Sunday, June 19, 2016

The Dad That Got Away

Last week TCM, Turner Classic Movies, showed Funny Girl, a sixties throwback musical. (There will be spoilers.) The Broadway smash/film is a  fictional take on the life of Fanny Brice, the Ziegfield Follies star.

The film and Broadway musical are highly romanticized. In reality, the Brice (Borach) family owned a string of saloons in Newark, NJ, and lived in Manhattan. They did okay. They didn't buy fruit at the stands in crowded Brooklyn, weren't a part of the lower class, colorful Jewish neighborhood on Henry Street.

Also, in real life, Nicky Arnstein, Fanny's true love, courted her for her money and cheated on her. He was a far cry from the handsome, proud, and elegant man in a tux, played by Omar Sharif, who would rather divorce Fanny than depend financially upon her.
Barbra Streisand, the ultimate funny girl

Who cares? Funny Girl, is so politically incorrect by now. Zeigfield, the man Ms. Brice most admires and wants as her boss, is the ultimate theatrical female objectifier, not that anyone would dare call him on it, turn of the twentieth century. 

And the plot is predictable. We know how it will end as soon as Nick confesses to Fanny that he is a gambler by profession. Fanny will be heartbroken, we're quite sure. Gambling stories don't end well. Nick will lose his money, go to prison, and feeling unworthy of her love, powerless to take care of her, not that she needs him as a provider, insist they divorce. 

When it happens at the end, she's devastated, sings the love song of undying love.

Oh my man, I love him so, he’ll never know . . . what’s the difference if I say, I’ll go away, when I know I’ll come back on my knees someday. For whatever my man is, I am his, forever. . . more.



At Intermission, a confusing film technique, but there nevertheless, well before that show stopper song and end of the movie, I found myself asking FD:
Where was Fanny's father? 
Abandonment is a huge theme in therapy, so many problems come down to it, and he's nowhere to be seen. Later, reading the story of the real Fanny Brice, I learned that papa was a gambler with a drinking problem, and he left the family. Took off.  

That implies not only physical, but emotional abandonment. It happens, though, fathers, even mothers leave, not only to shack up with other partners. But Dads in particular pick up and leave when they can't support their families. They just give up and assume, erroneously, that their families couldn't possibly want them around, that everyone would be better off without them.

And when they leave, they suck the air out of the room, leave a vacuum.

Fathers are irreplaceable. It hurts consciously for awhile, when they go, then less so, sinks beneath our consciousness, that need for a father, someone who takes us in his arms and tells us, It is all right, don't cry, and we try to replace him, even in adolescence, with other male figures, then significant others, often people who remind us of him.

Therapists are trained to look for it, that unconscious need, the reasons people make the choices that they do. We're trained with abandonment vision, seek out losses and how they affect personality, the ways we replace or cope with loss. Looking at it this way is looking at humans needing other humans, people needing people, as Barbra sings so beautifully in the movie.



When Nick gets out of jail, when he returns to her, having served his sentence, they both know that it is over. His pride can't handle her supporting him. They will have to end their marriage. They had a child, too. 

Father’s Day there will be people needing fathers who left, who didn't come back, and people who lost their fathers too young. We lose a big part of ourselves when that happens, too, when a father dies. 

FD turns to me after the movie and says,
"I just want you to know. I'll be just fine if it ever works out that you have to support me. I won't leave you."
So reassuring, dear.

Happy Father’s Day friends.

therapydoc

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