Does Belle Have Stockholm Syndrome? Emma Watson Responds – and so do I.

mrsr-beauty-and-the-beast

As pretty much everyone in the universe knows by now, Disney’s live-action version of Beauty & the Beast comes out on March 17. And as readers of this blog know, my book My Rotten Stepbrother Ruined Beauty & the Beast (along with 3 other books in the series) comes out August 1.

beautybeastdisneySo I was really excited to read this interview with the new Belle, Emma Watson, from Entertainment Weekly, where she addresses the tricky subject of whether Belle’s love for the Beast stems from Stockholm Syndrome, a psychological condition where prisoners fall in love with their captor.

“Belle actively argues and disagrees with [Beast] constantly. She has none of the characteristics of someone with Stockholm Syndrome because she keeps her independence, she keeps that freedom of thought.”

– Emma Watson, Entertainment Weekly

It’s a great point, although I address the subject a bit differently in my version. In My Rotten Stepbrother Ruined Beauty & the Beast, Holden, the rotten kid in the title, enjoys needling his fairy tale-loving stepsister by pointing out plot holes in her favorite stories. With Beauty & the Beast, one of the things he mentions is how messed-up it is that Belle falls in love with a creepy recluse who’s holding her prisoner.

Yes, I’ve written a kids’ book about Stockholm Syndrome.

It’s all presented in a fun, kid-friendly way, of course. Holden insists that there’s no way Belle really loves this guy, and soon, the feuding step-siblings are thrust into the tale, where they become characters who have to give the story back its Happily Ever After. Holden is a lawyer who has to defend the Beast against kidnapping charges, and his step-sister Maddie is Belle, whose father is trying to deprogram her and get her to date other men.

I love that Emma Watson put so much thought into this topic, and after you see the movie, I hope you’ll check out my version of the story for a whole different perspective, with an unexpected fairy tale ending all its own.

Coming Soon: My Rotten Stepbrother Books!

I’m happy to announce that my new book series for kids has a publication date! The series is called MY ROTTEN STEPBROTHER RUINED… and will be available from Capstone Publishing on August 1, 2017. The books are about a girl named Maddie who loves fairy tales and her obnoxious stepbrother, who loves pointing out the plot holes in her favorite stories. His gripes are actually pretty spot-on… so much so that he breaks the stories, and the two feuding step-siblings have to go into the stories to try to fix them and give the characters back their happily ever after. It’s a fun series for kids around age 6-10 with lots of humor and surprises.

I’ll post when they’re available for pre-order, and I plan to do some events and live readings around the release. There may even be some chart twerking involved. In the meantime, you’ll notice some changes to this site as I focus on promoting my new career as a children’s author!

Here’s a little more info on each book in the series, along with the official cover reveals! The artwork is by an amazing designer named Aleksei Bitskoff.

mrsr-cinderella

Book 1: MY ROTTEN STEPBROTHER RUINED CINDERELLA

Holden points out the ridiculousness of a man needing a shoe to track down the woman he supposedly fell in love with. Wouldn’t he remember her face? And don’t a lot of women have the same size foot? What a bad plan!

Soon, he and Maddie are thrust into the story, only to find that the Prince is now engaged to a Wicked Stepsister, and the Fairy Godmother is a little miffed that Cinderella disobeyed the one rule she gave her and stayed out past midnight. Will Maddie and Holden be able to set things right, or will Cinderella remain a miserable housemaid forever?

mrsr-beauty-and-the-beast

Book 2: MY ROTTEN STEPBROTHER RUINED BEAUTY & THE BEAST

Holden doesn’t get it: if the Beast gets cursed for being shallow, why is he allowed to break the spell by marrying a total babe? If that’s the case, has he really learned anything? And how do they know Belle’s feelings are real? Maybe she has Stockholm Syndrome, where prisoners fall in love with their captors.

The next thing they know, Holden has become a lawyer in a fairy tale version of France, forced to defend the Beast on kidnapping charges. Maddie is a confused Belle, convinced by her dad to play the field and see if there are better options out there than a short-tempered monster who held her in his castle against her will. Together, they explore where beauty really comes from and figure out if Beauty & Beast were really destined to be together.

mrsr-aladdin

Holden thinks Aladdin has it all wrong. He can wish for anything, and all he wants is for a princess to fall in love with him? Lame! If he had three wishes, the first thing he’d wish for is a million more wishes. Then, a hoverboard. Oh, and having no parents would be great, too.

