F is For Family: A damned yet hilarious insight into a 70s' middle-class household
Netflix original 'F is for Family’ dwells upon political correctness, emotional abuse in families and working class perils of the pre-Internet 70s' America. Bill Burr’s animated comedy stars himself as the protagonist Frank Murphy who struggles with his family and work.
Frank is constantly stuck between his hard-working fellow workers and the high-positioned executives of an airline company - Mohican Airlines. Frank is cranky and there are a LOT of things which can make him go haywire in a second, it could be a phone call during his family dinner or his child flunking his papers in school. If you are from a middle-class family then there are so many relatable elements that we laugh at even if they are straight out sad.
The show is set during mid-1970s' peppered with references to white supremacy, Vietnam war, male dominance and racism. As Bill puts it, ”When you could smack your kid, smoke indoors and bring a gun to the airport”.
Again, people finding dialogues offensive is understandable however, it is necessary that the viewer understand that the show is a picture of a different world and not the overly sensitive 2018. The same people laughed on the body shaming of Monica in 'Friends' and slut-shaming of Penny in 'The Big Bang Theory'.
This is also a key element in the show, the political correctness; it is a vibrant picture of a world without all the political correctness and sensitizing any form of expression. The humor in any person comes from dark places like emotional abuse, war and an economically deprived society.
Frank is a war veteran from Korea, he says in one of the commercial calls on the phone, “I don't need a $25 Bible to teach me about God! I almost bled out in Korea, alright!? I have met God.”
He has experienced terrible things in the world and now he has a family to feed. This is where his foul mouth comes in, Frank is a very abusive persona both verbally and emotionally; not being in a war anymore does not help him, he is not ready to let go of the person he was in the past. The classic FUBAR from Saving Private Ryan tells us more about war than anything else.
The chaotic, destructive and disturbing scenes of war shapes people into Frank - delusioned and foul-mouthed. The clinical term for it is PTSD; it is absolutely criminal to say Frank has PTSD but the show speaks for itself. Frank is anxious and furious most of the times, he is constantly put into horrible situations in the workplace and at home with his three children.
Children are indispensable elements of 'F is for Family', of course, but the 70s' children are different from the those of today. 70s' again marked an age of unappreciated intelligent kids and teenagers' obsession over psychedelic rock music. In the show, they are constantly fighting with their abusive father making him more furious. The imagination could be derived from “That '70s show” and the kids and parents divide is somehow relatable.
Frank has three children - Kevin, a teenager, Bill, 11-year-old and Maureen the youngest. Kevin is rebellious and uncombed most of the times, he is failing classes and spends time with his friends chilling and smoking weed. Bill is smart but often referred to as a p*ssy. His father thinks he is not capable of being a “man” and is often a coward.
So Bill is constantly trying to be a better son, whereas Maureen is her father’s “princess” and is sadistic and often mean to Bill. This lack of normalcy in their family comes from a series of emotional abuse from the father. Frank tells Kevin about his dream of going to a flight school but then he got married and had kids. The F in the Family stands for what F stands for in FUBAR(F****d up beyond repair).
F is for Family as a divide between 70’s and the modern day world
The Internet has somehow managed to keep all the family members away from each other. Television was a bigger deal before the Internet. Frank in one of the episodes says, “Hey, I bought a $700 TV so that I can keep my family happy”; the source of the entertainment brought the family together and a sense of joy.
Most of the family dinners at Frank's house are either ruined by a commercial phone call or his kid failing in school. And television is one main reason the whole family comes together to enjoy and take a break from fighting. This is such a strong nostalgic message to the modern day since most of out TV content is either available on our phones or ipads. And these gadgets are extremely personal to us hence there is no family time whatsoever. The olden days however inconvenient they seem, are much happier times for certain individuals.
Frank’s family is unique and a disaster but certain elements just connect with you. Middle-Class families make up more than half of the world and there is no way families cannot connect to it. But this divide is unique, there is the first mention of an answering machine and the family is fascinated by this.
Working class families are not happy most of the times and this is what Frank’s family suggests most of the times. The kids in the family struggle most of the time, they do not get enough attention, they are bullied, they are disliked which is justified by Frank struggling to keep a job as the economic frustration comes out on the kids.
There is an instance where Frank is home after a long day at work and Kevin has failed history, and he just dumps his whole day’s frustration on his son. Sue his wife says, “I thought you are gonna be happy today” and Frank replies “Never assume that’.
A lot of Burr’s work revolves around this, he once said on Green Room, “I call somebody f***ot not that I mean it, it is because of my upbringing in Boston”.
This is a classic example of how the 21st-century political correctness stands different from the 70s' society. This era was marked as abusive and oppressive to both minorities and women and male and white dominance was at its peak. The society functioned in a very different environment. Again, the show is just a portrayal of racism and sexism. Sue faces sexism and borderline harassment at her workplace. Frank is racist and sexist, he is scared of African-American neighborhoods and teaches his son the same thing.
There are a lot of dialogues not worth mentioning. Bill Burr is always confident in saying outrageous things about women and society in general. However, the show is a new way for the millennial kids to know what actual sexism was like. Political correctness is something that one has to keep in mind all the time now, but during Frank’s era if you're a man and white then you could say anything and get away with it. Things have changed drastically over the years and people are more aware, but these elements in a perfect context is a picnic of comedy.
There is a lot of reference to mental awareness in the 21st century. The media focuses on addressing depression, child abuse and sexual abuse as serious issues and a threat to the society. The 70’s had too much on their plate with the wars, the economic depression and crime, so nobody necessarily cared about something like mental health.
Frank is never going to win an award for being a good parent, he is abusing his kids most of the time and does not respect them when necessary. Frank wants to be an authoritative figure over his kids but he fails miserably, his kids are not only disobedient they nearly say they hate him. “Are you gonna leave me here with these animals?” Franks shouts at Sue when she is going out. Frank sacrificed his dreams for this family and he somehow believes it is overwhelming.
It somehow feels like today is a much safer place for the kids to be emotional, back in the days parents were struggling with work and sacrifices and barely had any time for their children. Now, fortunately, due to awareness and sensitization of certain aspects, parents are careful and conscious in their parenting.
Kevin literally says he hates his dad and Maureen turns out to be sadistic and a bully because of her dad’s excess love. Bill literally overhears his dad call him a “pussy” and happens to be under a bed while his parents have sex. This chronic emotional abuse is, however, less prominent today, what happens to all the kids when they grow older is a much interesting story altogether.