Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Funny Guy's Fear

My children are dramatic.

And talented.

Daring Daughter accepts plaudits in stride, acknowledging them as her due. But Super Son is suspicious of anyone who compliments him. When someone says he's done a great job, he thinks they're saying it out of pity. When, at a recent theatre showcase, schoolmates loudly applauded the announcement of his status as "Most Inspirational Actor," he later asked me "Do you think they did it to mock me?"

This wears me out.

His latest psychosis bizarre behavior concern is that people only view him as "The Funny Guy." This is exacerbated by the fact that various friends -
horrors! - comment that he is so funny. Others pile on when they post compilations of cartoon characters on their Facebook pages and then label the pictures with friends' names to attribute a given trait they believe the friend shares with the character. Super Son has been named "clown," "someone who makes you laugh till you hurt," "a boy that makes you laugh," "your wildest friend", "the sarcastic one," and "the funny friend."

I was going to share some marvelous quote about stereotyping with you, but none of them really addressed this sort of thing. So I looked for "pigeonholed" and found a nice one from director Sam Mendes (American Beauty, Revolutionary Road):

Actors get pigeonholed very quickly, particularly movie actors. In the theater, one is more used to casting people against type and trusting that their talent and skill will get them through.

The more I thought about it, "typecasting" really describes the problem my son is encountering
(or thinks he's encountering - more on that later). So I dutifully searched for "typecasting" and found an absolute beaut by Bert Lahr:
After The Wizard Of Oz I was typecast as a lion, and there aren't all that many parts for lions.
This is particularly appropriate because Super Son is auditioning for The Wizard of Oz. I'm keeping my fingers crossed for him, but since he had such a big role in the fall play, he may not receive a similarly juicy part this time.

I've got a lot more to say about this, but I'm going to feed it to you in bite-size pieces. Consider this your first piece of a multi-part rumination on my teen's angst.

You may wish to invest in a bottle of Tums to assist in its digestion.


Lisa Wheeler Milton said...

I'm afraid to compliment him or mention he IS funny for fear of feeding into this typecasting.

But having this problem at a young age speaks to a strength of character; both of your kids seem to know who they are, where their strengths lie.

This is quite amazing really. But you knew that didn't you.

lisleman said...

does anyone really understand teenagers? these aliens that just show up one morning (afternoon) at breakfast. the odd thing is adults have been teenagers and yet we can't figure them out.
well never give up trying and someday when he's in his twenties he'll appreciate your vast wisdom.

Emm said...

What you said about theatre is so true. I am mildly and unhealthily obsessed with a certain actor in London and I wish he'd take more TV roles. But he doesn't because he took one major role and was very much in danger of becoming typecast. In the three years I've been here, I've seen him in four massively different theatre roles and I can see now that his plans to shy away from TV are working. For him. I still wish i was seeing him on TV on a weekly basis.

So, I think a coupe of serious roles could help your young man.

mommapolitico said...

It is interesting to watch how our kids see themselves and how it changes over time. Little Man, before changing schools this year, was contemplating whether he should continue to be the class clown (a fact unbeknownst to me!) or to "be someone else." He saw it as an opportunity to be completely different. Ah, if we could only do that as adults - wake up one morning and reinvent ourselves! Great post - teendom has it challenges, and we've only just begun to see them at our place. Good luck at yours, my friend!