Well, all his wishes come true when he becomes Aladdin, and for the first time, he has no interest in fixing the fairy tale. Life with a genie waiting on you hand and foot is SWEET! How will Maddie convince him to give all this up so Aladdin can marry the princess and they can go home? It won’t be easy, since she finds herself thrust into the story as a camel, and her rotten stepbrother refuses to use one of his wishes to change her back to a human.

mrsr-snow-white

Book 4: MY ROTTEN STEPBROTHER RUINED SNOW WHITE

Holden has been messing up fairy tales so often that now Maddie can’t help doing it herself. She’s playing Snow White in the school play, and she can’t help wondering why the princess doesn’t just gorge on some greasy food and give herself acne to get her jealous stepmother off her case. Holden has his own thoughts, like how Snow White should be training the dwarfs in karate so they can kick the Queen’s wicked butt.

Soon, Holden is the Huntsman, Maddie is Snow White, and a major showdown is looming. Plus, the step-siblings are given the chance to break the spell that sends them into all these fairy tales once and for all. Plus, Holden gets to make a decision that could get his annoying stepsister out of his life for good. What will he choose?

* * * * *

Can’t wait for you to read these books. I’ve had so much fun writing them, and they’re already garnering rave reviews from my own kids. More details soon!

 

 

 

Here’s How We’ll Unite Again After Trump’s Election

trump-obamaTrump voters, you’re upset. I hear you. Let’s start there.

You don’t like all the fuss Hillary Clinton voters like me are making over your guy’s victory. You wish we could just accept things and move on, like good American citizens. We’re all one country, so why can’t we just come together for the sake of unity?

Well, I get it. I don’t think you’re all bigots. You’re not all bad people. And you’re not all stupid.

But let me make one thing very clear: you made a colossal mistake.

That guy you elected? He scares the shit out of some of us. He’s said hateful things about us. I don’t mean privately, in an email he never intended for anybody else to see. I mean openly, in his campaign speeches. In his party’s platform. And then he refused to apologize for them. He didn’t misspeak. He wasn’t taken out of context. He owns it.

I think you already know that. Maybe you just didn’t realize how scary it is for the people he’s talking about, or how much it hurts knowing that our own neighbors, friends and family voted for a guy whose election is sure to do us harm.

And make no mistake about it, it will.

Donald has routinely incited violence against people who disagree with him. He’s shown he has no regard for civil liberties. Remember Tiananmen Square, when the Chinese government mowed down a bunch of their own citizens because they were tired of them protesting peacefully? Trump thinks that was the right move.

So if you wonder why people are protesting now, I’m pretty sure part of it is that they’re terrified of protesting once Donald assumes power.

Like it or not, Trump ran on a platform of bigotry. Maybe you heard something else in there, too. I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt on that. You don’t even have to tell me what it was specifically. But to use a Seinfeld term, you can’t yadda yadda the bigotry. It was kind of a big part of it.

You know what the rest of us think when you assure us you’re not bigoted? We think you might not be bigoted yourself, but you didn’t mind the bigotry because it didn’t affect you personally. You didn’t have to worry that someone was going to pull your hijab off in a grocery store and try to choke you with it, because you don’t wear a hijab. You didn’t have to worry that INS agents were going to break down your door in the middle of the night and deport your parents, because your parents were born in America. You didn’t have to worry that your marriage would be nullified, because you married someone of the opposite sex. Well, those other things affect a lot of us directly, so we heard them loud and clear.

whiteagainYou know who else heard them loud and clear? Bigots. Actual real, proud openly bigoted people. That’s why the KKK endorsed Donald. That’s why there’s been a rash of hate crimes since his election, because bigots got the message that this was their victory, and it was now open season on anyone who was different than them.

You voted for Trump. OK. Now here’s the harsh truth you have to accept: Whether bigotry was a main factor in your vote or simply something you were willing to overlook, this was a triumph for bigotry.

Are you horrified? Good. Act like it.

