Posted by: theoptimisticconservative | March 26, 2012

Another TV show, another man infantilized

I’d like to think the producers of the new TV show Missing (ABC), with Ashley Judd as a retired CIA agent tracking down her abducted son, didn’t realize what they were doing. I’ve watched the first two episodes; the show airs on Thursday at 8:00 PM (EDT/PDT), and since I’m typically writing for deadline then, I keep some TV going in the background.  Ashley Judd, a missing son, international intrigue – how bad could it be, right?

And some aspects of it aren’t bad at all.  Judd runs into an acquaintance from her espionage days in each episode, and so far it’s been foreign guys with charming accents.  French Canadian Lothaire Bluteau (Black Robe, The Tudors) in the most recent episode was a superb choice.  (The Judd character – Rebecca Winstone – is widowed, by the way.  Her husband, Sean Bean, was also in The Business, and was assassinated in an airport years ago.  Too bad.)  The outstanding Portuguese actor Joaquim de Almeida (Clear and Present Danger, Desperado) is the director of French intelligence.  And then there’s the scenery.  There’s a lot to enjoy.

But I’m not sure how long I can stick with it.  Ashley Judd getting beat up and shot all the time is one thing.  I did see Salt (Angelina Jolie), on an Encore movie channel not too long ago; I can be hip.  But what’s with this 18-year-old son who’s, like, twice Mom’s size and completely helpless?

Michael Winstone is the son’s name.  He’s a prospective architecture student who went to Rome in the first episode to pursue his studies.  I can certainly buy that he has never been a spy or received any training; that he was abducted; and even that he’s being moved around Europe to tantalize his desperate mother, the former CIA agent with a Past.  (Hey, we’ve got to have a story, after all.)

But at the end of the second episode, Mom rushes to the French airport where Michael is being bundled onto a private jet, and, catching sight of him as she pulls up in a car, leaps out and starts running onto the tarmac.  She runs in that purposeful, symmetrical, hard-striding manner that moviegoers now expect from the stars of spy thrillers.  Her son is being herded resistless toward the plane by a phalanx of armed thugs, and as she shouts at him, he howls back, “Mom!  Help me!  Mom!  Help me!!!!”

The plane begins to taxi, Mom loses ground against it, and finally she has to collapse in agony on the tarmac.  As a loving mother, she has been unable to reach the armed abductors of her shrieking, strapping, grown-up son, to wreak mayhem on them and rescue her baby.

I don’t know, maybe you have to have spent a military career working with 18-year-old men to realize that, however lacking in wisdom and experience they may be, they are smart and brave as well as strong and fast.  (They have, for another 10 years or so, the greatest potential of any human demographic to be the latter.)  In a perilous situation with lots of gunmen in it, they are going to feel instinctively protective of their mothers.  They’re not going to shriek wildly at them for help.  A young man in this particular situation is more likely to yell, “Get out of here, Mom!”

Eighteen is the age of soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines entering America’s armed forces.  Eighteen-year-olds go into combat.  Eighteen-year-olds with the proper training take on the responsibilities of adults.  And throughout the ages of mankind, 18-year-olds have watched over their mothers, up to and including taking up arms and defending their mothers at peril to their lives.

Story narratives do often ask us to suspend disbelief about one thing or another.  But it seems to me to be sloppy story-writing, to ask us to buy into an 18-year-old behaving like a helpless 6-year-old in a dangerous situation involving his mother.  That’s just icky, and audiences won’t stay with it for very long.  If Junior is a wimp, then for the story’s sake, he needs to grow out of it.

This hole in the plot could have been salvaged pretty simply, by amending the “Mom!  Help me!” scene at the airport to let Junior show some spunk (even though he clearly couldn’t have made an escape).  It would be a better show, and we’d care more.  Mom can be a very capable and talented former CIA agent without her son being infantilized to advance the story.  You could make a very good story out of reuniting mother and son if you let the Michael Winstone character be an actual young man.  The plot takes care of whether his abductors would kill him for showing spunk; they won’t.  As a series denouement, Mom and Michael fighting their way together out of the captors’ clutches could be a great episode.

But Missing is the wrong genre for Mommy Bathos.  And if Michael remains an inert, somewhat pathetic cardboard cut-out of a character, I suspect that that potentially great episode is one viewers won’t stick around for.

J.E. Dyer’s articles have appeared at Hot Air’s Green Room, Commentary’s “contentions,Patheos, and The Weekly Standard online.



  1. Sounds like Michael could use a little Sister Damien to straighten him out. 🙂

    • Yep! She would have gotten him well sorted.

  2. There’s a strong contingent among liberal land devotees who believe that men who demonstrate any of the ‘traditional’ male virtues are simply brutes and that the proper role for a male is in showing the correct amount of deference to the innately superior female of the species.

    Ashley Judd is one of the Hollywood elite who have previously demonstrated a belief in that nonsensical view.

    In order to believe that point of view, a strong separation from reality is required. It also requires a strong denial of biological realities, along with denial of the ‘thin veneer of civilization’ which protects ‘civilized’ individuals from the law of the jungle.

    Which a sufficient amount of money and immersion among like minded, entitled elites, allow them to rationalize as being actual reality.

    “Man is not a rational animal; he is a rationalizing animal.” Robert A. Heinlein

  3. It’s a dopey TV show, switch it off and listen to some Bach or even Caravan Palace.

    • Or listen to some grand opera where the story does not require you to suspend your belief.

      Wait. As you were. But you can enjoy the gratuitous high notes that Missing will never deliver.

    • Hey, you rant your way, I’ll rant mine. (Vinnie’s grand opera suggestion is pretty darn good.)

      • Rock Opera…

        The Pinkest of Floyds…. (ah those were the days Adam Smasher… those were the days.) “The Wall” is now digitally remastered and available on a 2 CD set….

        “Mother” – kinda fits this…

        Prophetic… “Comfortably Numb”…

        Of course it is Lent, and Passion Sunday approaches… Original London cast of “Jesus Christ Superstar” anyone? Maybe the Original off-off Broadway cast recording of “Godspell” – we did a great medley of those songs in 9th grade chorus. That was just a little before they made it illegal to contemplate anything having to do with God, in school. The Thomas Eaton chorus was huge. The teacher brought in a small band to play. We sounded GREAT in rehearsal. But I missed the performance because we had to leave Hampton that night to head to Alexandria to care for my father who’d been transferred to Walter Reed. My mother bought me the album as a gift. I wore out the grooves that year.

        The strength and dignity of a man, a combat soldier and airman, a father, a teacher, an amputee, a man dying of cancer who fought until the last second to stay alive to care for his family. The bravery, strength, and devotion of a mother who lost her only love… who bought a house, taught school for 32 years, raised two teenagers by herself, married them off, was a beloved “Nana” – and then succumbed to a withering disease that robbed her of all she cherished.. her ability to walk, talk, swallow.. and then eventually breathe.

        That’s life… not some cracked weird fantasy about some pansy young adult “metro” ween, whining for Mommy to come shoot someone for him..

        When I grow weary. I still listen to “Godspell” only now… there are no grooves to wear out. Some things are still good.


        (My father’s favorite was “Man of LaMancha” – Have the original cast recording on my Kindle Fire… the old and excellent with the new and amazing.)

  4. Years ago, they used to say that prime time television was deliberately created for the level of 11-year-olds. Nothing seems to have changed.

    • Sorry about your comment going to the spam queue, ampontan. I can’t see any reason why it did, so I will simply bow low and exclaim “Domo sumimasen!”

      • That’s OK, happens on my site too.

        Maybe the Internet gods are trying to tell me something!

  5. The issue isn’t whether there are better ways to spend ones time than watching a “dopey TV show.

    The issue is that it is but the most recent of an overwhelming amount of empirical evidence that much of our society is being indoctrinated into premises divorced from reality. Just as ‘Bread and Circus’s’ for the masses certainly was indicative of the moral devolution of Rome, so too is our society vulnerable to a devolution in moral fortitude. Which, once you strip away the religious piety is what really concerns Rick Santorum.

  6. I’m with you, GB. It’s a problem. It needs to be called out. I think we’ll have to wait and see what the resolution is. America has had leisure to become wildly complacent about things like devaluing men and masculinity, but there is no reason to believe that we will be left unmenaced, in our grousing sloth in this “Land of the Lotos Eaters,” by the rest of the world.

    There is reason, however, to hope that Americans will turn ourselves around. The American Revolution and founding were an incredible instance of beating the odds. So were the reunification and rise to hemispheric dominance after the Civil War — the bloodiest war of its kind up to that time. Even our partial recovery from the collectivist supefaction of the FDR years was a case of beating the odds. It was something no other nation has ever done. Once Europe was solidly on the FDR path, there was no looking back.

    We’re in a bad place now, but we have always beaten the odds before. I think America’s true character and strength are at odds with the progressive socialism of the Obama administration — and of Hollywood. The shibboleths of politics and the culture are no longer representative of what the people are. Some of the people are complacent about that, and others are actively worried, but only a minority percentage — one even smaller than the Democrats’ leftist core of voters — truly embraces the intolerant, nihilist, materialist vision of the “progressive” left. That percentage is NON-REPRESENTATIVE. It has to lie and cheat about its intentions to get elected in popular politics.

    Having a positive vision for liberty has been one of the keys to American success — that is, a vision for what can be done with liberty, as opposed to a vision for rebuking, impoverishing, and enslaving the people we can put in the “bad guy” role in invidious narratives about socialist equality. The situation of government, and of the cultural catechisms insisted on in politics and the media, have become wholly inimical to the American vision for liberty. More and more people are waking up to that. I don’t by any means despair of a national “awakening” significant enough to reverse our negative direction.

    • “I don’t by any means despair of a national “awakening” significant enough to reverse our negative direction.”

      I too don’t despair that we shall never have a “national awakening” sufficient to reverse our negative direction, I despair of the price we shall most probably have to pay, in order for that awakening to occur.

      In 5 more years there will be precious few of the ‘greatest generation’ left and, when it comes to sacrifice, the majority of my generation, the baby boomers, aren’t worth a bucket of warm spit. Unfortunately, there are far too many in leadership positions, who only lead in the direction of either self-aggrandizement or liberal ideology.

      What that implies is that we will be little prepared for the events necessary to our awakening. Think Dunkirk/the Great Depression but without any American lend lease program to resupply us and a public far more dependent upon ‘modern conveniences’ than that of the 30’s.

      It’s highly probable that we’re going to need, really badly, one of those American ‘miracles’ in beating the odds.

      • There will not be one. At least not nationally. The big cities are too far gone. My wife and daughter took a trip to New York City over the weekend for a school band and choral trip. The tour guide told them that a spot on the street for a hotdog vendor to station his cart cost $350,000 a year. The vendors didn’t own the spots, someone else did, and leased times for the slot to various vendors. The guy who owned it? “Some Real Estate mogul, or some such person who actually owned things.”

        The big cities are mindless dependent money pits of renters who own nothing in particular, and demand everything from everyone to support their cherished beehives. New York State is bled white by the City, which rules Albany with the ruthlessness of a big city extortion racket. People in Cooperstown, Kingston, Saugerties, Haverstraw, Athens, Niagara, Cherry Valley… all pay huge taxes for the “privilege” of hosting the festering chanker known as “The City”. I can think of a better word and it even rhymes but this is a family place.

        The big cities are going to strangle this nation with sapping demands for money, power, water, and waste disposal. And like any parasite, they eventually kill their host.

        The new map of the US in 2076 will probably look quite a bit different than it does today. We cannot sustain this trajectory, and the only salvation for the Red Counties and States is amputation. The infection has become gangrenous.

        We can hope, but of late that cherished emotion has been corrupted, too.


  7. This is an extremely important contribution by the Opticon to THE DEBATE. Perhaps her most important.

    Yes, we have indeed “infantalized” our young men. And, alas, its been going on for some time. Officers from both WWII and Vietnam recall as one of their most vivid and chilling memories how 18 and 19 year olds dying from terrible battlefield injuries would invariably cry out for their mothers. I wouldn’t be surprised if it were the same in Iraq and Afghanistan. What wimps we’ve become! This is what keeping our young people in education – reliant on parents for support and healthcare – does to the moral fiber of a nation. I mean, how can we possibly compete with great nations like the Congo where boys get their first Kalashnikovs before they reach 11, and where they have no moral-fiber sapping healthcare from parents, state, or anyone else?

    I agree it is absolutely vital to the wellbeing of the Nation that TV dramas accurately reflect our perception of what reality should be. For example, my spouse keeps complaining that “Desperate Housewives” completely fails to reflect the reality of her life. She still watches re-runs – but strictly under protest, and she in no way endorses the views of the scriptwriter (Or so she tells me)

    Thank you again Opticon for this important contribution to THE DEBATE.

  8. It’s true that many 18 and 19 year olds dying from terrible battlefield injuries cry out for their mothers, though a not insignificant percentage do not. The difference is that in the indoctro-drama episode of the Missing to which JE refers, the 18 yr old cries out for his mother before he’s suffered any harm at all. If an unhurt, 18 yr old ‘man’ crying out for ‘mommy’ isn’t your definition of being a wimp, then you shall never have anyone’s ‘back’ in a fight.

    Courage isn’t doing what’s required in the absence of fear, it’s doing the right thing in spite of being scared. And the greater the fear overcome, the greater the courage demonstrated.

    It isn’t the boys in the Congo with whom we are in competition, it’s the fanaticism of the 19 fanatics wielding box cutters against unarmed civilians. Clearly you don’t understand the old adage; in a dogfight, it’s not the size of the dog that determines the winner, it’s the amount of fight in the dog…

    18 yr olds whose response to danger is to yell for mommy by definition have no fight in them. And a society in which the norm for its young men becomes to yell for mommy when danger threatens is a society ripe for the plucking when the wolves come calling.

    I suspect that you’re one of those who disparages cops and those in the military but screams loudest for them when danger threatens. If I’m wrong in that assessment, then my apologies, if right, then you’re unworthy of the sacrifice you look for others to make upon your behalf.

    And, if you don’t understand, accept and honor Orwell’s truism that, “People sleep peaceably in their beds at night, only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.” then you definitely belong in that group to which John Stuart Mill referred; “A man who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing that is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself.”

    • And of course it isn’t terrorists with box-cutters that Arab kids fear either. It is impersonal mass-death from 8 miles high, being casually murdered by uniformed troops who kick in the door of your home, and being sliced, diced and incinerated by white-phosphoros and fletching-rounds. And so it goes. But violent death isn’t character-building.

      Our young people who fought in WWII came from many backgrounds. They were rich and cossetted, poor and deprived, educated, and illiterate, urban and rural. I am unaware of anyone who has sustained an argument that the poor, the uneducated, or the farmboys were found any more or less wanting than the cityboys or the cosseted scions of the rich when it came to serving their country.

      When push came to shove, our young people did the job that was asked of them. Ironically, the Germans and Japanese subscribed to the sort of Spartan nonsense you and Dyer espouse. They sent their young children off to indoctrinating boot-camp away from their parents so they would grow up tough and inured to weaknesses. I can’t imagine too many young Waffen SS kids calling out for their mothers. Thankfully, our kids and our values prevailed.

      I have no doubt that this cosseted generation would also do us proud if called upon. (Excepting the 35% who are too obese to serve because they take their dietary advice from JED rather than the Surgeon General!)

      p.s. I make an exception for the small number of Cheneys and GWBs of this world whose daddys or contacts can ensure a cushy station away from the nasty and dangerous stuff.

  9. “…And if Michael remains an inert, somewhat pathetic cardboard cut-out of a character…”

    Then Mommy should be wise to reconsider her effort to free him from the clutches of his abductors. Some things are best left unrescued… 🙂


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