7/5/08

RVOD031 Each Child is Different

(1954, Educational/Short, b&w)

Riffers:

Mike Nelson, Bill Corbett, and Kevin Murphy

Give George some more beans.

Rating: ***1/2

In a nutshell:

Athletic male kids are okay. Everyone else is all screwed up inside.

Summary:

Wait.  Ruth had pink hair?  The things you miss in black and white...Miss Smith sits in front of a class of fifth-graders on the first day of school, her unblinking face frozen into a benevolent gaze, apparently waiting for the narrator to introduce her to them. Eventually, the narrator obliges:

Child number one is an athletic and popular young man named Robert. He does well in playground football games, gets along with his classmates, and goes home every evening to his loving mother and father. Oh, and he has a reading disability. Not that this matters when you weigh it against the popularity and the athleticism. Don’t worry your pretty little head about him, Ms. Smith.

Child number two is a lank-haired young woman named Ruth. She pauses, her arms full of groceries and her baby brother George in the stroller in front of her while she gazes longingly through the chain link fence at the happy children in the playground. Her mother died last year, you see, so now she cooks, cleans and takes care of the baby. Her father presumably works long hours, but during the painfully silent dinner scene the only five words he ever speaks to her are “Give George some more beans.” After the menfolk retire, Ruth secretively admires her mother’s old ring in her one and only daily moment of pleasure. Pity her, Miss Smith. Pity her, I say!

Child number three, a young man named Mark, is an amateur photographer with his own darkroom. He’s also got a gang of entirely obedient hangers-on who follow him on such adventures as “visiting their clubhouse” and “setting things on fire”. Spoiled, aggressive and (if the private darkroom is any indication) probably rich, so no problems there, Ms. Smith. Just let him do whatever he wants.

Child number four. Girl. Elizabeth. Attractive. But her parents fight a lot. And after they fight, father storms out. And after father storms out, mother goes looking for things to break. Things like Elizabeth’s toys. Pity her, Ms. Smith. Look, I don’t care if you used up all your pity on Ruth. Just ask for some of it back. She’s just a girl, for heaven’s sake. It’s not like she deserves
that much pity.

Child number five is a scrawny little girly-boy named John. He can’t even defend himself from a pair of bullies twice his size. He’s also far too timid to guzzle like his more masculine older brother; he prefers to sip his milk instead. Dinner in this household is also a silent affair, as father nods approvingly at his guzzling son while he looks down on the effeminate young sipper with an expression of stern disappointment. I guess you can pity him if you want to, Ms. Smith, but really it’s his own fault, the little pansy. Look, just seat him near the back and pretend he’s not there, okay?

Ms. Smith breaks in at this point to introduce herself briefly to the class, then slips right back into her eyes-wide-open coma, her smile frozen while she waits for the next short in the series. You know, the one where the narrator presumably goes on to let her know what she’s supposed to do with all these screwed-up kids.

Thoughts:

The ring her mother was buried with.You know what Mr. Narrator likes in a child? Testosterone. Lots and lots of it. The importance of height, strength and aggressiveness in a child’s development cannot be stressed enough. Any unfortunate soul whose external genitalia don’t produce enough of this vital substance is doomed. Those born without external genitalia are doubly screwed. Seriously, you might as well euthanize all such children at birth just to save everyone the hassle of dealing with them, the pathetic losers.

Okay, I exaggerate, but really, Each Child Is Different is sexist even by the fifties’ rather lax standards for such things. And speaking of which...

...um, hey, Mr. Narrator? Did you just find a fifth grade girl attractive? Ew. Please allow me to direct your attention to the court order you should shortly be receiving in the mail, forbidding you from coming within a hundred yards of my daughters. Said order also prohibits you from ever narrating a film in which they appear. You know, should they ever decide to appear in one.

Mike, Bill and Kevin spread good comments throughout the short film, but nothing quite matches the doom-laden dinner scene with Ruth, her father, and baby brother George. Apart from containing the father’s sternly worded gem (quoted above), it also contains Mike’s speculation: “George would grow up, change his name to Eugene O’Neil, and write plays far less depressing than this.” When father awkwardly shovels beans at his son, Kevin says, “Just thrust the spoon in the baby’s general direction; the food’ll get where it needs to be.” In a later scene of Mark and his posse planning to start a fire, Bill says, “Ah, the fifties. When supervision meant ‘Bringing Dad his martini and pipe’.” As an educational short, you can’t really call it wrong-headed because it’s not trying to educate you beyond, “look at these screwed up kids.” The absurd melodrama gives plenty of opportunities for mockery, though, and the Rifftrax crew takes full advantage.