Dangerous Universe

Part of Five: Show of Hideous Evil
          

This web-site is usually concerned with the worlds of science-fiction, and some of you may wonder why we're delving into the realm of what might be called non-genre t.v. But I maintain that Party of Five takes place in a world as strange and bizarre and as removed from reality as anything shown on the X-Files. In fact, it might make a good crossover episode: Mulder and Scully find themselves in a place that on the surface resembles our own world; further investigation reveals that in this alternate reality, everyone uses the same speech mannerisms, everyone talks constantly about their emotions without really saying anything interesting, and everyone shops at a J. Crew outlet store. . .

The Alpha Beings in this fantastic world are the pretentiously named Salinger family, a coven of affected mannerisms that in its own way is as spine chilling as the Adams Family. Underneath their unassuming demeanor, their earth tones, their wanting to be closer to free, the Salingers are creepy and kooky, all together ooky. There's Charly, a masochist whose unassuming appearance barely conceals a smug self-love for his own martyrdom. Julia, whose single-minded determination to further her own interests by any means necessary rivals that of Ernst Goldfinger; Bailey, a hen-pecked drunk, unable to enjoy his wealth because of his nagging, insecure girlfriend; and Claudia, possessed of the most irritating voice in popular culture. And lately there's Owen, who takes the egotism that is the prerogative of all young children to breath-taking extremes. In Owen, the legacy of his brothers and sisters has come to its inevitable, horrifying fruition. He is a black hole of neediness and emotional demands, the whining prince of all that is anti-fun, a creeping infection that devours all joy it comes in contact with.

Two things unite these characters and bind them together as a family. The first is that the Salingers are all irrepressible, compulsive drips. Let one of them have a problem, and they have to share it with everyone else; let one of them have a little fun, and another one of the hive starts crying that "they've changed." Misery loves company, and the Salingers prove that the family that whines together, stays together. The second is that no matter what problem they encounter, their stress level never seems to rise above that of an earnest college student cramming for midterms. "Oh, man, I've got a five page term paper to finish. I can't deal." "Oh, man, Charly knocked up a stripper. I can't deal"

I could go on, pointing out how the dramatic pause has not been so overused on television since the days of Captain Kirk. Or how in the latest season, the (ahem) "blossoming" of Claudia and the emergence of Oxy 10 sex symbol Jennifer Love-Hewitt as a major player have turned the show into Bare Midriff/Wonderbra Theater. . . But instead, I'll suggest an alternate "Party of Five," the show I would like to see, and the characters as I would like to see them. Bailey's appetite for the booze leads him into a never-ending loop of pressure, binge, regret, recovery, and then pressure again. In his drive to show up his brother, Bailey turns everything he touches into mud, his string of failed enterprises only forcing him further into the oblivion of the bottle. . .

Meanwhile, Julia's self-obsession and compulsion to dominate and control every relationship in her life eventually turns her into a raging sociopath, her actions many times verging on the criminal and dangerous, a chain of betrayals and shattered lives lying piteously in her wake. Her last act of destruction is, of course, herself. . . Claudia, a bundle of insecurities and grubby adolescent sentiment, is forced to enter her teens and the world of high school without guidance. As a result, she desperately scrambles from trend to trend, each new guise only making her appear more foolish, more silly, more worthy of the spite and mockery of her peers. Her lack of social skills and need for attention consumes all her energy, and her innate talents atrophy and wither even as her insecurity and self-hate assume monstrous dimensions. . .

Owen, also starved for attention and furthermore too young to understand the cruelties of life which have brought him to his current situation, is subject to explosive and destructive tantrums. His inexpressible rage leads him to the text book actions of psychologically disturbed children. He throws things at small animals and beats up his toys. His first week at kindergarten is a relative blood bath for his peers. . .

And Charly? Charly, mature enough to understand life's cruelties and mature enough to see he must take responsibility, is nevertheless unprepared for the awesome task ahead of him. Owen is always around, and as a child needs constant care on an almost hourly basis. Faced with the remaining Salingers – a sociopath, a drunk, and an eating-disorder waiting to happen – Charly finds solace in food. He eats. And eats. And eats. After breakfasting on two bowls of Frosted Flakes, he takes Owen to school and stops afterwards for a cup of coffee. . . and a half-dozen doughnuts. Eating a dinner of two Big Macs, an extra-large fry and a vanilla shake, he then finishes the remains of Owen's Kid's Meal, while his little brother is in the parking lot, chasing chipmunks with a wooden board he found in the garbage bin. . .

     In the world of "Party of Five," everyone can hear you whine. 6/21/1999

 



Dangerous Universe, Son of Dangerous Universe & Disaster Du Jour is © 1998-2017 Bert Ehrmann | E-mail, Twitter, RSS

What you didn't know you always wanted. :-P