The 1998 film Deep Impact has a really interesting subplot about divorce and remarriage. The lead character, whose name is Jenny, has divorced parents. In one of the opening scenes, Jenny and her mom are having lunch. It is the day Jenny’s dad is remarrying a woman who is two years older than Jenny. Jenny’s mom is imagining the wedding ceremony, sort of narrating it out loud to Jenny. She doesn’t seem too emotional about it, but it seems odd to me, to narrate it like that. If she didn’t care, then it wouldn’t even be a subject for conversation, right?
Then at about the 17:10 mark, Jenny is walking into what looks like a hotel lobby. She is meeting her dad and his new wife. The scene is really classic in so many ways, as far as all the stuff I’ve been saying here. Jenny is deeply disturbed about the new marriage. The dad and the new wife are utterly clueless about Jenny’s pain. He tells her that he’s “disturbed” that she didn’t go to the wedding. The new wife tells her that she has to “get over it, life goes on.” Jenny echoes these words in an incredulous way, then the dad echoes them in a bewildered way. Then Jenny steps up to the plate and tells her dad the truth. Hit the pause button as soon as Jenny walks out:
Now let’s fast-forward to almost the 1:03:00 mark. Regarding the subplot, there is one very important detail that happens between the scene above and the one below, but I’ll leave it out since I can make my point without it. Now Jenny has an encounter with her dad in the rain. She tells him that she feels like an orphan:
But wait. How can she feel like an orphan when her dad is right there? All the professionals said that she’d be fine if her parents were happy, and her dad was more than happy, he was absolutely ecstatic at finding a young and beautiful wife.
Here is a popular explanation: Jenny is crazy and needs therapy and medication. And what a convenient explanation that is. Parents don’t need to examine their own behavior. They don’t even have to consider that there might be something terribly wrong with what they’ve done. Instead, label the child of divorce as crazy and having resolvable “anger issues,” insist that the person needs medication and therapy to help them see the error of their thinking. Feelings for first families must be suppressed through re-education efforts such as photoshopping or destroying family photos, pretending that the first family never existed (aka gaslighting), perpetual denigration of ex-spouse and/or ex-spouses’ family to the children, medication for the children, therapy, lies, public shaming, propaganda, euphemisms, role-reversal, chopping down the child’s family tree, falsification of birth certificates, and the implementation of self-refuting family structures, for example this one:
I can hear the sexual libertines now:
“Aren’t all families just collections of individuals? What difference does it make if we rearrange a few pieces here and there? It is the state’s job to annul my familial obligations whenever I choose!”