Thursday, July 5, 2012

Law & Mr. McBeevee: the Evolution of Parenting

In the season 3 episode of Castle, “Law & Murder” Castle suspects that his daughter is lying to him and he tracks her movement on his smart phone. Strike that… As a savvy observer, he knows she is lying to him and tracks her out of concern. Sure, he should have talked to her—but in any case the show portrays his actions as a huge betrayal of trust. Nothing is made of the fact that she is indeed lying. You see, in this show the father is the immature scoundrel and his daughter is the most mature teenage girl ever. It turns out her motives for keeping a secret are mature and positive.

Parents aren’t flawless. However, it is a bit annoying that the way this episode demonizes the father for “violating” his daughter’s privacy and breaking her trust when she is the one lying to him. They didn’t used to tell stories like that.

With this week’s passing of the beloved Andy Griffith I had to pop in one of the DVDs of his show. What better way to celebrate the 4th, huh? At random, I picked the first episodes of season three. Right away, I was hit with some of that good, old fashioned wisdom that makes the show famous. It was a similar fatherly conundrum, but it was handled so much better.

As usual, Barney sows some crazy doubts in Andy’s head. This time it is about Opie’s honesty. When circumstances seam to back Barney up, Andy is disappointed and upset with Opie. He confronts Opie. He must tell the truth or face punishment. When Opie insists he has not been making up stories, Andy believes him. The exchange between Andy and Barney afterwards is brilliant:

Barney: What did you do?
Andy: I told him I believed him.
Barney: You told him you beli...? But, Andy, what he told you is impossible.
Andy: Well, a whole lot of times I've asked him to believe things that to his mind must have seemed just as impossible.
Barney: Oh, but, Andy... the silver hat, and the jingling, and the smoke from the ears... what about all that?
Andy: Oh, I don't know, Barn. I guess it's a time like this when you're asked to believe something that just don't seem possible... that's the moment that decides whether you got faith in somebody or not.
Barney: Yeah, but how can you explain it all?
Andy: I can't.
Barney: But you do believe in Mr. McBeevee?
Andy: No... no... no. I believe in Opie.

Same basic circumstance, just handled more masterfully. The main difference is this: Opie is a trustworthy kid because he is being raised to be one. We are supposed to buy that Castle is just lucky and has a great daughter in spite of his parenting.

[Here are the scenes in question:]

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