Becoming My Father

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One of the more annoying and awkward moments of my life was watching the 1992 MTV Video Music Awards with my dad.  We had two cable-ready televisions in the house, and I guess my mother was watching the other one.  So I had to endure three hours of my father’s ongoing social commentary during the show.  Here was a show that featured performances of bands I actually wanted to watch: Def Leppard, U2, Nirvana, Pearl Jam and, most importantly, Guns N’ Roses, yet my father had to interject himself every thirty seconds to express his contempt and disgust for what was happening on screen – except for Eric Clapton performing “Tears in Heaven,” because evidently Eric Clapton was the only artist who had debuted since Django Reinhardt that didn’t draw my father’s ire.

The moment that encapsulated my evening was the appearance of Howard Stern as “Fartman.”  For those unfamiliar with the character, well, here’s a description.  You see, at the ripe old age of 15 I thought Howard Stern was the height of comedic genius.  And here was my idol appearing on stage at the MTV Video Music Awards.  But what should have been the greatest part of the night was ruined by my father’s ranting about the absurdity of Howard Stern and his ridiculous costume.  Oh, how Howard Stern represented the decline of western civilization.

I was actually relieved when the night was over.  It was more unendurable than the evening a month earlier when my father repeatedly yelled at the television during George Bush’s acceptance speech at the GOP convention.*

It should be understood that I spent many an evening watching television with my dad, and most of my memories are quite happy.  But when it came to MTV, we just didn’t see eye to eye.  When we finally got cable early in 1990, my father initially threatened to get rid of MTV.  It was a rather empty threat, but it nonetheless indicated early on that MTV was the station that should not be named.  Many a time I’d tune into MTV to watch videos – yes, once upon a time they did play videos – and I’d have the volume as low as I could possibly have it while still (barely) being able to hear it, just so that my father didn’t know I was watching.  Not that he would have actually done anything about it.  He was kind of all bark and no bite when it came to such things, but it was better to avoid any unnecessary and unwanted commentary.

Fast forward seventeen years.  I was listening to Laura Ingraham discuss the 2011 MTV Music Awards.  I hadn’t watched it – in fact I haven’t watched the show since about 1995.  I’d like to say that the cultural rot finally got to me, but my original reasons for turning off the show were much more shallow.  Once TLC of all bands won best video for their insufferable “Don’t Go Chasing Waterfalls” nonsong, I realized that I had no use for the network.

Through the years it seemed that things only got worse.  Britney Spears was making out with Madonna on stage, Lady PAY ATTENTION TO ME!!!! Gaga was wearing meat suits and dressing like a man, and a bunch of crap bands that I never heard of won best video.  (Seriously, I had to look at Wikipedia to find out who these bands were.)  And as I listened to Laura play “highlights” of the show, all I could do was shake my head in disgust.

In other words, I have become my father.  Only, I don’t have some idiot son forcing me to watch this crap.  No, my sweet two-year old is content to make me watch Ponyo and Shrek repeatedly.  And I will be sure that’s all she, her sister, and whatever other siblings may come will ever watch.  Of course by the time they’re of age MTV will have gone to an all reality format, so it will be a moot point, although I’ll have to ban them from watching Season 20 of Jersey Shore.

It’s funny, but I just happened to come across this video the other day.  It’s from the humor site College Humor, and it’s called The Six Ways You’ll See Your Dad.  I have to admit that for most of my life I was stuck on number one, though at times I definitely viewed him as number three.  But right now, I definitely identify with the sentiment at the 3:44 mark.

* Oh, did I tell you?  My father was a lifelong conservative – the kind of guy Archie Bunker was probably modeled after.  But in 1992 he, for some reason, decided to vote for Bill Clinton.  For about ten months I simply could not talk politics with my father.  Then my father was probably the first person to hop off the Clinton bandwagon.  In fact I’m not sure he even made it to the inauguration before regretting his vote, and by March his hatred of the man had surpassed my own.

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  1. “When I was a boy of 14, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years.”

    Mark Twain

    That is a beautiful video Paul. I don’t think I truly appreciated my own father until I spent a summer working in the truck body plant where he worked and experienced the conditions he endured each day to earn our daily bread.

  2. Cool vid. ‘Today’s younger generation is no worse than my own. We were just as ignorant and repulsive as they are, but nobody listened to us.’
    Al Capp

  3. Heh, I turned into your father before my 21st birthday. MTV became unwatchable for me in 1984. Not that I don’t appreciate Rock and Roll and like to see videos, but MTV lost me way back when simply because I do like Rock and Roll. I can’t imagine even having watched in the ’90s. I guess it’s a generational thing each kid has to go through since the late 70’s.

  4. Heh, I wish I could turn into my father… he’s quiet, clever in a way that you often don’t realize you’ve been zinged, and charmingly caring so that you don’t mind when you do figure it out, plus patience and solidity of a huge book of cliches.
    (My mother? Five pounds of gunpowder in a three pound bag with half-inch fuse, sharp as a bag of scalpels, full of Views…and, suitably, the distaff version of the video, minus the tyrant, that I can remember. Both parents always made a very big point of EXPLAINING why, even if they sometimes couldn’t do so immediately– I can’t remember a time before I knew that there was a why, even if I didn’t know it yet.)

  5. A long while back I supervised a friends grandchidren as she moved, my job was to keep them working. Half way through I realized I sounded just like my father. And about as effective.

    He was never a great chit chatter, but would create a conversation by making an off the wall comment on the politics or such at which point people would try to talk common sense to him. When I finily realized the came I started responding with even more off the wall comments. We had a great time.

    If you need to liven up the comm let me know.

  6. Ah yes – 80’s and 90’s MTV.

    Y’know, that should be just about enough to convince Don McC. that the 70’s music wasn’t quite so bad. 😉

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