Friday, 22 November 2013

FSF #13 - Thanksgiving: How To Survive An Awkward Family Gathering


Last week, Film School Friday taught loyal readers how to become anime heroes. While doing my research for the article, one thing really stood out to me. Why are there no turkey pokemon? The first Pokemon film featured a psychic killer cat for God's sake and there are plenty of bird pokemon in the games yet godammit there isn't a single turkey to be found. Let's pay respect to the turkey this week then, that most noble of birds, in a feature inspired by the Thanksgiving season... Phew! That was a pretty tenuous link, even for me!

Lesson #13 - How To Survive An Awkward Family Gathering
Families are awkward. They just are and unfortunately, Thanksgiving is one of those times when you're forced to put aside your differences and join annoying relatives to celebrate the genocide of an indigenous race. But what do you do if your son-in-law starts talking about milking cat nipples like Ben Stiller did in Meet The Parents? Think that's awkward? The Danish film Festen featured a man accuse his father of sexually abusing him at his 60th birthday. Now that's awkward. If you want to learn how to avoid such mishaps at your Thanksgiving, roast the yams, switch the football on and stuff the turkey as we learn how to survive an awkward family gathering.

Don't Bring Up The Past

Thanksgiving is supposedly about celebrating the things we are grateful for in life. Not according to Christina Ricci though. In The Ice Storm, Ricci calmly informs her parents that the real meaning of Thanksgiving is all about Americans enjoying the comforts of modern life at the expense of the indigenous people they murdered and displaced. Ouch. Now what do you say to that? Pass the cranberry sauce? You could try to argue your case but if Poltergeist has taught me anything, it's that you shouldn't piss off Native American Indians or they'll snatch your kid, attack you with a giant tree and awkwardly rearrange your kitchen furniture.

So just embrace the moody teenager and her outrage. It makes things easier that way. Saying that though, watch out for any attempts to reenact the First Thanksgiving. Your daughter may just threaten to scalp your head and burn the whole fricking house down a la Addams Family Value. For a child-friendly alternative, try Disney's Pocahontas instead. All the raping and pillaging of Indian heritage happens off screen. Go Disney!

Keep Schtum

Every family has its secrets; Grandma's an alcoholic, Mum's a raving lesbian, Dad's a rom-com fan... but none have it worse than the Parkers. Not only does poor Peter have to entertain his lifeless Aunt May, but best friend Harry only goes and invites Peter's bloody arch-nemesis the Green Goblin round for Thanksgiving. At the meal, Norman Osborn quickly realises that his son's friend is in fact Spider-Man, yet he chooses not to reveal this fact straight away. You would have thought that this would help keep the peace. Fat chance. Norman decides to attack Mary Jane instead, telling his son to use her and then dump her as she's only after the Osborn fortune. Once again, ouch. Every family has at least one super villain but before they can reveal your painful secrets, try goading them into a fight so that they impale themselves on their own gliders. Failing that, poke them with a fork until they leave. Either/or.
Entertain The Family

Man I hate families. There's always friction, even at the best of times and it's normally down to one particularly cantankerous old bastard who delights in pissing everyone else off. Take Al Pacino's character in Scent Of A Woman. Sure he's a blind alcoholic, but you can only cut him so much slack. The Green Goblin was evil but at least he didn't reveal to everyone that his brother couldn't satisfy his wife properly. So cringe. Aunt May would have probably had a stroke if she'd heard that one and Lord knows Peter can't spare any more relatives.

Keep Things Under Control

Now, the most important thing you need to remember is to keep calm. Something will always go wrong at any family gathering, but it's how you deal with it which will define you and your family for generations to come. Let's role play for a moment shall we? Imagine your son has come home after fighting in Vietnam and he's struggling to adjust to ordinary life again. At the family's annual thanksgiving meal, your son snaps and points a semi-automatic handgun at you and your wife, before realising that he's gone too far and breaks down, sobbing as he hugs you tightly. Do you a) forgive your son and try to help him work through his trauma, b) throw him out of the house, ignoring pleas from your daughter or c) stuff a turkey joint in his mouth and tell him to grow a pair! If you said a, congratulations. You have a soul. If you said b, congratulations. You're Martin Sheen in the 1996 film The War At Home. But if you said c, then what the hell is wrong with you? Please don't waste good turkey.

Don't Piss Off The Main Attraction

So we've dealt with politically conscious daughters, talkative fathers, inappropriate brothers and traumatised sons. That covers a pretty broad spectrum of family issues but there's one more thing you must watch out for at any awkward family gathering and that is the turkey itself. Seriously. Don't piss off the turkey. Now, I knew you wouldn't believe me so I came prepared. Here's the trailer for Thankskilling, the best film about a killer turkey ever released... until Thankskilling 2 came along. Obviously.

The girl in the trailer foolishly thought that there was no such thing as an evil turkey and look what happened to her friends. Next time you buy a turkey for thanksgiving, check the packaging. If the words 'cursed' or 'evil' appear, then maybe go vegetarian this year. Gobble gobble motherf***er!

Make Friends With Strangers

Finally, if none of the advice from today's lesson works for you, then just don't turn up. Who needs awkward family gatherings anyway when you could just get some waffles and chill out in a roadside cafe somewhere. If you need an excuse for your needy family, tell them you met up with John Candy. Anyone who's seen Planes, Trains and Automobiles will instantly understand. How on earth Steve Martin managed to get home in time for Thanksgiving is beyond me. Between melting the rental car and cupping Martin's bum cheeks in his sleep, Candy was a nightmare from the get go.

In the spirit of the season, I wish to give a big thanks to all the readers out there who have bothered to stick with Film School Friday past the first article and I want to give an especially big thank you to anyone insane enough to genuinely follow the advice given out in this feature. Your exploits will entertain psychiatrists for decades to come. You are the future. Unless of course we get invaded by aliens who destroy the human race. It could happen. Seriously. So next week, let's prepare to get inside the mind of our enemy as Film School Friday teaches us how to invade the planet Earth.

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