Last night I attended a screening of the film What To Expect When You’re Expecting. The movie is about what life is like for a person who must be forced to wait for the N train, while watching one R train after another go by. No, that would be a horror story and this movie is a comedy. The film takes its name from the bestselling book by Heidi Murkoff, which I highly recommend every expecting mother to have on her book shelf, and the film is about a group of women and their partners experiencing what it is like to wait for the arrival of a child.
So how did I end up at the screening, by myself, on a Tuesday night? Well, apparently, there’s been some controversy over the way dads are portrayed in the film. In the movie, dads get together at a weekly meeting called “The Dude Group.” They complain about their wives and children and make fun of one another, all while watching one child harm himself or get into disgusting things. At one point, the child picks up a dead animal and one of the fathers talks about his kid eating a cigarette.
Now, I’ve been a part of a few of these types of groups over the years, and instead of being offended by the movie’s characterization of dads, I identified. I actually thought the characters were pretty accurate. When dads get together, we joke about our kids and partners. It helps us keep our sanity. We also keep our sanity by sharing our struggles with one another.
Men typically have not been raised to become parents. As children, we were given action figures with guns, pretend handcuffs, and Nerf pistols. When we didn’t have those things at our disposal, we made a gun or sword out of the nearest item. Have you ever noticed that a boy can take one look at a stick and think, “Should that be a gun or a sword?” As boys, most of us weren’t given baby dolls at an early age. Girls, on the other hand, were. From an early age, society pushed girls to become mothers (whether they particularly wanted to or not). And for many, a maternal instinct developed over time. In contrast, a paternal instinct doesn’t grow inside a man; it is thrust upon him when that little stick shows two lines. This is why men often do not appear to be parental material until they actually become fathers.
The fathers in the movie let their kids get into things, because that’s how people learn about life. It’s also how we learn about being a dad. I don’t condone letting your child eat a cigarette or pick up dead animals, but those types of things happen. I’ve got a million stories of things my kids got into or did that they shouldn’t. That’s part of the dad life. We usually learn as we go.
To the folks that are upset, remember that it is just a movie. The movie is a comedy. Would you want to watch dads talking about sports or politics (or worse, their jobs)? No, we want to see them messing up. I want to see them messing up. It’s funny. Watching the Dude Group and hearing them talk helped me laugh not only at them, but at myself. Parents, we take things way too seriously sometimes.
All in all, I thought the movie was pretty good. I laughed throughout the film, mostly at the “Dude Group” and Elizabeth Banks’s performance towards the end of her pregnancy. The delivery scenes captured closely, although not fully, the emotions that one faces during the delivery. Guys that have gone through pregnancy will find humor in the film. Men that haven’t experienced the subject firsthand will probably not get this movie.
I did have one problem with the film, though, that left me sad, humiliated, and depressed. In walking away from the film, I thought to myself, “What am I doing wrong?” The problem I have is with Cameron Diaz’s biceps. They’re like the size of babywipe containers!