Stop complaining about the protestors and start complaining about the spray-painted swastikas. Start standing up for people when you hear someone yell, “Get out of our country!” at them. And most of all, make sure you let your president-elect know that the hate wasn’t the part of his message that resonated with you.

Face up to the implications of your vote. And stop telling me that this is a problem with liberal elites not understanding the anger of regular Americans. Don’t tell me I need to understand someone else’s anger when they’re poking me with a stick. No. I need to stand up for myself. I don’t need to understand them. They need to understand that they messed with the wrong guy.

And please please please, stop saying that you want unity. Unity was Hillary Clinton’s message, and you rejected it for the guy who called Mexicans rapists. What you’re asking for now isn’t unity, it’s submission, and you’re not going to get it.

Why should you? Republicans in Congress and on cable news haven’t offered unity for decades. They’ve obstructed and refused to accept the legitimacy of the last two Democratic presidents. They’ve invented scandals, stoked up anger among their base. They even claimed the last guy wasn’t really born in America. (Now, to add insult to injury, that guy has to hand over the reins of leadership to the guy who led that movement. We’re mad about that, too.)

We didn’t start this. Republicans picked a fight because they didn’t like losing and they thought it was more expedient to cut Democrats down rather than rebuild their own party. They were willing to hold the entire U.S. government hostage to get their way. Remember the shut downs? Those weren’t fun, were they? The Republicans I’m talking about have been betting for years that Democrats were weak and we’d just roll over once we lost one battle. But it’s not going to happen. We’re not going to make this easy on them.

They wanted a fight, and now they’ve got one.

So, Trump voters, pick your side. If you stand by your guy, fine. But then recognize that you’re the enemy.

And before you make your decision, consider this: our side is going to win. There’s no doubt about it.

Clinton got more raw votes than Donald did, and in four years, the Democrats will have an even bigger advantage. Demographics are changing. America is becoming more diverse. Bigots are dying off, being replaced by more progressive and more tolerant younger people.

You can rail against it and win the occasional battle. But in the long run, you’re on the losing team. So stop asking me to join you.

Instead, join us.

You want us to stand side by side? I agree. So come over here.

I’m not coming to your side. I don’t feel welcome there, and unity can only exist if everyone’s welcome.

Over here, they are. I don’t care what race or religion you are, who you love or what gender you identify with, where your parents or your grandparents were born. I don’t care if you live in a big city or a small town. I don’t care if you’re disabled or you speak a different language. I don’t care about any of it. I’ve used the word “Republican” as a blanket term in this essay, but I don’t mean for it to represent all Republicans. There are some over here on this side, and I like them a lot. The rest of them are welcome to join any time.

I’d even welcome Trump to this side if he’s somehow visited by the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Yet to Come and miraculously finds compassion for his fellow human beings.

And I hope he does. I hope he does because I’m terrified of the alternative.

So there’s your path to unity. Unite with us against hate. It’s an important fight, and we could use your support. Some of our lives literally depend on it.

In the meantime, expect many of us to stay pissed.

And if you stand by your vote for a bigot, sorry to say it, but we’re going to stay pissed at you, too.

Forget Ghostbusters… I’m Really Going to Ruin Your Childhood

IMG_0418Worried that an estrogen-heavy Ghostbusters is going to ruin your childhood? Well, relax, because it’s not.

But with any luck, I will. At least, that’s my goal.

I’m excited to announce my new project, a chapter book series for kids called MY STUPID STEPBROTHER RUINED…

It’s about a young girl who loves fairy tales… and her obnoxious step-brother who loves pointing out the plot holes in them. He actually makes some pretty good points… so good that he ends up breaking the stories, and the two feuding step-siblings get sucked into the books to fix things. The only way they can get back home is to work together and give the story back its happily ever after.

The first one is called MY STUPID STEPBROTHER RUINED CINDERELLA, and there will be three more in the series. Woohoo! They’ll all be released in the fall of 2017 by the fine folks at Capstone Publishing.

The picture up there is my daughter Sutton’s vision for the book cover. I can’t quite say this will be the official artwork, although I have yet to break that to her.

So while things have been quiet on the blog front lately, that doesn’t mean I haven’t been writing. I’m having so much fun working on these books and can’t wait to share them with you! (Yes, there may be some chart twerking involved when the time comes.)

