“I simply cannot understand why a person utterly alien to my habits and the whole tenor of my life, a person who is quite unlike the people I am fond of, should come to visit me every day and have dinner with me. My wife and servants whisper mysteriously that he is the ‘fiance’, but I still can’t understand why he is here. His presence bewilders me just as much as though a Zulu were put next to me at table.”
It’s from “A Boring Story (From the Notes of an Old Man)” by Anton Chekhov. I think it might be because a combination of too many country songs, sitcoms, and romantic comedies have completely brainwashed me concerning the proper nature of a father’s relationship to his daughter’s fiance. He’s supposed to be concerned that she’s marrying someone inappropriate (or overjoyed with him and bond with him), not just annoyed that this strange person has suddenly shown up in his life. I can’t help but thinking that Chekhov’s view is more representative of reality, much of the time, though.
I think of sit-coms (and related entertainments) as being like fairy tales. They teach us about how we’re supposed to live, which is especially important in an age where most of us don’t have strong community bonds and can’t observe other families. And I think many sit-coms, sometimes consciously (Scrubs) and sometimes unconsciously (Friends) embrace this sort of model. And where they don’t do so, the relationships portrayed are often so horrible that we just laugh, because to admit any truth in them would be kind of painful (The Office, 30 Rock). But that definitely leaves a hole in our understanding of interpersonal relationships actually work.
On the other hand, most prose fiction takes the same easy cop-outs. So I might just be setting up a false opposition between the mediums. Maybe the real answer is just that Chekhov is totally the bomb, and could beat up Captain Kirk any day, but doesn’t, because he is just too cool for that. I still own’t forgive him for what he did to Mr. Garibaldi though. Stupid Psi-Cops. And that goes for Miss Cleo too. She’s the Bernie Madoff of Psychics. Speaking of which, I was reading that Bernie Madoff has caused all this anti-semitic furor on the internet. I haven’t read any of that. Have you?