Each Wednesday in What Memes Mean, Kirk Bozeman questions the significance, humor, and subtexts of viral videos, memes, and other Internet fads.
If you haven’t seen this video yet, you can view it here. Please (sincerely) be warned, the language is very, very crass.
I’m not a parent, so I’m a little unsure how to approach this – parenting is the most notorious of all subjects in which the uninitiated give unsolicited advice. And I’ve also (obviously) never had a daughter who consistently libeled me through social media and tried to hide it–a situation which is the root cause of the video above. In the clip, the girl’s father – in a strange, albeit creative, response – sets up a camera, reads his daughter’s latest rant to the world (in order to make a point), answers her, and then proceeds to destroy her laptop (which he had purchased for her, so technically it’s his to destroy)… with a handgun.
Most of the responses to this vid which I’ve heard have been negative, people taking issue with the way the situation was dealt with or the seeming indulgence of the parent in dealing with it. But I’ve also heard some positive responses, all unanimously centering on one idea: “Now this daughter knows her father isn’t all talk, he means business!” Further, if any of the negative responders made a positive note at all, it was something along those lines: “At least he actually did something.”
Much has been made about our “wuss culture”, and these positive responses seem to have this in mind. Many feel we are in an anti-dodgeball, grade-inflating, no-whippin’ era, a time where we coddle the young and tell them that their every move should be praised, ignoring their misbehaviors for the sake of inflated self-esteem and causing permanent damage to their imminent adulthood. This stereotype wouldn’t exist if there wasn’t some reality in it, which I believe is why the video rings true for many viewers.
Evidently people are tired of a culture of kid-coddling. We don’t want our children to grow into entitled, spoiled adults, having no work ethic and unable to handle conflict or failure, and we, in part, blame the parents and teachers without backbone who refuse to challenge and discipline.
And I see no problem with this as an idea, but the problem I do have is this: our culture as a whole doesn’t seem at all sure about how to even begin to go about fixing the issue, this video being case-in-point. I can think of a number of completely legitimate, tough-love style ways a parent could deal with such a situation that doesn’t involve passive retaliation, potential humiliation, and handguns. This conversation on how to solve the problem of wuss culture desperately needs to be pushed forward. (Part of me wants to say it’s simply an pure issue of moral decay — bravery and self-control are issues of morality, mainly — but again, more conversation.)
And as a side note, remember that the anti-dodgeball culture is itself a backlash against things like Columbine and cutting. It’s a desire to protect kids from bullying and abuse, and comes from a legitimate aspiration for children to grow up with a healthy self-image. What may have become coddling started as basic parental protection, and should never be completely abandoned.
The virality of this video is evidence that we are tired of raising children to become a wuss culture, but that we have no idea how to go about fixing it. Hopefully this is a gap the church can step into — we, frankly, ought to be some of the best out there at this sort of thing.