 

JTF is my BFF! (Jesse Tyler Ferguson Reads My Essay!)

jtfHave I mentioned that Jesse Tyler Ferguson is one of my favorite people? Well, he is, and not just because he chose my essay to read for the Modern Love podcast this week. He also did a great job of it.

Seriously, you should check it out here. (You can also hear an update from me and a teary interview with Susie as well. Get your Kleenex ready!)

Can’t wait to see JTF (I can call him that now. We’re tight.) in Fully Committed on Broadway this spring!

Yes, I’m shamelessly plugging his show. It’s the least I can do for my new BFF. Break a leg, pal!

* * *

Are you new here? Well, you can be my BFF, too, by subscribing to this blog, following me on Twitter or, best of all, buying my book! The essay was just a small part of my story. You’ll never believe the rest of the crazy, emotional jiggery-pokery my husband and I went through to become dads. (Just try to act surprised now that you know the ending.)

 

Why I Put My Family on Display

I’m ashamed to admit that I wasn’t familiar with the story of Ruby Bridges until my son brought a picture book about her home from school. For those of you who are also uninformed, here’s the TL;DR version:

In 1960, schools in New Orleans were still segregated by race. A judge ordered that a 6-year-old girl named Ruby Bridges be allowed to attend a school that was, until then, all-white. When she showed up on the first day, she was met with scores of furious, shouting protestors trying to scare her away. She went inside anyway and sat in a classroom with the one teacher who’d agree to teach her. Unwilling to attend an integrated school or simply intimidated by the mob, EVERY SINGLE WHITE STUDENT stayed home.

Yes, every one.

Ruby was the only kid in school, but she kept coming back, day after day, until the protests finally subsided and the white kids started returning.

rubybridges

Ruby Bridges at school (with U.S. Marshals)

When I first read about this little girl’s amazing life, I had several thoughts, including:

  • Ruby Bridges is a hero.
  • Ruby Bridges was braver at six years old than I will ever be.
  • Shame on those horrible people who tried to intimidate a little girl to keep her from going to school.

And lastly…

  • What were Ruby Bridges’ parents thinking?!

It’s hard as a parent not to have that last thought. Surely, the world is a better place because Ruby Bridges’ parents allowed and encouraged her to go through something no 6-year-old should ever have to endure (but which, sadly, at the time, was fairly commonplace). How many of us, though, would put our own children in such a vulnerable spot, knowing the harm that could come to them, just for the benefit of the greater good?

Lately, people have been asking that same question about blogger Kristen Howerton.

Here’s the TL;DR version of her story:

familycloseupbestforblog300

via Rage Against the Minivan, with permission

Kristen has a beautiful family consisting of her, her husband, their two biological daughters and their two adopted sons. As you can see from the picture, not everybody in the family is the same race. Kristen writes thoughtful, moving pieces about race and adoption, as well as thoughtful, moving pieces that are not about race and adoption. She posts pictures of her family and uses their real names on her blog Rage Against the Minivan.

 

Recently, a white supremacist group targeted Kristen with a campaign of hate, stealing and altering photos of her kids, tweeting racial epithets and other jackassery. Kristen’s followers rallied to her support and helped shut down the haters, but many other people thought Kristen was at fault for putting her family on display in the first place. You can read more here and here.

I was lucky enough to share a stage with Kristen several years ago at a Listen To Your Mother reading in Los Angeles. I was inspired by her family and felt a kind of connection to her as a gay dad. People give our family funny looks, too, and much of the world is built around a concept of family that doesn’t include a family like mine. I loved the fact that she wrote about it so openly, and I’ve tried to do the same with this blog. I’ve talked about being a gay dad, and I’ve shared pictures of my family, like this one:

ilovemyfamily2

There have been times that I’ve stopped and wondered if what I was doing was wise. What if some homophobes used my pictures in an anti-gay ad or on some hate site? There are prominent figures who’ve suggested that their followers should kidnap children who have gay parents. The danger from these people is real.

So what am I thinking?

Now, I’m in no way trying to equate myself with Kristen Howerton and the wonderful things she does on her blog, nor am I trying to equate myself or Kristen with Ruby Bridges or her parents.

