Family misfortunes: film, books, games and more about dysfunctional clans | Culture


All happy families are alike. Every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way, Tolstoy wrote, and then there is Eraserhead. Often quoted such as Anna Karenina’s opening is the solid piece that David Lynch made his first terrifying feature in response to his status as a new father. But the feral child — as ever, poor pity Jennifer Lynch, who was born before work on the film began — is only part of a broader whim. The entire family structure is a nightmare – shown in the dinner scene where Henri-Jacques Nance meets his prospective in-laws. Mom screams Dad ravings In a dreary corner of the kitchen, a random, rigid grandmother sits, a salad in her lap. See our future. Notorious Chicken Service – “They are man-made!” – It almost relaxes. approx. Danny Lee

The stage

John Haynes and David Woods in Die! death! death! Old people are dying! by Ridiculusmus. Photo: Tristram Kenton/The Guardian

At 120 years old, it’s not that the couple on the powerfully named Ridiculusmus show won’t work together, but they’re trying too hard and can’t manage it. As their communication fades, the humor is at once racy and dizzy. I took my grandmother, and then in the early stages of dementia, none of us knew how quickly we could steal bits of it. I grabbed my knees and laughed and nodded, realizing the comedic tragedy of old age. A few years later, I see echoes of the show’s dysfunction in reality, as its themes prevent our family from working as I feel it should still; With my grandmother taking care of us, not the other way around. Kate Weaver


Jonathan Franzen Corrections.
Jonathan Franzen Corrections. Photo: Picador

Surely no good could come of Enid Lambert’s desperate attempts to get her family together for a “last Christmas” in Jonathan Franzen’s Corrections? Her three children suffer from depression in a variety of ways. depressed and recently divorced; Depressed, they were recently fired and now – somehow – work for a “warlord” in Lithuania. None of them want to go home. Not least because their father has spent his life abusing and bullying them and is now in such a state of deterioration and dementia that he is having hallucinatory conversations with his poo. But Jonathan Franzen makes us yearn for a happy birthday resolution. It also allows these people to love, and that makes the spoiled feelings in The Corrections all the more wonderful and painful. Sam Jordison


Family Romance, 1993.
Family Romance, 1993. Photo: Museum of Modern Art / © Charles Ray Courtesy of the artist

There is something profound about sculptor Charles Ray from California’s family of four, Family Romance. Holding hands in a row like anonymous paper dolls, they are a potential offering to a cookie-cutter family, except that they are naked. But the scariest thing is what Ray does to the scale. Toddlers who haven’t reached puberty are just as big – and strong – like mommy and pop. While the title indicates, from Freud, that there are more disturbing streams of Oedipus or incest, Ray’s work makes broader points. In place of the conservative myth about the patriarchal nuclear family – the supposed bedrock of society – we get skewed group dynamics and tacit struggle. Sky Sherwin


What's left of Edith Finch
What’s left of Edith Finch Photo: Annapurna Interactive

Returning to your childhood home is often a fraught experience, especially if your parents still lived there. But avoid thinking about the poor, cursed family in the magical realism movie What Remains of Edith Finch, who spent their lives arguing with each other before facing strange and tragic deaths. As the player, we explore the crumbling family mansion, discovering the stories of these sudden demise and the fraught family dynamic that surrounded them. To be fair, if you were living under the imminent threat of a strange death, you would probably argue with your mother as well. Likewise, McDonald

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