Monday, January 28, 2013

Left Field

Parenthood Season 4, Episode 2 – “Left Field” [Original air date: Sept. 18, 2012]

When playing a game it can sometimes be hard to tell if people are the ones playing the game or if the game is actually playing the people. Let’s face it: incorporating technology into our lives can be somewhat of a game, especially in today’s world with the amount of technology we use and consume on a daily basis. Do we control technology, or is technology controlling us? Sure, we use technology to help make our lives easier, but it may appear that some technology-savvy individuals rely so much on their devices and electronic reminders that life becomes rather fake. It’s arguable that those who are dependent on technology cut themselves short of true life experiences. Rather than getting genuine reality, we have come to accept phoniness and reproduction as being real. This episode of Parenthood is loaded with technology undertones, reminding viewers of both the pros and cons to our vast technology-saturated and completely mediated world.

Texting has practically replaced picking up the phone and calling; email is now the preferred mode of professional communication; we can have virtual online relationships with someone we’ve never actually met in real life. Technology is great, but also scary at the same time; it can become too much too fast if we do not watch ourselves. I would not be surprised if one day we have rehab for techies and Technology Anonymous meetings for tech-addicted individuals. Besides for the few exceptions though, nothing in life is truly bad if consumed in moderation. Still, technology seems to be taking over at such a speed, it is creating somewhat of a generation gap between users. As seen in Parenthood, when taking pictures we sometimes have our phones set to video; calendar applications make it nearly impossible to have business meetings without reminder-noises going off; we practically become slaves to phones, computers, and digital planners in our fast-paced environments.

Adam and Kristina are so scheduled – perhaps even anal regarding schedules – that a third party may become stressed out or even start hyperventilating by simply seeing Adam and Kristina’s phone calendars. (A time management tip: don’t be a slave to technology.) Viewers get a glimpse here of how easy it is to lose track of what is most important to you in life when you get so wrapped up in sticking to a schedule. (Another time management tip: accept the fact that interruptions will occur.) This “happy couple” argues when one of them is not as committed to the schedule as the other, as well as when situations do not go as planned. Like many couples out there, Adam and Kristina schedule “funky town,” a time when they can get a little more intimate with each other (Power to them!). Yet it might be nice, and healthy, to have a little unscheduled “funky town” once in a while, allowing yourself and your partner to be more sexually spontaneous.

Crosby and Jasmine show us what happens when your whole life is go-with-flow, never willing to commit. This “freestyle” mentality may appear to be more relaxed and less stressful, but it is obvious this is not always the case. Crosby and Jasmine do not entirely see eye-to-eye when it comes to scheduling. Each side of this duo is not always willing to give a little in order to please the other, and there is often miscommunication – i.e. who is picking Jabbar up from school? There is yet a third scheduling storyline taking place in this episode, as Joel and Julia show us another side of the scheduling equation: Sometimes what is scheduled needs to change thanks to unforeseen conflicts, family issues, and having/wanting to be there for the ones you love. Though it takes a few days away from the office and a lot of willpower, Julia is able to win over Victor’s trust, strengthening her and Victor’s relationship, as well as helping her and Joel’s marriage.

When necessary it’s important to take a leap of faith: Adam agrees with Kristina in letting Max get a dog, Crosby tries out the whole syncing digital calendars with Jasmine in an effort to foster better marital communication, Julia finds the inner discipline to keep her commitment and show Victor that in their family people keep the promises they make. Getting relationships to work is not easy, and Kristina’s cancer diagnosis reminds us to never take things for granted. Negative aspects of life can bring people together and make us stronger. It’s too bad we get so caught up in the “otherness” of life that we must lose, or learn we may lose, what we care about the most before we force ourselves to step back and reevaluate our priorities.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Family Portrait

Parenthood Season 4, Episode 1 – “Family Portrait” [Original air date: Sept. 11, 2012]

The Braverman’s are arguably the modern-day Brady Bunch: all of those who are “part of the family” are not necessarily blood related, everyone in the show has his or her own storyline, and all of the storylines intertwine and connect through character development and learning-centered life experiences. The average American family no longer fits the picturesque mold of Leave It to Beaver. This may explain why Parenthood tackles issues many modern families face today, in an almost updated and more independent 7th Heaven manner.

Religion has always seemed to be somewhat of a grey area, whether referring to history books, friendly conversation, or families’ belief systems. What is significant and why it is significant when it comes to religion are practically unanswerable questions – or if they are answerable, answers vary depending on who is doing the answering. The notion of religion was subtle in this episode of Parenthood, but was present just enough to make a lasting impression. Crosby and Jasmine struggle with how to talk to their son Jabbar about realign: What is the right or proper way to raise your children when it comes to religion? This episode had its stereotypical grandparent versus parent tension over which religious doctrine(s) should be instilled in a child. Not only does this illustrate a generational gap, but it sheds light on the realistic issue many people face today: traditional versus progressive thinking. In a world obsessed with always being politically correct, perhaps a little tradition can do us some good. Yet a little self-exploration can never hurt; there is a possibility that religious beliefs are meant to be discovered rather than bestowed upon us.

With the state of our economy the way it is today, job hunting might currently be the most stressful and discouraging task out there. Searching for a job may as well be the headlining joke for stand-up comedians from coast-to-coast. Lying about your work experience is never wise, but whose fault is it if you get hired after stating such lies if you are never interviewed and the person hiring you never does a screening or background check before offering you the position? The way Sarah obtains a photography job in this episode is rather unrealistic. Still, it points out that a good work-relationship has one worker handling the managerial aspects of the job while his/her colleague acts as the people-person in charge of schmoozing customers. Also in this episode, and related to the work environment, is the often hard to balance aspects of our personal versus professional lives. Viewers saw how Peter treated the band at the recording studio after the lead singer “used” Amber. Where do we draw the line and choose what in our personal lives can and cannot acceptably affect our professional lives? Though these are supposed to be mutually exclusive categories, our emotions have a way of crossing the line – regardless of where it is drawn – bridging the two sides together, whether for the better or worse.

Parenthood continuously finds a way to bring its messages back to the idea of family. Joel and Julia appear to struggle with integrating their adopted son Victor into their family: you must love and trust people rather than treat them like a guest if you want them to feel accepted. The main family aspect of this episode however, was seen through Haddie’s storyline. Haddie’s character comes off as rather fake and selfish at first, but it is quickly realized that she is dealing with a lot. Her emotional outreach, though it may seem forced at times, is actually quite genuine and real given the circumstances. Haddie manages to turn a negative into a positive, stating that she admires her brother Max’s honesty and ability to say what he thinks and knows even though this is a side effect of his Asperger Syndrome. Parenthood is filled with family hardships, such as having to say goodbye to your oldest child as you send her off to college. However crazy one’s family may seem viewers should all be in agreement that family is irreplaceable.