A father has an obligation see to his son’s education in, well, guy stuff. On this particular night, my 11-year-old seemed a bit dubious, but I assured him it would come in handy some day.
Friday, November 6, 2009
Shut Up and Eat Your Culture Like a Man
In Texas, father-son bonding includes football. Around here, football is the only officially-recognized exception to that “no establishing a state religion” thing. So, we settled down in front of the TV for an evening of football.
“That guy is the quarterback,” I pointed out. “Around him is his team.”
“What?” He seemed confused, so I laid some additional fatherly knowledge on him.
“That other guy there,” I said, “is the quarterback for the other team. See how he directs his offense. Any questions so far?”
“Yes,” he said, and I awaited a question about strategy or perhaps the Texas Longhorns’ chances at a national championship. “Why are we watching a cooking show?”
“A cooking show?” I snapped. “No, this is football, I’m sure. Listen to the play by play, the color commentary. Definitely football.”
“Dad, it’s Iron Chef America,” he insisted. “If it’s football, why is there no defense? Why aren’t they wearing helmets?”
“Helmets?” I looked at the screen. “Well, maybe these are real men. Don’t need no stinking helmets.”
But, I looked more closely at the screen, shifting to the HD channel for added detail. He had a point. There did not appear to be a defensive unit in the entire stadium. Yet, they called it a stadium, I pointed out.
“It’s called Kitchen Stadium, Dad. Listen to them.”
I could see his teen rebellion was happening prematurely. Perhaps it was too soon for this type of male bonding. I turned to cultural sensibilities instead. A man needed to recognize quality cinema, so I described the films of Japanese auteur Akira Kurosawa and how the master director used the ancient samurai tradition to tell human stories with classic themes. One of his films was on another channel. I warned my boy that there would be some grisly violence as I changed the channel, but it would be manly and culturally uplifting grisly violence.
“Dad,” he said, shaking his head. “This is the original Iron Chef Japan.”
“Well, why do they dress like samurai, then?”
“For the same reason Iron Chef America sounds like football,” he said in that please-lower-my-allowance tone of voice. “I’d rather watch American Idol.”
So, he shifted the channel from the classic samurai movie to the latest in pop culture silliness aimed at our kids’ generation. What’s up with this need to witness demoralizing competition that is completely manufactured for that purpose? But, after a few moments, I was confused.
“Son, is this really American Idol?”
“Of course. You have the nasty judge there and the pretty judge there and the funny one there. That’s the basic formula. Yup, American Idol all right.”
“Son,” I measured my words. “Playing the role of the nasty judge is Iron Chef Bobby Flay. This is The Next Food Network Star.”
We turned off the TV and made quiche like real men everywhere.