But every time I’ve wondered if I should stop doing what I’m doing, I end up even more determined to keep doing it. I know that will lead a lot of people to judge me and even to question my parenting. I know that if anything like what happened to Kristen ever happens to me, there will be people who will say I deserved it for putting my family on display.

You want to know why I still do this? Let me do my best to list the reasons.

It does more good than harm.

I get messages all the time from people who appreciate what I do. I hear from gay parents who are glad to see other families like theirs. I hear from young gay people who are inspired to see that a happy family life is possible for them. And I hear from plenty of straight people who thank me for helping them to understand something that’s foreign to them, or to say how much they can relate for one reason or another.

Do I sometimes get hate mail? Of course. But it doesn’t really bother me much because it’s far, far outnumbered by the positive responses I get.

I dread the thought of my kids being the targets of anyone’s hate. But if my husband and I didn’t put them out there, they wouldn’t see all the love the world has to show us, too.

We’re on display anyway.

You think you get a lot of attention for writing blog posts about your non-traditional family online? Try just leaving your house.

Everything we do together as a family invites scrutiny — getting groceries, going to school, playing at the playground, taking our kids to Disney World or doing a million other things. Every time we go out in public we open ourselves and our children up to the possibility of critical glares and even outright hostility. It’s not posting online that makes us potential targets of the hatemongers. It’s just existing.

But you know what? Hardly anything bad ever happens. For the most part, the reactions we get are amazing. People embrace us, show curiosity, compliment us. Last year, a few weeks before the Supreme Court’s ruling on gay marriage, a complete stranger who’d been sitting near us in a restaurant approached us with tears in her eyes and said, “You have a beautiful family! I hope the Supreme Court does the right thing!”

The bullies don’t get to set the debate.

Plenty of people believe they have some good points to make about why two men shouldn’t have kids together. (Or why white families shouldn’t adopt black kids. Or why little girls should get shouted down for trying to go to school. Or [insert some very important opinion here].) OK, if that’s you, you’re entitled to speak your mind. But don’t expect to espouse views that I find offensive and dangerous without hearing from me in return.

You can be vile and bigoted, you can harrass me and level death threats from behind the veil of relative anonymity the internet provides you. I’ll continue to defend myself openly, with logic, reason and probably sarcasm just for fun.

Just get this straight: I’m not going away.

And I refuse to teach my kids that we need to hide from the world in order to keep from upsetting crazy people.

I don’t know if I’d have had the guts to make the decisions Ruby Bridges’ parents did, but I’m glad they did.

That being said…

I believe people are generally good.

I know there’s a chance the wrong people will find my blog and twist it around in some horrible ways. I’m sure if that happened, I would be terrified and furious and do everything I could to protect my kids. But I know something else:

People would rally to my defense. My readers, my friends and my family would support me, as they always do, and whatever dribble of hate got spewed my way would be washed away by a tsunami of love. I’d end up more convinced than ever that the world has my back.

I hate seeing what’s happened to Kristen Howerton, but it makes me think of the Mr. Rogers quote everyone always posts after a tragedy:

mr-rogers

via everyone’s Facebook page, ever

So I’m not going to focus on the bad people who were nasty to Kristen Howerton and her family. I’m going to focus on all the people who came to her defense, and I’m going to add my voice to theirs.

Lastly…

My kids think it’s awesome.

My husband and I have warned our kids that homophobia exists, but I don’t think they believe us. They believe in Santa and the Tooth Fairy, but the notion that people would be mean to someone just because they’re gay sounds completely absurd to them.

It’s not something they’ve ever witnessed.

A couple of nights ago, my husband and I were anxious to start story time so we could get the kids to bed. Our daughter was taking her time coming in, and we were getting really frustrated. We were too tired to get out of bed and round her up, so we shouted downstairs. “What are you doing?”

“Hold on! I’m making something!”

Our daughter is always making things. It’s what she loves to do. So we rolled our eyes and waited.

A minute later, she came running upstairs, with a big smile on her face. She had three post-it notes, and she handed one to me, one to my husband and one to her brother. This is what they said:

ilovemyfamily

I love my family. It came out of nowhere. Just something she was thinking about and which was important enough to delay story time for. I have piles of notes like that, a million little ways my kids show me that they love me and they love our family.

