By Anne Collier
I never do movie reviews. But Chef is totally on-topic for NetFamilyNews, and not because some families have foodies in them. It’s because there’s a scene that illustrates better than anything I’ve seen on film how sweetly and respectfully social media can be folded into parenting. Sure, as in this scene, it can be a little bumpy and awkward at times (like parenting, like being a kid), but when done with honesty and love, we can’t really go wrong, and we need to remember that.
The scene is about 30 min. into the film. And the story leading up to it is about Carl Casper, a divorced, devoted dad and master chef whose parenting is distracted and career threatened by a risk-averse restaurant owner. One night, a foodie blogger’s brutal review of his food, his menu and him goes viral on Twitter. Chef Carl – played by Jon Favreau, who is also the film’s writer and director – doesn’t understand what happened or what going “viral” means, so he turns to his 10-year-old son Percy the social media expert for help in what’s portrayed as the first undistracted, meaningful exchange Percy’s had with his dad since Dad “left home.”
The text can’t possibly do justice to the actors’ treatment of father and son (Emjay Anthony) roles, but here it is anyway, a perfect example of the sweetness that can come from turning the tables and letting our kids school us in the social media apps and services they love:
Dad: You know about Twitter?
Kid: Yeah, I have an account.
Dad: How does it work?
Kid: It’s cool.
Dad: It’s cool? That’s how it works, ‘it’s cool’?
Kid: You tweet on it.
Dad: Is that like texting?
Dad: Well, sign me up.
Kid: What do you want your user name to be?
Kid: You can’t just put Carl, unless you add something.
Dad: Then, CarlCasper
Dad: Someone took my name?
Kid: @ChefCarlCasper – is that cool?
Dad: Yeah, that’s good. [Kid spells it out while looking at screen, while Dad, worried and reflecting what he’s heard from his sous chef about social media, asks:] Is this for sex?
Kid: Eeew! Is that what you’re doing this for?
Dad: No, I’m not doing this for that. Someone wrote something bad, and I wanna see what they wrote.
Kid: Good…. $%@&!
Dad: Hey, you can’t talk like that. I don’t care if Mommie’s not around. I don’t want you cursing around here.
Kid: That review went viral.
Dad: What does that mean?
Kid: It means it got picked up and retweeted everywhere.
Dad: So all these ppl have read the review?
Here’s where we find out how much this conversation means to Percy:
Kid: I think it’s kinda cool.
Dad: I don’t.
Kid: No, I mean us doing this.
Dad: Doing what?
Kid: You know, just hangin’ out.
Dad: We hang out all the time.
Kid: No, I mean, like, hanging out and doing something.
Dad: We do things.
Kid: No, I mean mot just watching something and doing something [they’d done plenty of things that Dad thought was fun for a kid but without any input from Percy]. Like, hangin’ out and talking – learning things from each other.
Dad: Well, I figured that with you living at Mom’s house and me working all the time, that you like to do fun things.
Kid: I think this is kinda fun, you know, just figuring stuff out, like when you lived at home.
Dad: I miss that too…. Hey, listen, could we twitter each other when we’re not in the same place?
Kid: Yeah…. Ok, so first you click here, and you have to enter your user name. You can also log in on your iPhone. You click this button here and you post so your followers can read it….
You can see what’s going on here, right? All the “fun” father-son weekend outings in the world that Dad can think up can’t, for Percy, measure up to really “doing something” – being able to share his expertise and meet a real need of his dad’s. Now that is love. And over the course of the film, the kid support expands from extremely effective social media marketing on this 10-year-old’s part (which is completely plausible) to serious cooking support in his dad’s food truck. But don’t take it from me, see the film. I think you’ll like it as much as I did.
- “Why limiting our kids to 1-2 hours of screen time is ridiculous” at ABC News
- In The Guardian, a refreshing headline: “Relax. You are not the perfect parent, and it’s OK to let Johnny use the iPad”
- About a great project at an Australian university involving teens teaching parents social media (other teens’ parents)
- “For our kids and ourselves: Presence in a digital age”
- “The real goal of unplugging” and lots more on digitally related parenting