allen

The Flash and Fatherhood

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailfacebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

The Flash season finale aired over a week ago, so this might not seem like the timeliest of articles. In my defense, however, I’ve been thinking on this since the show aired. I even live-tweeted during the show, as I frequently do.

But I really needed to give the matter more thought, before expounding on it. Fatherhood’s always been an issue for me, and probably always will be. My own father left when I was about the age my son is now, and I rarely saw him after. My mother’s subsequent choices of mate were so poor so as to make him look like a God amongst men. For most of my formative years, I didn’t see a man get up in the morning, go to work and earn a living. Certainly, I didn’t have one to regularly play catch with or teach me how to shave (for more on my childhood, read this and this). Fatherhood is the primary source of marital dissent in the Crisler home. We don’t argue about most of the standard issues, like money or intimacy, but parenting gives us enough grist to make up for those other areas. I’m most definitely not a television dad, and most days, in the back of my head, I’m 100% confident that I never should have spawned. Love me or hate me for it, it’s how I feel. I regularly envy those folks who figure out they’re unsuited for parenting before it’s too late. Like most parents, I’d die for my kids in a second, but the harsh reality is that dying for them is much easier than living for them.

I have three children myself. My first, from a historical perspective if not in age, will be eleven this year, lives in Canada with my ex-wife and her new boo (who rapidly impregnated her after they met on an otaku forum), and I haven’t seen her in about four years. I can email and Skype, and have a couple times, but it’s a one-way street and I’m not one to ram myself into someone’s life. I’ve basically resigned myself to being a willing and open book whenever she’s ready to talk to me. I adopted my wife’s daughter shortly after we got together, and she is now in college and starting a family of her own. Finally, my wife and I have a son together, who’s seven. He’s a lot like me, and a lot like I was as a child. This is by turns a source of pride and exasperation. Incidentally, we watch The Flash together, without fail. I don’t watch it without him, and even at an impatient seven years old, he won’t watch it without me–if I have duty on a Tuesday night, or even if I fall asleep in the middle of an episode after a long day at work, which I’ve done once.

All of this gives me a certain perspective through which to view a show like The Flash, which to even a casual observer has fatherhood as a major theme.

Barry & Henry

There’s only so much to talk about here, because their relationship is obviously strained by Henry’s imprisonment. Henry’s unjust incarceration took Barry’s father away at a time when he truly needed him most. The loss of a parent is horrible, but under most circumstances, the child at least as their other parent to anchor them. It would be very easy for Barry and Henry both to feel emotionally disconnected from each other, but they don’t–Barry’s drive to clear his father’s name is a major plotpoint in the show, and during the finale, Henry’s primary argument hinges on how proud he is of the man his son has become, and how changing the timeline might make him a different person entirely.

This is obviously no way to raise a kid…

Barry & Joe

Which brings us to the relationship between our hero and his surrogate father. Henry’s not a fully-developed, fleshed-out character, per se, and it’s not really his fault–he’s in the hoosegow, after all. So we really don’t see much of him in who Barry is, other than circumstantially. Joe, on the other hand, is a more realized character. He has a relationship with people other than Barry, and he has a career and some backstory. His influence on Barry is undeniable, starting with his chosen civilian career as a police forensic scientist (shades of Dexter, here, between the adopted cop-father and forensics career angles. But I digress). Joe is just as proud of Barry as Henry (and having Joe in his life is one of the things that Barry realizes is something good that came out of his childhood tragedy), but where Henry teaches us that a father’s pride and love can be unconditional and extend past any boundary, Joe teaches us about a father’s influence on his child. We wouldn’t have the same Barry (or the same Flash) without Joe West.

JOE: Run, Iris! Go get help! Barry, are you looking at my daughter’s ass?

Barry & Wells/Thawne

Sometimes, your father can be a challenge, an adversary to beat. Tough to measure up to, but when you do, that’s how you know you’re a man. Of course, on the flipside is the duty a good father has to push and motivate his children. This is exactly how I perceive the relationship between Barry and Thawne. Eobard Thawne is, unarguably, the father of the Flash. He went back in time and built the particle accelerator to create the Flash when he found himself stranded after killing Barry’s mother. Most of the first season of the show has been about Thawne, as Wells, pushing Barry to discover and exceed the limits of his abilities (for his own villainous reasons of course) and about Barry’s physical and emotional struggle with not being as fast as the Reverse Flash.

“Why you little…!”