I know most parents have stuff like that. I’m not saying my family is any more special than anyone else’s or that I expect special treatment or whatever some wacko online might want to turn this around into.

All I’m saying is, I ❤ my family.

And I don’t care who knows it.

THEATER REVIEW: “Dada Woof Papa Hot” – Plus a TICKET GIVEAWAY!

Dada Woof Papa Hot Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater Cast List: Tammy Blanchard Patrick Breen John Benjamin Hickey Alex Hurt Kellie Overbey John Pankow Stephen Plunkett Production Credits: Scott Ellis (director) John Lee Beatty (sets) Jennifer von Mayrhauser (costumes) Peter Kaczorowski (lighting) John Gromada (original music & sound) Other Credits: Written by: Peter Parnell - See more at: http://www.playbill.com/events/event_detail/dada-woof-papa-hot-at-mitzi-e.-newhouse-theater-362492#sthash.FpkA3w5Z.dpuf

“Dada Woof Papa Hot” at Lincoln Center Theater. See more here.

I always knew it would take something special to get me to do a promotional post on my blog. It would either have to be something I wanted to write about anyway or the compensation would have to be ridiculously sweet. A few weeks ago, I got an email offering me tickets to see a new Off-Broadway play about gay dads by Peter Parnell.

Not only had I heard about the play, but I was a big fan of its playwright, who is probably best known to parents everywhere for co-authoring the children’s picture book “And Tango Makes Three” with his husband, Justin Richardson. Not only is that book a bedtime staple in our house, but Parnell has also been involved in two of my all-time favorite theatrical experiences, a two-part adaptation of John Irving’s “The Cider House Rules” which ran at LA’s Mark Taper Forum in 1998 and the book of the stunning stage adaptation of “The Hunchback of Notre Dame”, which I saw earlier this year at New Jersey’s Paper Mill Playhouse. (Sadly, it’s not coming to Broadway, but a cast album will be released this month.)

Would I be willing to see this show for free in exchange for writing about it? Sure! I’d even get a pair of tickets to give away to one of my readers. (That could be you! Read on for info.) I should note that I didn’t receive any compensation other than my free tickets and I didn’t agree to write anything in particular, so this is a totally honest review.

The show is called “Dada Woof Papa Hot”, and my biggest criticism of the show is of the title. It supposedly comes from the first four words the main characters’ daughter said as a baby (not all at once), and one of the dads jokes that they’re also the four words every gay dad wants to hear. I don’t know if I agree with that, but I’m pretty sure they are the last four words any grown adult wants to say out loud when talking to a Ticketmaster agent. (Except for maybe “Two for ‘Finding Neverland'”. Sorry I couldn’t resist.)

Dada Woof Papa Hot Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater Cast List: Tammy Blanchard Patrick Breen John Benjamin Hickey Alex Hurt Kellie Overbey John Pankow Stephen Plunkett Production Credits: Scott Ellis (director) John Lee Beatty (sets) Jennifer von Mayrhauser (costumes) Peter Kaczorowski (lighting) John Gromada (original music & sound) Other Credits: Written by: Peter Parnell - See more at: http://www.playbill.com/events/event_detail/dada-woof-papa-hot-at-mitzi-e.-newhouse-theater-362492#sthash.FpkA3w5Z.dpuf

“Dada Woof Papa Hot” at Lincoln Center Theater. See more here.

“Dada Woof Papa Hot” concerns Alan and Rob, played by the excellent John Benjamin Hickey and Patrick Breen. They’re a couple of middle-aged gay guys who’ve been together for a decade and change and have a young daughter. Don’t worry. She’s off-stage for the entire play, so you don’t have to fear that some cute child actor is going to make you feel bad about leaving your kids at home to come to the theater.

Rob is a career-minded therapist with a keen people sense, and Alan is an insecure, frustrated writer who wonders if he was cut out to be a father. They talk about their kid, marvel at the fact that they’re dads and gossip about the good-looking guys they know. I told my husband Drew I was going to say in my post that the characters reminded me of us, and he replied that if I wrote that, he would kill me — which, really, is such a Rob thing to say.

