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The Passion of Alec Baldwin
April 20, 2009 12:02 PM   Subscribe

Who's Your Daddy? Atlantic Monthly staff writer Caitlin Flanagan considers the impact of father-daughter relationships and once again opines about the emotional inner life of adolescent girls. Building off Alec Baldwin's much-publicized voicemail invective to his 11 year-old daughter, Flanagan concludes that apart from the celebrity personages, the Baldwin feud embodied all the classic traits of filial love between men and their little girls: "amorous engagement, maternal jealousy, and paternal protectiveness."
posted by zoomorphic (49 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite

 
Caitlin Flanagan once again doesn't seem to understand the difference between bugs and features.

A father-daughter relationship is a kind of romance, one kept well in check by a variety of forces, not least of them the sexual flattening that prolonged domesticity does to all potentially erotic relationships.

Or else some careless copy editor left out the "deeply dysfunctional" between "A" and "father-daughter."
posted by Sidhedevil at 12:09 PM on April 20, 2009 [5 favorites]


...the classic traits of disfunctional love between men and their little girls, perhaps.
on preview, exactly what Sidhedevil said.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 12:12 PM on April 20, 2009


This of course all presupposes Baldwins daughter isn't "a rude thoughtless little piggy."
posted by tkchrist at 12:18 PM on April 20, 2009 [5 favorites]


I came from a happy family, but I'll bet if you recorded all the interactions we ever had with each other and then selected the very worst of them to post all over the internet, that would be a statement you'd find hard to believe.

I don't doubt that Alec Baldwin's relationship with his daughter is less than ideal. I think that those who want to judge it on the basis of that single notorious piece of evidence could probably stand to think about the beam in their own eyes a little.
posted by yoink at 12:18 PM on April 20, 2009 [7 favorites]


Caitlin Flanagan's a recreational shit-stirrer but she writes an engaging article, and Alec Baldwin, turd or not, is always kind of mesmerizing.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 12:19 PM on April 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


Alec Baldwin has never been any less than a kind, open-hearted, and endlessly giving father to me. Much more so than my actual father, who is a little creeped out by Alec's behavior toward me.

Of course, Kim won't talk to me anymore, but she never really did.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:24 PM on April 20, 2009 [3 favorites]


I think that those who want to judge it {Alec and Ireland Baldwin's father/daughter relationship} on the basis of that single notorious piece of evidence could probably stand to think about the beam in their own eyes a little.

Agreed. But I think that's not anywhere near as appalling as Flanagan's using it as the jumping-off point for her disturbing Freudian fantasia.
posted by Sidhedevil at 12:24 PM on April 20, 2009


Christ, does everything have to be about sex and sexual tension?
posted by double block and bleed at 12:27 PM on April 20, 2009


Agreed. But I think that's not anywhere near as appalling as Flanagan's using it as the jumping-off point for her disturbing Freudian fantasia.

I have no argument with that.
posted by yoink at 12:28 PM on April 20, 2009


Flanagan's Disturbing Freudian Fantasia ..Bar And Grill.
posted by The Whelk at 12:34 PM on April 20, 2009 [12 favorites]


Agreed. But I think that's not anywhere near as appalling as Flanagan's using it as the jumping-off point for her disturbing Freudian fantasia.

Agreed. Alec Baldwin and his daughter could be an example of the frailty of the unique nature of the father-daughter bond....or, more likely, it's an example of Alec Baldwin being a dick.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:38 PM on April 20, 2009 [2 favorites]


Christ, does everything have to be about sex and sexual tension?

Your frustration is making me hot. Oh baby, appeals to a higher power! Yes!
posted by carsonb at 12:47 PM on April 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


More than just wallowing in Freudian fantasia, Flanagan needs to stop applying the idiosyncrasies of her own adolescence to every other teenage girl in America.
posted by zoomorphic at 12:49 PM on April 20, 2009 [10 favorites]


More than just wallowing in Freudian fantasia, Flanagan needs to stop applying the idiosyncrasies of her own adolescence to every other teenage girl in America.

Oh, jeez, Flanagan was the "this is how I was as a teenager and this is why TWILIGHT is so popular" person?

Feh.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:55 PM on April 20, 2009


Christ, does everything have to be about sex and sexual tension?

Sometimes a wife-less father-daughter relationship is just a wife-less father-daughter relationship.
posted by GuyZero at 12:58 PM on April 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


Christ, does everything have to be about sex and sexual tension?
posted by double block and bleed at 3:27 PM on April 20 [+] [!]

Eponysterical!
posted by ZenMasterThis at 12:58 PM on April 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


A father-daughter relationship is a kind of romance, one kept well in check by a variety of forces, not least of them the sexual flattening that prolonged domesticity does to all potentially erotic relationships.

So I was watching an episode of "Supernanny" at the gym or something, and they were showing a scene of this girl asking her dad if she could spent the night at her friends house. This was supposedly "after" the nannies intervention or whatever, but the way the girl was asking her dad was so flirtatious, I mean, she had her arms wrapped around her dad's neck, her face was like 4 inches away and they were staring in eachother's eyes. It looked like they were about to kiss. It seemed really strange to me.
posted by delmoi at 1:01 PM on April 20, 2009


How many of the dismissive commenters above are fathers who have daughters? Or daughters who have fathers, for that matter? I merely wonder.
posted by rusty at 1:03 PM on April 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


I have a daughter but oddly, my daughter has no father. BUT I'M NOT THE MOM EITHER.
posted by GuyZero at 1:04 PM on April 20, 2009


I have a daughter but oddly, my daughter has no father. BUT I'M NOT THE MOM EITHER.

Oh! I know this! you're actually two fish who hanged themselves using a block of ice!
posted by The Whelk at 1:06 PM on April 20, 2009 [12 favorites]


And instead of nattering away about all the tedious things your wife is always going on about, this ravishing new version has been programmed (by you) to talk about and care about all the things you are interested in.

This bears no resemblance to any family I have ever seen.
posted by Joe Beese at 1:10 PM on April 20, 2009 [3 favorites]


How many of the dismissive commenters above are fathers who have daughters? Or daughters who have fathers, for that matter?

....Rusty, not sure what you're getting at here -- I am a daughter with a father, but I don't see that simply that fact means that I have to take Flanagan's article as the pinnacle of commentary about that relationship.

I mean, a lot of what Flanagan is saying, when you prune out the extra blather, is no more than "fathers and daughters can have an important relationship," and...other people have also said that and said it better.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:11 PM on April 20, 2009


does everything have to be about sex and sexual tension?

uh, no. for one, i'm taken. for two, no. just no. i mean, you would be great for someone else, though.
posted by the aloha at 1:25 PM on April 20, 2009


EmpressCallipygos: I'm not getting at anything, really. I was just wondering. I saw a lot of what seemed perceptive in the article. Then MeFi told me I was probably a pervert or dysfunctional. So I was wondering how seriously I ought to take that, mostly.
posted by rusty at 1:25 PM on April 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


Flanagan needs to stop applying the idiosyncrasies of her own adolescence to every other teenage girl in America.

Damn right! What kind of journalist would invent a societal trend out of something that just happened to them and their friends? Oh, wait...
posted by msalt at 1:37 PM on April 20, 2009


I'm a father of a teenage daughter, and divorced from her mother. I can tell you from my personal experience that the article makes some good points generally but falls apart by trying to connect a dysfunctional (and disturbing) sexual aspect to it all.
Children of divorce are the most powerful tool one ex-spouse and use against the other, and when it happens, the ex on the receiving end will direct blame and anger in all directions. I suspect that's what happened with the Baldwins. Where Flanagan's crackpot ideas come from I can only imagine.
posted by rocket88 at 1:55 PM on April 20, 2009


The dig at Sylvia Plath was the best part of the article.
In Sylvia Plath’s “Daddy,” the poetess mows down all of western-European history and lore to convey the wickedness of her father, who has been torturing her “for thirty years”: he is a vampire, Hitler. He is personally responsible for every fucked-up, stupid thing she’s ever done, from unsuccessfully attempting suicide to successfully marrying Ted Hughes. “Daddy, daddy, you bastard, I’m through,” she proclaims defiantly at poem’s end (rallying call to a generation!), but it’s only in reading the biographical note that we remember that her father (whose greatest crimes against humanity consisted of writing a book about bumblebees and siring Sylvia Plath) had been dead since she was 8.
I actually don't see a ton of hatred at Alec Baldwin in this; at least she gave concessions about his tireless efforts to be a father. The comments about Kim were much worse, and no redeeming descriptions were given.

