiver is acting on false information, or b. the speaker disagrees with the importance of the issue which the receiver is getting upset about it. The speaker does not feel the same way so naturally they perceive the others's expression of angst, fear, or outrage as 'over the top.'

Most people are passionate about something. Many people feel aggrieved when others don't share those passions or don't understand them. Many people support various causes and often request their friends, families and others to support those causes too. I'm growing a moustache for Movember again this year and as I usually do, I sent text messages to all my phone contacts asking for a donation. 95% of people didn't respond. A few people responded, but didn't donate. A handful of others donated, and even less people got so upset they felt the need to tell me how offended they were. In this case, I'm talking about one person in particular who suggested my cause was trivial compared to his and rambled about a lack of support for what he was doing. I knew nothing about it.

I also have a book launch coming up next week for my memoir, I Used to be an Animal Lover. It's not a cause, like Movember, because it's personal. I'm trying to sell my book and to do that I need to advertise. I've been using Facebook ads which have resulted in a massive increase in engagements on the I Used to be an Animal Lover page. What I was looking for, from those reactions, was people to sign up for Advanced Review Copies and register for the book launch. It's also great to get comments rather than just reactions. However, as with my Movember texts, the results of my advertising campaign have been predictably, but nonetheless disappointingly poor.

Zero event registrations. Zero ARC expressions of interest and only two comments on the most recently sponsored post. You can see the comments below, but essentially the only two people who took the time to comment were very upset about my ad appearing in their news feed. 

Here's my philosophy about all this in a nutshell.

1. If you don't appreciate something, or can't see any value in it, then ignore it.

2. Never expect people to care about your passions and causes as much as you do.

3. Be prepared to cop criticism or even abuse from those who don't follow number 2.

4. Life is too short to making much ado about nothing.

Saturday, November 6, 2021

The Mirror: Parental Guidance

In the 21st century, everything is apparently of interest to someone and the evidence of this can be found on social media and in reality television. Since the early noughties, reality television exploded in popularity with the advent of Survivor, Big Brother, The Biggest Loser, and American Idol, all of which went on to become global franchises in turn giving birth to a never ending stream of progeny.

These shows are popular because of the ages old appeal of vicarious living. The ability to live a life, to experience an adventure, to undergo a trial, or to find romance without leaving your home had traditionally been provided by fiction or documentary, in books, films and television. Reality TV ushered in a new and more personal way to connect.

I've watched and enjoyed a few of the these shows over the years without necessarily becoming a devotee. Mostly, I've avoided them because either I found them too morbidly addictive, dull, or offensive, but when I find something I like, I'll commit for a season, and my attachment is based on two things; people and philosophy. Although I understand how heavily edited these programs are, and how manipulative such editing is, I still find the shows interesting and entertaining because of the characters, both their personal stories and how their worldviews play out in life.

The latest reality show to hit Australian screens is Parental Guidance about which I'd heard nothing until I saw an ad for it while I was watching a James Bond film on the Nine network. It's marketed as a social experiment, which is fair enough because it isn't exactly a reality TV show, although it does have elements of the genre, and I like it...a lot.

Co-hosted by prominent child psychologist Dr. Justin Coulson, the show brings together ten couples with different parenting styles, examining the strengths and weaknesses of each methodology through group discussion and a series of family challenges. Irrespective of what you might think about any of the various parenting styles, one thing is clear: these parents really love their children and are committed to doing what's best for them. They may chose different paths but their broad goals are identical. The environment in which these discussions take place is one of respect and openness, which has no doubt been engineered by the structure of the show and the careful selection of participants, but it makes for compelling, albeit occasionally uncomfortable viewing.

In most families, it is unlikely that any particular parental style has been intentionally chosen and pursued by the parents. Most people muddle their way through child rearing, as they do through life, doing the best they can  However, any parent watching this show would certainly be able to identify with some or all of the parental practices displayed. Most parents use a mix of strategies to achieve their goals for their children and to ensure a healthy family life. The difference with the couples on the show is that they are very intentional and consistent.

I've found it impossible to keep my mouth closed while watching Parental Guidance. Whether I agree or disagree, praise or criticise, I'm fully engaged as watch and I'm sure I typify the reaction that the producers of the show desired. The show is about the conversation, about learning from each other, inspiring each other to be better parents and better people. 

I would argue that Parental Guidance is not only a clever and entertaining show, but also a necessary one. Does anyone not agree that parenting is the single most important job any person will ever have? Who doesn't want to be a better parent? What parent does not want the very best for their children? Who doesn't find parenting hard at times?

Although I find it tedious to have one same sex couple, or a same sex attracted person included in every show now, I think having Brett and Tony in Parental Guidance is important and valuable. I'm also pleased they included a single mum. I don't believe these are optimal parenting scenarios, but I do think good parenting should be acknowledged and supported no matter who is delivering it.

I only have three criticisms of the show. Firstly, it's too short. Opinions are delivered in 'grabs' designed to have maximum emotional impact on the viewer, but it doesn't go deep enough for me. However, as with most shows you can visit their website for additional content. Secondly, the disparate ages of the children skews the results of some of the challenges, and thirdly there is no accounting for, or representation of blended families. It is one thing to raise children from birth with a particular parenting style, but what happens when your parenting journey begins with an eleven year old and a thirteen year old, for example, as mine did. Perhaps the producers would consider a spin off which focusses on step parenting, which is unquestionably harder than parenting.

Parental Guidance ticks a lot of boxes for me as a viewer and a parent of four children. It's manipulative but not excessively, and it's controversial, but not for the sake of controversy I'm very much looking forward to the second week of the series, and I encourage you to check it out. Tune in, and take a look into the mirror. Do you like what you see?