The Toxic Relatives Cure: Families that Would Never Ruin Your Thanksgiving
Prepare for the worst by spending some time with the very best families in the history of popular culture.
FLOOD’s weekly Pop Culture Cure offers an antidote—or eight—to the most upsetting developments of the past week. (Because therapy’s expensive, and entertainment’s not.)
Thanksgiving is coming. And that means families. Our families. And they will want to discuss the election, I promise you. Especially the ones who voted for Donald goddamn Trump, the creepiest daddy since longlegs. I will certainly have a few side dish–bearing relatives trolling me with tales of the good old days, and in those moments I will think of all the families that I would rather be with/have/be lectured by. This list, then, is a glimpse into my own personal panic room. I hope you won’t need it, but if you do, I hope it serves you well. Let’s get adopted.
The Chu family from Eat Drink Man Woman
Every meal at Chef Chu’s table is a veritable Thanksgiving feast (making it especially relevant here), but there’s a reason why we only celebrate the holiday once a year: it’s just too much goddamn family. Chu is losing his grip on his daughters as well as his sense of taste when the film opens, and you can’t help but feel that he has only himself and his dinners to blame. But it all ends with everyone in a better place and with everyone returning to Chu’s table—thank god, because everyone here is as lovely as they are flawed. In addition to being the feel-goodest of all possible feel-good movies, this is very possibly Ang Lee‘s best film as well. Watch it, savor it, and feel better.
You know what really helps to keep the family arguments to a minimum? Distractions. If my family could sing a song and strum a string as finely as the Carters, I wouldn’t even mind the fact that they left me with all the dishes (and also are responsible for that effing cups song that still seems intent on unleashing a veritable whimsy apocalypse).
The Weasleys are true ginger cookies. So much goodness and kindness; so many flame-capped heads. This is the kind of family that could have a nice meal with literally everyone, except maybe you know who.
The “Hip Hop Family” in Hip Hop Family Tree (in on a technicality!)
Ed Piskor‘s incredible, beautiful account has got family in the title and it’s got amazing people with amazing stories from a recent but still miraculous moment in American culture. Thanksgiving would be much improved if it were more of a house party and less of a [the opposite of that].
The Belcher Family
When I think of what it means to be a good parent, or a good burger pun, or just good, period, I think of Bob’s Burgers and the Belchers (great band name). Kindness, warmth, ground beef, and something about unicorns and horses is the true meaning of Thanksgiving. The Belchers are the model family, and their goodness somehow only amplifies the laughs. The opposite of sad: miraculous.
The Dandridges in Everyone Says I Love You
Even a stopped clock is right twice a day, and even a Woody Allen can make a(n intentionally and yet somehow accidentally) delightful movie twice a decade. He may not be a good man, and he may be utterly reliant on reiterating previous masterpieces, but here he just hits fucking gold, amateur singers and all. Everyone Says I Love You features a running joke about how the patriarch’s son has gone rogue and voted Republican, and yet it all ends with everyone on the same team. And it’s all so pleasant (if, admittedly, a bit over-white).
Everyone in Paris Is Burning
It’s kind of a hackneyed observation that “family” can happen in a lot of different ways, but if that’s not also a very deep truth then I don’t know what is. I was reminded of that fact when listening to Bryan Lowder talking about the solace he’s now finding in drag shows in the wake of Trump’s victory. Paris Is Burning offers an urgent, searing account of drag balls in 1980s New York, and if you are interested in learning about where so many of our best slang phrases came from, or considering what it means to offer real support, then this is the place to be.
The Bascombes, such as they are, in Richard Ford’s Independence Day
America is a broken family. So are the Bascombes. It’s time to rediscover Richard Ford.