I would actually agree that there are some weird sexual dimensions to the father-daughter relationship that most people think is ideal. It's not meant to be overt sexuality, but there's something more there. Do none of you remember that damned "Butterfly Kisses" song that was everywhere and is probably still played at 80% of weddings during the Father-Bride dance?

This bears no resemblance to any family I have ever seen.
Just because it's rarely realized doesn't mean people don't want it. During divorce the frustration at not having that ideal relationship is immense, I'd imagine.
posted by FuManchu at 2:26 PM on April 20, 2009


How many of the dismissive commenters above are fathers who have daughters? Or daughters who have fathers, for that matter?

I'm a daughter who has a father, thanks so much. And my (genetic) daughter has TWO fathers, so I have 1.5 as much right to talk about this stuff as Flanagan.

I would actually agree that there are some weird sexual dimensions to the father-daughter relationship that most people think is ideal.

That's because those people are FUCKED UP. They may not mean to, but they do...

Again, it's a bug, not a feature.
posted by Sidhedevil at 3:13 PM on April 20, 2009


If you want to understand a woman, you need to know her father. A woman who was cursed with a wretched mother will regale you at length with each of that woman’s hurtful acts; a mother can be dead for years, and still her daughter will tell everyone who will listen about the time she wanted a particular pair of party shoes and her mother said, “Those would look better on your sister.” But a woman who had a bad father—or an absent one, or an unpredictable one—will nurse that wound tenderly. A mean mother can be boiled down to a reduction of her bitchery, a set of anecdotes. A mean father only grows in scope and power as the years pass.

If your parents are the kind who bitch incessantly and give insults heavy with culture/misunderstanding then usually, it's not that simple.

Also--this is petty, but I'm not very fond of her writing style. I feel like she's forgetting an essential article or something, but I can't quite put my finger on it.
posted by mmmleaf at 3:20 PM on April 20, 2009


Of course, I mean...bitch/degrade incessantly, but truly have their golden moments...
posted by mmmleaf at 3:21 PM on April 20, 2009


Wow. That woman has issues.

Also:

When a man calls an overweight woman a pig, he is saying she is fat. When he calls a slim and attractive girl—someone like Ireland—a pig, he is using the word in another sense, one that suggests a particularly feminine kind of repulsiveness.

Really? I guess add this to the list of things boys get used to being called from time immemorial (for anyone under the age of 40 at least). I would have thought the term in this context would mean something like "self-indulgent and inconsiderate".
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 3:22 PM on April 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


Also, never seen "The View" before. Is that the usual set? How trapped is the guest between two interviewers in such close confines!
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 3:28 PM on April 20, 2009


(not that he doesn't seem to weasel out of answering anything directly anyway. But I feel dirty just watching that clip. I think I'm gonna go for a walk outside)
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 3:34 PM on April 20, 2009


As a father of a daughter I found the article interesting. The idea that there is a kind of latent romantic love between father and daughter which is only healthy as a kind of faint dream-echo of a actual, realized romantic love between father and mother -- and which becomes creepy and destructive outside that context -- I thought that was an interesting insight, possibly true. I can't point to anything particular in my experience of parenting a daughter that bears the whole thing out, but it doesn't seem totally unreasonable as an analysis of some of the unconscious forces at work.

BTW, I used "romantic love" in the above paragraph to clumsily suggest a relationship which is "sexual" in the sense of "between people of different sexes and emotionally charged by that fact" but not "sexual" in the sense of "being about, or involving, physical sexual activity." I don't know what would have been a better way to express that.
posted by edheil at 3:38 PM on April 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


But a romance doesn’t need sex to flourish, of course, and in his daughter a father discovers a person whose very bloodline ensures that she will be charming to him:

Clearly she's never had a house full of giggling teenagers.

at the precise moment that his wife is fading into middle age, her beauty resurges in the daughter—there’s that unlined face you fell in love with so long ago!

No. You suddenly discover you have hormone fueled monster living in the house and some days...some days...you understand why people drink.

And instead of nattering away about all the tedious things your wife is always going on about, this ravishing new version has been programmed (by you) to talk about and care about all the things you are interested in.