Cisco & Wells/Thawne

Their relationship is similar to that between Thawne and the Flash, but it’s different in a few subtle ways. Thawne grew to look as Cisco as a son over the course of the past few years, as they worked together at STAR. It didn’t have to happen (i.e., he didn’t have the primal connection he has to Barry, though he’s not related to him, either) but it did. There’s a mutual admiration, at least for the first half of the season, and even when Thawne kills him in the alternate timeline Barry undoes, he seems to have genuine feelings for Cisco. When they have another solid chunk of time together in the finale, it’s Cisco again who lets us see some actual humanity in Eobard–one-percent of something to relate to in a character we otherwise love to hate. If I’m going to impute a moral to their relationship like I have with the others, I’d say it’s that our children–and being a father–can bring out the best in us, sometimes even despite ourselves.

“Aw, Dr. Wells, have some heart–urk!”

 

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailfacebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

My Religious Roller-coaster Part 4

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailfacebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

After building years of fascination with Catholic ritual into a working knowledge of eclectic Witchcraft and then stripping out the spiritual aspects of the craft in favor of hard-line Satanism, I gave up priesthood of a small group of fellow high school students in favor of attendance at a fundamental Baptist church. This was not an overnight change by any means–the guy who eventually brought me into his church community pestered my friends and I for months of one school year and part of the next.

Pretty much THIS, every day, at lunchtime -- for months.

Keep in mind that we were not only asshole teenagers, but Satanist asshole teenagers, and this guy preached Jesus to all of us–in the cafeteria at breakfast andlunch, in the hallways, if he saw us outside–every chance he got. He totally had Attention Deficit Disorder, and I mean bad. He got detention sometimes for reading the Bible in class instead of doing his work, I’m dead serious. This guy was a sitting duck for pretty much anyone in the school, and even moreso for us. We did everything short of physical violence to this dude for months, I’m sorry to say. And he kept coming back.

Eventually, I tired of hostility and opted instead for simple cold dismissal. I forget why, but one day I said yes when he invited me to his house. That pretty much sealed it for me. He didn’t listen to any ‘worldly music’ or read any ‘wordly books,’ but the rest of his family were normal, except that they really loved God a whole lot. And after talking to this guy’s dad, a church deacon, for hours, I agreed to come out to their church. And while on the surface mixing me with a Fundamentalist church just seems like a recipe for disaster, it really wasn’t. I figured out a few things–that it wasn’t God that I hated, it was saying the same exact prayers and singing the same exact songs week after week during Mass. I was annoyed about things that didn’t make sense, like confessing your sins to another guy or having celibate priests despite the alleged first Pope being married–stuff like that. The church was independent of any other church–took it’s lead from the pastor, not a group of bishops or anything like that–and had strict moral standards, which was one of the things I liked about Satanism.

I still talk to that guy and his family sometimes to this day. That church played a big part in my seventeenth year of life. A few months after I started going regularly, my brother and I got into it over something stupid–we were living together, by ourselves, in New Jersey–and he kicked me out of the house for the second time (which is another story for another day). The church was there for me. I lived with the pastor and his family for a month or two, then with one of the other deacons, before finally moving in with my friend — we had absolutely become friends by this point — and his family for months. We don’t talk as much these days, but they are important to me to this day. I’m friends with the guy and his sister, and his father, on Facebook. I was upset for days when I found out his mother had passed away a couple years back. My life today is different because of them.

Faith Baptist Camp, 2011, much as I remember it being in 1999.

Pretty much what I did for the next six months or so was go to school, go to work and go to church. And I liked it. I joined the youth group. I helped bring other kids into church. Sometimes, I even preached. I took notes in my Bible and cross-referenced stuff. I studied. I crafted sermons just like the pastors, and gave ’em too, sometimes. I had Jesus in my life. I liked it. It was a struggle sometimes, but by and large, I liked the people I was associating with, and the guys at school that still spent time with me despite my changes — well, I can count on the fingers of one hand, the people I still talk to from high school, and they’re most of them.

Right around the tail end of the year, I had a few experiences I didn’t like: half the church completely ostracized one of our youth leaders for a relationship he was having with a woman in the church (they were both single, but not married, and had begun living together), and we’d recently attended a week of meetings at Faith Baptist Camp in Resaca, Georgia. Along with all the stuff you’d expect to hear from an old-school, Fundamentalist church camp, there were a few dudes who actually climbed into the pulpit to preach against things like women wearing pants and interracial marriage. Seriously. My friend even caught hell for the beard he was growing until my friend started quoting the guy verses from Isaiah where it was prophesied that Jesus’ beard would be ripped out. All emotion, lots of screaming, not a lot of measured, rational discourse. Not what I needed to be around as what some call a ‘babe in Christ.’

So when, at the end of the year, when events conspired to send my back to my mother’s home in Rochester, NY in 2000, I didn’t seek out another Fundamentalist church. I went back to what I was comfortable with — not Satanism, but eclectic Paganism with a bit stronger worldview than Gardner and Buckland’s ‘Harm None’ philosophy.

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailfacebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail