I have been watching The Wonder Years on Netflix recently. I remember catching an episode here or there when I was little and liking it, so I thought that I should maybe watch it again as an adult. There is something special to me about that time and I think the show captures it so well. It was set in a time when the world was changing an immense amount, but at the same time it captured the safety of community and the American family life. I have this tendency to assume that other time periods would be so much better to live in than the one that I actually live in. There is just something so alluring to me about the past. I also really like the time period it is set in because Kevin Arnold was right around the age my Dad was in 1970. I like to view it as an opportunity to see life like my dad did when he was growing up.
As I have been watching the show I keep finding myself drawn to the character of Jack Arnold. He is a tough man who doesn't show his soft side often. He is the cliched idea of what the man of the family was like then. He works hard, hates his job, and comes home and pours himself a drink. They often have him sitting in the living room watching a baseball game and drinking a beer. When Jack is doing this, the kids and Norma know they shouldn't disturb him. Even though Kevin knows he should leave his dead alone, he doesn't. Kevin thinks that he always knows what his dad is thinking and that he'll walk into the living room and have a special bonding moment with him. More times than not, the situation always end up going exactly opposite of what Kevin was hoping for. However, every once in awhile Jack shows Kevin a kind side and it's always so heart warming.
The episode I watched last was when Kevin and Winnie had broken up after their first real relationship with one another. Kevin didn't want to discuss it with his mother or anyone because he was hoping Winnie would realize she had made a mistake and would take him back. Paul throws a party at his house and invites Winnie for Kevin, in hopes that he'll be able to win her back. He doesn't. Kevin leaves the party early and heads home and decides he is going to hide out in the garage for awhile, so he doesn't have to face anyone when he goes inside. When he walks to the garage he sees his dad in there doing the very same thing. Kevin walks in and his dad can tell something is wrong and knows it's about Winnie. He just simply looks at Kevin and says, "I wish I could say it's going to get easier, but it doesn't." Jack then takes Kevin in his arms and gives him a hug in the way only your father can and lets him know it's going to be okay. My Dad could always solve my problems with a hug like that, whether he knew that or not and maybe that's why I loved this scene so much.
Jack's character is a special one. His role in his family is to remain the strong one, the provider. He is proud of his family and his life, but doesn't show it often. He wants to be able to provide for them, but doesn't want to let anyone know that he worries about it. He does what he has to so that his family can be taken care of, including working somewhere he hates for a boss he can't stand. He swallows his pride and asks his boss for a raise because the family is hurting. He buts heads with his daughter constantly because he doesn't understand her, but will always see her as his little girl and tries so hard to connect with her. He forces his family to do things that no one wants to do because he is holding on the the memory of when the kids were little and innocent and loved spending time together. He wants it to always be like that, but knows that it has to change. He is always there for his kids when they really need him and shows them the soft side that Kevin is always in search of. Even though his family knows he can be tough, they really all secretly see him as a kind and gentle man.
I'm not sure what it is that makes me enjoy his character so much. Maybe it's the complexity of it all. Maybe it's because I see parts of my own father in him. Maybe it's because I think all men feel like he did. Whatever it is, I think they did a great job with his character. The times have changed, but I think men still feel all the pressures of life the same way he did then. I like that men have an overwhelming feeling that they have to provide for the family and that they can never look weak or like they don't know what they're supposed to do. As the show goes on, Jack is able to show his soft side more and learns how to be more comfortable with it. They did a great job showing Jack figuring out how to be a father, a husband, and a provider. It might just be me, but I think in the background of the show, Jack grows as much as Kevin does through the series.
So all in all, I'm just trying to say I really enjoy The Wonder Years.