Clearly she's never had a daughter with a cellphone and myspace page.

As for the girl’s feelings about you—well, you’re everything. You’re not a man; you’re the measure of a man.

Clearly she's never had a teenager, that insane breed of humanity who hasn't experienced much, but know everything.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 3:42 PM on April 20, 2009 [3 favorites]


Clearly she's never had a teenager, that insane breed of humanity who hasn't experienced much, but know everything.

Mark Twain: "When I was a boy of 14, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years."
posted by GuyZero at 3:46 PM on April 20, 2009 [5 favorites]


I really object to Flanagan's whole bit about "If you want to understand a woman, you need to know her father." I have a difficult relationship with my father, to the point that it's now basically a nonexistent relationship. My dad is troubled and while he was never abusive (minus a few borderline Baldwin-esque phone calls in late adolescence), it just got to a point where trying to be the kind of daughter -- or person, I suppose -- he wanted me to be wasn't worth it for either of us.

I understand my issues with my father are just that -- issues with my father. They're not issues with men. They're issues with a particular man. So I guess for me, Flanagan implying that a woman having a troubled relationship with her father or whatever somehow "damages" her. I don't feel damaged at all.

(As for her creepy psycho-sexual stuff, that's something else entirely. I don't see it -- in my own relationship with my father, in the relationships of my friends with their fathers, or the fathers I know who have young daughters. I feel bad that Flanagan's childhood must've been so weird she thinks everyone's life was like that.)
posted by darksong at 4:01 PM on April 20, 2009 [2 favorites]


It must be a great gig, though, writing this kind of stuff. You get to say any crap that floats to the top of your head and you don't have to produce a single citation or study to back up any of it. One imagines that Flanagan herself would be just as likely, on some other occasion, to write about how the really telling relationship in any woman's life is the one with her mother, or with her siblings, or with her schoolteachers or whatever the hell serves the particular line she's decided to peddle that day. As long as you don't go too crazy ("which of us doesn't remember with a secret fondness Crazy Uncle Albert and his 'magic pantaloons'") any of these sweeping generalizations will be accurate enough for a large proportion of your audience, and if said with enough breezy confidence will strike many of those for whom they are demonstrably false as probably being true for most people.

I wonder if she's aware that it's all utterly specious and is happy to settle for being "amusing" and "provocative" or if she really thinks that anything that is true of her family (and perhaps the families of a few of her close friends) must be true for everyone?
posted by yoink at 4:16 PM on April 20, 2009 [5 favorites]


The only thing I took away from the article was that Flanagan would love to trade places with Ireland and have the "endlessly engaging, personally attractive" Alec Baldwin call her names and shower her with gifts and attention.
posted by Devils Slide at 4:52 PM on April 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


Mark Twain, again: "When a child turns 12 you should put him in a barrel, nail the lid down and feed him through a knot hole. When he turns 16, plug the hole."
posted by Ian A.T. at 4:55 PM on April 20, 2009 [2 favorites]


Fathers and daughters. And thier "special" bond.

My sister was an insufferable repugnant little bitch when she was 16. And to stand out from the rest of us that's really saying something. We were stationed in the UK and my dad had been sent back to Vietnam. So she was going to a base high school. In Europe. In the early 1970's. Which was pretty much a perfect storm type situation for a stoner delinquent with harlot tendencies. No father around. Lots of drugs. Hot single men on leave in picturesque soft-core Euro locales.

So my mom comes to find out that my sister had missed 70-80 days out of the first 120 days of school. My sister had been intercepting the mail and the phone for months. And finally they called during the day and caught my mom at home (this was before voice mail, remember). So my mom corners my brother, who was always the weakest link being a momma's boy, and he caves under the first 2 minutes of intense questioning and tells her that my sister had been skipping school to go drop acid. My mom thinks dropping acid is some trendy dance or something so that flies over her head. But his she knows. Holly had been lying about her whereabouts and had been skipping school and likely get'n biblical with young men. So she confronts my sis' in her June Cleaver way at the Sunday dinner table and get's these exact words "Fuck you BITCH!" And she stormed out.

This shattered my young psyche hearing that explosive anger between them. Nobody had ever talked that way to my parents. So my mom used the ultimate threat. She was gonna call my Dad. Who was 3,000 miles away getting shot at by angry agrarian Marxists. This was just the sort of trivial family drama he needed to be dealing with in combat. So. She calls Da Nang and leaves a message with a desk Sergeant. He calls back a day or two later.