The couple befriends a younger pair of gay dads, Scott and Jason, whom they bond with over the many things they have in common. We also meet Michael and Serena, a straight couple who are a straight-up disaster. Alan and Rob are shocked to learn that Michael is having an affair. Since they had kids, Serena just isn’t as interested in sex as she used to be. Alan and Rob are glad that they don’t have that problem.

See more at: http://www.playbill.com/events/event_detail/dada-woof-papa-hot-at-mitzi-e.-newhouse-theater-362492#sthash.FpkA3w5Z.dpuf

“Dada Woof Papa Hot” at Lincoln Center Theater. See more here.

The play is very astute in detailing the differences between gay and straight marriages. Alan and Rob can be open about their crushes on other men, like Alan’s personal trainer and one of Rob’s patients. That’s something a straight guy like Michael could never do with his wife, which leads to a lot of pent-up frustration. But when two gay men lust openly after other guys, it’s all safe and fun… right?

Only, of course, it’s not. Soon, one of their new gay friends comes onto Alan, threatening to ruin both of their happy marriages at once.

Going into the show, Drew and I feared it would be another lowest common denominator act of pandering to the gay audience, full of gratuitous nudity and Streisand jokes. Yes, there’s a bit of gratuitous nudity, but Parnell is more interested in giving us our own “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf” than going for easy ticket sales. His characters don’t succumb to stereotype, and he doesn’t sell them out for cheap jokes, which is probably why I found them so relatable.

“Dada Woof Papa Hot” couldn’t be more of-the-moment. There’s a schism in the gay community about having families. Are gay parents selling out their LGBTQ identity or simply buying into the American dream? Much of Alan’s doubt about being a dad comes from the feeling that he was never supposed to have kids… but is that his common sense talking or his internalized homophobia? Ultimately, the play comes down to one simple question: Now that gay couples have the freedom to marry and have children, can we avoid the pitfalls of marriage and parenthood that have long plagued straight couples?

It’s a topic that couldn’t be in better hands than it is with Parnell and the cast. Between “And Tango Makes Three” and “Dada Woof Papa Hot”, Peter Parnell is quickly becoming the patron saint of gay dads, and I’m happy to report that his new show is well worth getting a sitter for.

If you’d like to win TWO FREE TICKETS to see the show, simply leave a comment below with the words “DADA WOOF PAPA HOT ME WANNA GO!” in it. (Sorry, I’m not going to make this easy on you.) Make sure you include your name and email address in the comment form, so I can get in touch with you if you win. I’ll pick one commenter at random on Tuesday, November 17, 2015, so enter by then if you want to go. You’re on your own getting a sitter, though.

Dada Woof Papa Hot is playing at the Lincoln Center Theater now through January 3, 2016. 

“Captain Underpants” and the Not-So-Stinky Same-Sex Surprise

captunderpantscoverHere’s something worth talking about besides the never-ending nonsense in Kentucky. The “Captain Underpants” series, which is widely beloved by children and widely poo-poo’ed by fuddy-duddies, went out with a major mic drop last week.

If you haven’t read “Captain Underpants and the Sensational Saga of Sir Stinks-a-Lot” yet, consider this a spoiler warning. In the 12th and reportedly final book in the series, author Dav Pilkey reveals very quietly that one of the major characters that kids have been reading about for almost 20 years now, will grow up to marry a man. It happens when the two friends at the center of the story travel to the future and see themselves with their future families. One of those families looks like this:

captunderpants3

“Soon, everyone had gathered together in Old Geroge’s studio. Old George, his wife, and their kids, Meena and Nik, sat on the couch, while Old Harold, his husband, and their twins, Owen and Kei, plopped down in the giant beanbag chair.”

And that’s it. Then comes another 86 pages of time travel, stinky gas and three helpful creatures that are half bionic hamsters and half pterodactyls.

I wouldn’t even call this a “twist”. If Harold’s sexual orientation was never mentioned before in the series, it’s only because he’s 10 years old when the rest of the story takes place. 10-year-old boys have about a million concerns more pressing than who they’re going to marry someday, so I’m not surprised that the issue didn’t arise while they were battling farts and whatnot.

