So I’m watching this kind of horrible show. A child is born with a physical anomaly, and immediately his father is worried and ashamed, certain that the power structures of their society will object, and his child will be an outcast, and in all likelihood unemployed in the future. Dad’s first instinct is to hide the child away.
The child gets older and starts to get out in the world, and his father insists he hide who he really is, resorting even to measures causing the child physical pain, and dismissing the child’s complaints about his discomfort. The father decides that it’s the family’s first priority that the show’s authority figure doesn’t reject the child, even if it means hurting him physically and being none-too-discreet about his shame in having a child who is different. When the boy complains about having to physically change himself to please a stranger, dad tells him, “Have some self-respect!” Because evidently in his world, “self-respect” means “changing everything about yourself that anyone could ever object to, at any personal cost.” Which, to me, is kind of the exact OPPOSITE of self-respect, but maybe that’s just me. (It’s probably worth noting that that same authority figure is grumpy, fickle, and impossible to please, despite everyone going to great lengths to do just that.)
But the measures the boy takes to hide his anomaly cause other problems, as you might expect. And when he finally reveals his true self to people he thought he could trust, they are aghast. They literally run screaming.
Poor kid feels he has no choice but to leave town, figuring his family and everyone else will be better off without him. He teams up with another outcast, and they strike out on their own, meeting other non-conformists along the way, which makes him feel better about being different. But ultimately, he doesn’t feel he fits in with them, either, and he slips away in the night to be on his own.
His parents, of course, are frantic with worry, and his mother says, “We need to go find him!” And dad, completely without irony, tells his wife she can’t go, because “This is MAN’S work.” He seriously says that. What a winner! Naturally without any acknowledgment of his significant contribution to the kid’s feeling like he doesn’t fit in anywhere, even in his own family.
Conflicts ensue, of course, but in the end, the kid decides to return home and walks into the same abuse from his peers that he’d tried to leave behind. But his home is dark and empty, because his parents have gone to look for him after all. (Guess the mom fortified and set the dad straight.)
They run into a spot of trouble once they reunite involving the mutilation of an animal at the hands of his outcast friend, not to mention the demise of that animal that kills one of the boy’s new friends as well. When he gets back, it takes this story of being driven out of his home, his sanctuary, animal torture, and death for everyone to realize they might have been a little hard on the kid after all. “Might.” And that perhaps his physical difference might offer some actual gifts that the other people didn’t have, or appreciate in the past.
Which, you know, is progress, I suppose, but final acceptance only comes when the kid gives them something no one else can, and in doing so, saves their jobs. So what is trying to come off as “people learn a valuable lesson about accepting people in all their glorious variety” really plays more as the epitome of conditional love: Once you put up with all our hate and ignorance, and then do stuff for us, then we can accept you.
Nice. Nice family fare.