Garrison Wynn
Speaker, Consultant, Author

Garrison Wynn

Founder of Wynn Solutions, this keynote speaker is a former stand-up comedian and author of "The Real Truth About Success

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The illusion of real life

Q: Parents, a Wall Street Journal article says, have become cool. On TV, at least. After years of shows about youthful rebellion, teens are bonding with their fashionable and understanding parents. It might be so in real life, too. One study says 75 percent of teens get along with their parents. Is this necessarily a sign of a successful family? Or are some parents overplaying the "friend" card with their kids?

I need to start out by saying that 75 percent of teenagers lie! I think it's safe to say that the goal of all 16-year-olds being interviewed for that study would be to make sure their answer does not prevent them from getting a car!

Also, TV and real life don't really have a lot in common. Real life is about ... well ... life, and TV is about whatever gets ratings! TV shows are designed to get you to watch them, not to set the standard for effective parental behavior. If you are thinking that TV sitcom developers are concerned about positively affecting families, you might want to make some adjustments to your medication!

I actually know people who write for TV shows and I've also been on TV and in movies (with mixed success -- my big movie went direct to video while they were still shooting it). I have sat in on and contributed to the writing process on both, as well.

So let me be tastefully direct: If you saw how content was really developed for the shows you watch, you would cough up your skull! For starters, the writers are paid to create story lines and characters that will get attention, so things like "the facts" are believed to interfere with the creative juices of the writers. Alcohol- and drug-induced late-night writing sessions often yield the creative core concepts, the cool lines and the story. After that, another group (not quite so hip and cool but much less intoxicated) will create as much believability as possible from the big pile of fiction that was created at the party ... um, meeting, I mean.

Teenagers for the show, who often are old enough in real life to have their own children (Luke Perry from Beverly Hills, 90210 looked at least 36), are selected based purely on sex appeal. It's easier and cheaper to provide acting coaches for the hot and untalented than to hire better, less attractive actors. You do, however, have to cast an overweight kid, an ethnic kid and a nerdy kid to create the illusion of real life.

If you don't have an attractive enough lead actor because you needed great comic timing for the role, you have to cast a supporting "goat." That's a really unattractive best friend that is in 70 percent of all scenes to make the lead actor look prettier. So if you are wondering how a particular actor who looks like he could scare a train into taking a dirt road got the part -- well, now you know. The same goes for the parents: You have the good-looking couple, who are best friends with the not-so-good-looking couple. It has been that way in TV since Lucy and Desi met Fred and Ethel.

Now that we have established a platform of reality, let's get to the heart of the question, which is much simpler. The kids who grew up with parents being their friends all have a few things in common.

They don't have anyone they can emotionally lean on when they have made mistakes and everyone seems against them. They don't really feel they get unconditional love from someone who is not a peer. They get approval and support for what they wanted, but not for what might have been best for them that they didn't want but desperately needed long term.

If you are more of a best buddy than a parent to your kids, there is a good chance you might not have a close relationship as they reach adulthood. How many friends do you have from high school that you can count on when your baby is sick and your spouse turns out to be as bad as everybody warned you they were?

I think as parents we can be hip, slick and cool and can have great trust and companionship with our kids. But we need to be able to say, "I know you don't understand why you can't do this, even though I have explained it 10 times. As your parent, it would be irresponsible of me to allow this. You might not thank me when you get older, but I'm saying 'No' so you actually have a shot at getting older."

I have a teenager who trusts me, and we talk to each other like adults on a regular basis. But the things we have in common certainly have their limitations based on the difference in our ages and our personal experiences. Today in school the message she gets is "just say no to drugs." When I was in high school in the late '70s, my shop class teacher showed me how to make a bong!

Times have changed, but good parenting is still good parenting, and it often involves some hard-line lessons of responsibility and discipline that are nearly impossible to instill if your aim is to be your child's BFF.

By Garrison Wynn  |  May 9, 2010; 12:00 AM ET  | Category:  family and friends Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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