"Friends with Kids" is about the "with kids" part
Maria Aspan has written an article praising “Friends with Kids,” and I would feel inclined to do the same if I felt the film began to open up for new explorations what had felt foreclosed in pattern. But I tend to find that in many films that tip the hat to your preferences, you’ll relax enough in them to want to praise them for the new they’ve shown you, the possibilities, considerations, they’ve lived out for you. “What to Expect When You’re Expecting,” if, like the central characters, you’re comfortably mainstream, uninterested in having the intellectual edge on anyone and more just participating in the -- to you -- exciting trends/new truths manifesting now, does have the material to have you thanking it for what it did right too, for it fleshing out in a compelling fashion a whole variety of ways expecting a child affects you and your partner. But if the mainstream is loathsome to you, the film becomes simply garbage; no true explorations, just extensions into drudgery. Myself, I can certainly put myself in the frame of mind to consider New York’ smart-set elitism garbage, and dismiss the film as readily as most critics did “What to Expect.”
I’ll do so now. Noam Chomsky has argued that most of what should be discussed regarding politics and the economy, isn’t actually engaged by the media. He would have us see them, the members of the media, as obsessing over a permitted sliver as if it were all the world. I felt a bit like Chomsky regarding the media while thinking upon Aspan’s review. She found the film refreshing, as opening up new ground. I agreed that, sure, it might do that, but limited to the latitude permissible to a class that is otherwise comfortable when most of the innovative is off the table. I find this an era of foreclosed opportunities, an era so staving off it drives people into thoughts of ongoing demonstrations in hopes it might initiate a grand happening that would pull us into a grand narrative that would stop us from feeling immobilized. The only people I can imagine as finding this era, on the contrary, flourishing, as provisioning, as perfect avenue to explore terra incognita or at least the previously criminally overlooked, are people deemed no threat to the presiding directive – no growth! – of this era. They have to be people who get a kick out an era – regardless of how bad – for it’s enabling them. They have to be people who get a kick out of the fact that if they threaten to fire you for ill-service, color will drain from your face as you know that, once again amongst the unemployed, conditions might have worsened so this time you could be out for good. Kindness is their option, and one they’ll use; but they tolerate and even like that if they withdraw it, it could well mean oblivion for you: they are agents of a ruling nastiness and keep their weapons of you-destroy ready at their hip. They have to be people who like that despite whatever ostensible growth they’re incurring, none of them are especially distinctive. The point is to cow through betraying the daunting inevitability of the ruling class. Stick within the medium of expectations – something you’re so wonderfully entirely built to do – and you’ll communicate you’re impossible to dislodge, of being principally a member, not an individual ostensibly to be taken at his/her measure. You take one of them, study him or her, and you see his or her cohort, even if he or she distinguishes him/herself for his/her struggling while being studied in isolation. They have to be people who are comfortable with the fact that if you do anything truly notable and different, doom awaits you for going grand when minute variations are what’s called for; for imposing on your own what we’ve all agreed is to be so abandoned to the imperatives of the era that it seem beyond the human and under prerogative of God.
This must seem mad as hell, for the innovation the film explores is of two friends successfully raising a kid together, not exactly something not extraneous, right? Well, actually, what they foremost are, are a variant of the marriage possibilities readily allowed in a movie moved by the most mundane of Hollywood world-views, namely, already-discussed, “What to Expect When You’re Expecting,” with this movie, rather than former party animals who thought it cool to cheese-out their wedding in Los Vegas, we get the New Yorker preference for the cosmopolitan kept alive while a couple have their kid. What’s important is that, like all their other sophisticated friends, they’re finally down the path of having one.
Couldn’t they have just kept single, that is, not have a kid? Not if they plausibly wanted to seem as if they weren’t on some other path from their friends -- a very treacherous one. That is, it was once New York to be double-income-no kids, ’til maybe about ten years ago. And previously all that New York independence and sophistication was differentiating you from the hordes of common North Americans, but you were all in your own way expanding. But now that easy credit isn’t keeping them feeling of the same status as those post-wars blue-collars whose jobs were garnering more for them than many white-collar ones, now that the idea of having kids feels wrong to their financial situations, now that they’re beginning to feel out the possibility that they’re of the 99 % dispossessed rather than of the plump middle class, and that their historical role is not to determine what is essentially great about America but to show in their wreckage just how bad-behaving America must for a long time have been, the smart-set having kids has become a very different thing.
A grand culling has clearly been called for, and if you’re not feeling cowed, evolution has clearly distinguished you as its favored, even if ultimately only for your effectively humiliating its scorned. And you’re expected to literally breed the future, even if your role makes your prized offspring into sordid dumpings onto the poor. If you choose instead to not have kids, you’re wrong to the times for defying expectations others are finding themselves ruled by. Everyone, even the most rich, are best understood for their having surrendered – the prospering to arrogance, though an essentially false facsimile of it. Everyone is doing their thing, letting themselves be drawn into prevailing currents, and there you are standing apart, clearly with His will so manifest, believing yourself more special than God. The price you’ll pay is to be judged asocial, out of bounds but in precarious plain view everywhere you go, even in New York.