One of my good friends told me an adage her mother shared with her about parenting: “Parenting is a tricky business, because if I do my job correctly, I become obsolete.” The longer I’ve thought about that tidbit, the more I realize it is true. The whole job of a parent is to raise a child to be a contributing member of the human race, to know how to support herself, to be a good person. That job never really stops, but there does come a time when the child starts making her own decisions, and mom and dad just have to watch. The parents in this film are faced with that problem: watching their children make a choice that the parents don’t agree with.
Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner explores several themes–bigotry, love, parenting–yet it doesn’t get preachy. Sometimes movies force the moral: the cadre of teen self-esteem films comes to mind here. But even at the end, as Spencer Tracy launches into his decision of whether or not his carefree white daughter can marry the likes of a successful black doctor, I didn’t feel I was being clobbered with a message of tolerance, nor did it feel like Tracy was asking for his daughter to settle.
Favorite part of the movie? When Katharine Hepburn disposes of her gallery employee. Classic ascerbic delivery that made her so much fun to watch in The Philadelphia Story.
Sidney Poitier’s performance, of course, was superb. Having watched To Sir, With Love a couple weeks ago, I enjoyed his portrayal of a nervous boyfriend more than his demanding teacher. The only problem I had–and perhaps this is really the message about parenting more than anything else–is that Poitier is supposed to be 37 years old. Yet he is scared to tell his parents he plans to marry a white girl. Is that realistic? I’m only five years away from 37, and as I muse over marriage prospects, I guess I would be scared to death if I was to try and marry outside my religious culture. Not quite the same as race, but the same idea is there.
The hardest part of parenting, I would suspect, is watching a child make a choice and trusting she knows what she’s doing. That can’t be easy. And while parents–and teachers–eventually become obsolete to a point, their influence and lessons do not. They become the voices in our head that guide us, argue with us, and help us make those tough choices.
One thought on “#99 Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner?”
Had you experienced American life in the early 60’s you would have no trouble empathizing with Poitier’s nervousness. >>My wife is Japanese, I’m of European decent, and I was the one who was “coming to dinner” in Japan. Fortunately, it wasn’t as big a deal for us (on either side of the ocean) as compared to mixed marriages in the USA forty or fifty years ago.>>As a father of two young adult women – one of whom is married – I can say it isn’t easy. But at some point a parent needs to realize they’ve done their part and it is time for their child turned adult to make their own choices. I feel my daughters turned out just fine and make good choices.>>We all like that movie a lot.