Recently Kish and I have been binge-watching Ray Donovan, the Showtime series about a guy who fixes problems for the rich and famous in Hollywood — usually through violence, extortion, and sex. It’s a very entertaining and well-acted show, and we’ve enjoyed getting caught up to the current episodes.
I usually come away from the show with a curious reaction: Ray Donovan makes me feel good about my parenting efforts. This is because the parenting of Ray and his wife Abby, and of Ray’s ex-con father Mickey, is outlandishly bad, launching generations of seriously messed-up, dysfunctional offspring.
Mickey cheated on his dying wife, robbed banks, allowed his kids to be serially abused by a Catholic priest and beat up Ray when Ray tried to tell him about it, and urged his son Terry to keep boxing until the repeated punches caused him to develop Parkinson’s disease. Everything Mickey touches turns to mud. Ray hates his Dad — but he and Abby really aren’t a whole lot better in the parenting department. Ray doesn’t show up at home for days at a time. Abby decides to go to Boston leaving her teenage daughter in charge. Both parents have obvious affairs, leaving the kids at home to fend for themselves. Not surprisingly, the kids are struggling — they’ve had issues with violent behavior at school, underage drinking, the daughter had an affair with her teacher, and the son has a gun fixation. It’s not a happy, huggy family.
Parents don’t often have insight into how they’re doing; they don’t usually get see how other people perform in the parenting roles. TV families at least give us measuring sticks by which to gauge our own efforts. No doubt there were many parents who strove to be like Ward and June Cleaver but found they couldn’t quite measure up. For a long time, TV showed us the idealized families, but now we’re getting to see the other end of the parenting spectrum.
If you’re worried about your parenting, watch Ray Donovan. I promise, you’ll feel better.