I was not in the room but I have been told what was said when he called. My mother broke down crying when she told him his daughter had called her a bitch. So my dad was stuck with the troubling prospect of consoling his wife and contemplating how to deal with his daughter from 3,000 miles away. Holly, my sister is not there. She hasn't been home since the fight. So this is what he does.

He calls the base MP commander. The base MP commander dispatches 2 MP's to go find my sister. Which they do in about 5 hours scouring every inch of Mildenhall and Feltwell. They have their ways.

Seeing her literally picked up by the britches and hauled away in jeep pretty much makes her both way cool with the teenagers AND poison to the enlisted soldiers who get word. So, net effect, high school will be an awesome place. Conversely any enlisted man on base will shun her like the plague.

They drive her home and wait in the driveway while my mom calls my dad and puts my sister on the phone with him. Family lore is you could here mortar rounds going off in the back ground of the conversation. This is something along the line of what he says:

"Honey. I realize that school is difficult sometimes for smart kids. You get bored. It must be awful for you. I bleed for the difficulty you face daily. What with tests, and football games, and dances and what not. But could you try and attend at least three days a week. And try to not entertain so many of military men personally. We have the USO for that. The gentle men outside will be at your disposal should school become to much of a hardship. Thank you sweety. Put your mother back on."
posted by tkchrist at 5:23 PM on April 20, 2009 [51 favorites]


Oh BTW my sister is now a wonderful intelligent responsible upstanding member of society these days with two adult boys of her own. Boys who delight in hearing these stories.
posted by tkchrist at 5:39 PM on April 20, 2009


Flanagan would love to trade places with Ireland and have the "endlessly engaging, personally attractive" Alec Baldwin call her names and shower her with gifts and attention.

When you put it that way? Who wouldn't?
posted by tkchrist at 5:47 PM on April 20, 2009


Man, I'm so glad my life is boring now and I'm not famous or anything. And my kids are ignorant of my past.
I might even sell my bike and stop raising hell.
Not, y'know, today. Just a thought really.

Y'know though, some people are really good at hurting others. I have that talent. Sometimes I wish I didn't. But clearly, Baldwin has it, at least when he loses it.
And man, for an 11 year old, you have to give it to her, she has to have inherited it, because the bad ass thing to do to someone that high profile is to broadband him kicking your 11 year old ass verbally on voice mail. And she's better at it.
I don't think he even saw that coming. Call me a pig mother fucker? Here - this is better than a shot in the grapes. I'll mess with your take home. Make you go on farkakte talk shows. Fuck up your whole image. And it was premeditated, she didn't just go off like Baldwin did.
Wow.
So does that make Basinger like Metis or what?
posted by Smedleyman at 11:05 PM on April 20, 2009


I'm still waiting for the "Car keys are for closers," leaked audio scandal.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 11:36 PM on April 20, 2009


I want tkchrist's dad as my dad.
posted by dabitch at 3:14 AM on April 21, 2009


1) So Flanagan is just getting around to digesting that Baldwin voice mail? Heaven help us if she finds out about 2 girls 1 cup.

2) Speaking of which (the Baldwin voice mail, not 2G1C), the best commentary on it IMO is the bit from This American Life where parents react to it with relief and a little astonishment to it, because they've said much worse to their own kids.

3) tkchrist wins.
posted by Halloween Jack at 8:26 AM on April 21, 2009 [2 favorites]


I want tkchrist for my dad so I can hear all these crazyassed stories again and again and again.

Although, driving back from my uncle's house one Thanksgiving on a backroad in the rural county most of my family's lived in at one time or another, hearing my father say, offhandedly, "oh! this is the road where I saw the giant monster that time I took mescaline."

Ah, hippie parents.

My boyfriend was raised by Hungarian immigrants. He got the "those damn Communists" stories growing up, I got my mom telling me she once saw Siva in the bedpost of the bed I'd inherited from her.
posted by bitter-girl.com at 8:56 AM on April 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


Wow, way to stay on current events, Caitlin Flanagan. Isn't this way old news by now?
posted by jenfullmoon at 10:15 AM on April 22, 2009


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