I saw in the news on Thursday that Virginia Tech was the subject of another campus shooting. This time ‘only’ two people died, including the gunman (unlike 2007, where 32 people died).
Coincidentally, I’ve just watched the Martin Sheen film Beautiful Boy (2010), which tells the story of the parents of Sammy, a college student who opens fire on his campus, massacres his friends and finally kills himself.
The film investigates the interesting question of whether it was the parents fault? They appear normal, but did they do something that turned an average, white, middle-class boy into a raging ball of fury, ready to kill anything that crossed his path? The answer is unsatisfying. The closest we get to any kind of insight is when mother accuses father of spending all his time at work and not being there for the family, while father accuses mother of being a control freak who would have driven anyone mad. Then they both agree that while they weren’t the world’s best parents they weren’t the worst either.
It’s an OK film, but I was waiting for something to happen, and it didn’t really.
We need to talk about dad
The same day I randomly came across the Channel 4 documentary We Need to Talk About Dad (2011) which probably sheds more light on what was going on in Sammy’s head than Beautiful Boy does.
I’m totally fascinated by the weirdness of people, and this documentary describes a family so obsessed with being perfect that they are really weird. One day, the perfect parents were home. The perfect dad said he had a present for the perfect mum, led her out into the garden and smashed her over the head with axe. What happened next is even more weird. Dad went to prison for a few months (despite mum’s efforts to avoid a custodial sentence). Then he was released, went back home and they all carried on as before. What the hell is that all about? None of the family seems to have had any kind of counselling, and in fact only the elder son (who needs to talk about dad) is willing to accept that anything out of the ordinary has happened at all. Talking to Channel 4 seems to be the only therapy any of these people have had.
The perfect dad was diagnosed as suffering from an ‘acute psychotic episode brought on by the death of his father’. Perfect dad suggests that maybe perhaps he blames his father for contributing to the suicide of his 18 year-old sister (but he doesn’t seem too sure). That’s it. Now at least he’s moved out of the family home. His new home doesn’t appear to have a garden, but I’m not sure I’d accept an invitation to dinner.
What lies beneath?
What else is going on under the surface and behind closed doors? It’s a dangerous world we live in.
Song of the day
Another great great great Christmas song. Love this one too.
- Best of 2011, number 9: Beautiful Boy (chicagoreader.com)
- Mark Brown: ‘Your son goes to Virginia Tech? Isn’t that where … ?’ – Chicago Sun-Times (suntimes.com)