Of course, I especially loved hearing this news because my family looks a lot like Harold’s family.

myfamily

I only wish I had been able to see that picture when I was 10 years old. It would’ve made the following 20 years or so a lot more bearable to know that I was going to have a husband and kids when I grew up. So the thought of Harold getting that glimpse of his future made me very happy, not so much for the fictional character as for the hordes of real-life kids who’ll get a chance to see something I never got to see when I was their age.

Because I’m a sadist, I went to the book’s Amazon page to see what reviewers were saying about this revelation. Not surprisingly, some people accused Pilkey of having a political agenda. I was about in mid-eyeroll from that accusation when I saw that the book also had a bunch of jokes about the GOP (“Grouchy Old People”) and FOX News.

The "GOP", according to Dav Pilkey

The “GOP”, according to Dav Pilkey

So maybe this was a calculated move on Pilkey’s part. If so, good for him. There’s always been room for controversial topics in middle grade fiction. Ask anyone who grew up reading Judy Blume. Ultimately, I suspect Pilkey didn’t make his creative choice for attention or because he’s beholden to some radical gay agenda. He did it because he knows and cares about his readers. He knows some of them will grow up to be gay, and pretty much all of them will grow up knowing and caring about someone who’s gay. A few of them will even go to school with my kids, and when they get to that part of “Sir Stinks-a-Lot”, they’ll go, “Oh, yeah. That’s like my friends’ family!”

Most importantly, though, I’d imagine Pilkey wrote the book this way because he knows his characters, and he’s probably been aware for a while that Harold is gay.

Oh, and it looks like George, the African-American kid, may have married a Caucasian woman, if that’s worth noting at all. (No one on Amazon seems to care, at least.)captunderpants5

The good news is that as I read the Amazon reviews, I noticed two important things about the one-star smackdowns: First, they made up a mere 8% of the book’s total reviews (which I know is likely to change if some Grouchy Old People decide to start a hate campaign against the book), and second, they’re all from grown-ups.

The kids who reviewed the book — the actual intended audience — mostly gave it rave reviews. 77% of them (as of the publication of this post) rated it 4 or 5 stars.

OK, OK, but how did the kids feel about the big reveal that Harold was gay?

It’s hard to say, honestly. Only a handful of them even bothered to mention it.

Pics reprinted from “Captain Underpants and the Sensational Saga of Sir Stinks-a-Lot” by Dav Pilkey (Scholastic, Inc., copyright 2015).

Clever Girl

IMG_5351Sutton: “Follow my lead… and succeed!”

Me: “That’s clever. Where’d you hear that?”

Sutton: “I made it up.”

Me: “No you didn’t.”

Sutton: “I did!”

Me: “I don’t believe you.”

Sutton: “Why not?”

Me: “It’s too sophisticated for a five-year-old to think up.”

Sutton: “I did! I thought I up!”

Me: “OK.”

Sutton: “You believe me?”

Me: “Sure.”

Sutton: “Dad?”

Me: “Yeah?”

Sutton: “What does ‘succeed’ mean?”

I Know Who Gets My Vote

suttonforpresidentMy husband was reading a book about Barack Obama to the kids tonight, and it mentioned that he was the 44th president overall but the first who was African-American.

Me: “Did you guys know that? He’s the first African-American president?”

Bennett: “So all the 43 other presidents were our color?”

Me: “Yes.”

Bennett: “That’s crazy.”

Me: “I agree. And they were all men, too. There still hasn’t been a woman president.”

Sutton: “I just want the next one to be a woman, like Shirley (sic) Clinton! Are there any other women who want to be president?”

Me: “Right now, just one. Her name is Carly Fiorina, but we don’t like her.”

Sutton: “Why not?”

Me: “Well, for one thing, she doesn’t think Daddy and I should be able to get married.”

Sutton: “WHAT?!?!?!?!?!?!!?!?”

Me: “Really. I told you there were people like that, right? Well, she doesn’t think two men should be allowed to marry each other.”

Sutton: “And does she not think a woman should be able to marry a woman?”

Me: “That’s right. She doesn’t.”

Sutton: “So she doesn’t think people should be GAY?!”

Me: “You could say that.”

Sutton: “That’s CRAZY!!!”

Me: “Isn’t it?”

Sutton: “Daddy, I think she would be a VERY bad president.”

Well, I know someone who would make a very good president…. someday…