We Are Family, by Martha Thomases
The holidays! That glorious time of year, so beloved by People of Faith, who celebrate not only their respective religious holidays but also their prized Family Values! A love of family, they say, is what separates the Godfull from the Godless. Atheists and agnostics do not have family values.
Family is pretty much the definition of primal. Children are, traditionally, the result of sexual activity, which is something animals do (plants, not so much). Our relationships with our parents, or at least our mothers, define our existence, as mammals and as humans. We yearn simultaneously for closeness and independence, approval and self-reliance.
More recently, family is a social construct that facilitates pacing on property, so that parents can leave their possessions to their children instead of to the Church or the State. And when property is involved, so is greed, envy, revenge, and other emotions that make stories fun to read or watch (living this stuff is way less interesting). From the Greeks through Shakespeare, the Tales of Genji and more, blood and money make families tick.
Family values in comics are as wonky as they are in the rest of literature. Batman, the Punisher and Spider-Man put on costumes and fight crime to avenge a family member. Superman and Wonder Woman were both sent by their parents to represent their heritage to others. Superman was always finding distant branches of the El family (although he never found the Tebb-Els). The Fantastic Four is an exercise in dysfunctional family relationships.
We relate to these characters because we share these feelings, along with a jumble of others. Growing up, we love our parents and resent our dependence on them. We love our siblings and fight with them for attention from our parents and each other. We grow up and form families of our own.
And how do we form these families? We meet people. We date. We fall madly in love and in lust. We ache and burn with desire for our beloved, until we decide we can’t live without this most fabulous, amazing person. If we are very lucky, we crave not only the touch of this person, but also the company. We sleep together, and we eat together, and we have a home together. Without lust, there would be no family.
But family is more than those with whom we have sex, and some of us are lucky to be able to choose parts of our family besides a mate. I’m glad to have my dad, my sister, my step-mother and my step-sisters, my cousins, aunts, uncles, nieces and nephews. Random relatives surprise me, accept me faults and all. Chosen relatives do the same. I’m privileged to consider people like Bob Morales, Howard Cruse, Ed Sedarbaum, Lance Still, Lillian Baker, Pennie Ruchman, Rick Taylor, Liz Haase, and Rob Simpson among my family.
Best wishes to you and yours.
Martha Thomases, Media Goddess of all ComicMix, thinks her family values are more fun than those Pat Robertson espouses.