“I need some parenting advice—I wonder what Ben Affleck can teach me,” said no one ever
Ben Affleck has been in the collective consciousness for a very long time—we’re coming up on 4 decades of his work in Hollywood and all its related gossip and drama. He’s been okay. He’s been fine. Yes, Good Will Hunting is still great. Yes, we do want to know about any and all interactions with Jennifer Lopez, plus pictures. Duh. And recently? We might have been coming around to him again.
And then we read this new Wall Street Journal interview and learn that his deepest insights on parenting sound like they’re taken straight from a crappy out-of-print 1950s manual called Rearing Your Strapping Boys Into Men Who Don’t Cry.
Let’s cut to the worst part of the interview, which comes during a discussion of his latest movie, The Tender Bar, which is a memoir about a boy who finds his father figures in a Long Island bar after the relationship with his own dad crumbles.
The Wall Street Journal quotes a line from the original book by J.R. Moehringer, “To be a man, a boy must see a man.” And Affleck replies with this:
“It’s important to have two parents for the rearing and upbringing of a child. The most important thing to me is to be a good father. Boys need to be taught. How to behave, how to conduct yourself. What your values should be. The ways my father did that for me are really meaningful—as are the ways in which he was absent. So, I felt like in a lot of scenes I was talking to my younger self.”
Deep breath. Long exhale. That viewpoint is older than the half-can of tomato paste in our fridge.
Okay, so right off the top, we want to acknowledge that Ben is wrong. Thinking that it’s important to have two parents “rear” a child is more outdated than AOL free trial discs. Single parents, whether by choice or not, are perfectly capable of doing a bang-up job, and we’d list all of the successful, healthy humans who were raised by one person but we don’t have the time, room, or resources. Here, we just Googled it for you, but know that the list goes from Adele to Jay-Z.
Next problem: no, boys don’t need a father to be taught how to be a good person. Just like girls don’t need a mom to be taught how to be a good person. Did you hear that collective UGHHHHHHH? That was all of the queer parents in the whole world making an exhausted sound because they are really tired of explaining this same thing to us over and over again, and getting out the same studies and making the same points.
Do boys generally need male role models? There’s less good research on that. We do know that having an involved father helps kids for sure — but the gender of the parent or the kid in that scenario doesn’t seem to matter. Neither do genetics or legal status — kids can benefit from uncles and family friends and other role models just fine. In fact, the new movie in which Affleck plays a father figure to a young boy is centrally about how your father figure doesn’t have to be your dad. That. Is. The Point. Of. The. Movie.
In fewer words: we don’t need Ben Affleck’s prehistoric parenting advice that’s filled with misconceptions proven wrong by decades of science. But yes please do tell us if you get engaged to J-Lo.
There’s hope, though. Later in the interview, Affleck does a deep introspective dive into how many mistakes he’s made in life and how he’s always growing and evolving.
“There’s a lot that I would want my younger self to understand,” he says. “Things I wish I had done differently, and they’re rooted in that instinct to look at my past and think, I wish I could have avoided this painful event. I wish I could have not caused someone else pain. I wish I had understood better the nature of what was difficult about life for me. I wish I did not have to learn some lessons the hard way.”
We love that. We hope that you see the point of view of all the amazing single parents and queer parents out there and revise your thoughts on parenting, which are more outdated than low-rise jeans (or high-rise jeans? We’ve lost track, honestly). In return, we’ll dig up that DVD of The Town, which is a really, really good movie and quite underrated and somewhere in our basement.