Friday, October 12, 2012

Fabrications and Forgiveness

In Father of Invention, Kevin Spacey plays a businessman/inventor who spends more time with his career than his family, and ultimately loses them both when one of his criminally negligent “fabrications” results in a 10 year jail sentence.  When he gets out of jail, he moves in with his daughter as he tries to get his life back together.

Other than the fact that both the characters and situations were shallow and false, I was bothered by the way he constantly asked his adult daughter to forgive him. This doesn’t sound bad on the surface, but the movie presented it as, “You need to get over all the years and years of neglect and emotional abuse and just move on now as if nothing happened.”  When his daughter’s roommate needed some advice about the emotional turmoil she was experiencing because of her parent’s impending divorcing, Spacey’s character told her basically to get over it immediately.

I think that’s bad advice. That’s not forgiveness or compassion; that’s denial - about what happened, about the emotional tumult that comes with the dissolution of relationships, about what the ripple effect has been and will be in their lives.  It's an attempt to craft a world in which people sow what they want - and then reap what they want too!  Life without consequences! It's a win/win for the perpetrators of thoughtless and destructive deeds; meanwhile, everyone who has been victimized must bravely endure the fallout as if nothing at all went wrong.  The ones who can't get over it that quickly are portrayed as immature, hardened, and just a bit mean.

     A life in which we are not allowed to fully embrace the entirety of our experiences in not a good life. Pretending that everything is okay when it's not has no happy ending in the real world. Ultimately, the goal is to move beyond anger, despair, grief and resentment, and that can't happen when people aren't allowed to acknowledge the reality of pain, loss, and resentment.

   Honesty and confession are hard because they require humility, repentance, empathy, and an acknowledgment that what we do in life matters. Forgiveness is wonderful, but it can only be truly given if the fallout has been truly confronted.

   The Father of Invention managed to fabricate his masterpiece by the end of this film: a self-serving worldview in which those who can't easily overlook abandonment and victimization are the problem instead of the ones responsible for the abandonment and abuse. Somewhere, Jerry Sandusky is nodding his head in bitter, lonely agreement.

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