Letters to the Editor

If children are cursing, blame the parents; battle of the sexes on "Family Law"; since when is Jeeves an Internet character?

Published October 1, 1999 4:00PM (EDT)

Where have all the Eddie Haskells gone?



I shook my head as I read Karen Karbo's sorrowful lament about her lack
of coolness in the presence of her stepdaughter's friends. There are few
scenes more pitiful than that of an adult in
search of lost youth and acceptance among her child's peers. It seems
that ocean America is teeming with parental invertebrates who lack the
courage and the good sense to stand up for what they believe is right.

How can parents expect children to make the right decisions, to use
the N-word (no) when many parents can't bring themselves to use it?
To her credit, Karbo gets it right when she says, "The baby boomers'
Achilles' heel is that we need to be cool. We want to be mothers, but we
don't want to be the mother, the one who says no." Boomers need to get
over this silly obsession with being cool. Deal with it and move on.

The fact that Amber felt free to use the F-word in front of her
friend's mother and then punctuate her statement with a graphic visual
aid says as much about the mother's lack of presence as it does about
Amber's substandard upbringing. All in all, it makes for sad commentary
on the state of the American family.

-- Richard Morris

Eddie Haskell certainly could have been sure that
neither June Cleaver nor his own mother would ever have claimed to "use the
F-word as liberally as the hero in anything written by David Mamet" when the
kids aren't around. I personally am lost past the initial shock that almost
universally today, otherwise well-bred, extremely classy professional career
women, in senior management positions no less, swear like longshoremen in
public. If today's adult leaders can't hold themselves to a higher standard
(and believe me, our kids know what we're up to), how can we expect civilized
behavior from our kids?

-- Robert Maistros

Ashburn, Va.

I don't think Karen Karbo quite understood the dynamics happening at her
stepdaughter's birthday party. Amber was flirting with you. It was
your "cool mom"
test. My guess is that she was trying to make you laugh, inviting you to be
more than a cake-serving, interloping stepmom. Study the comic timing of
the seemingly offhand remark -- it popped out of her mouth just as you
plopped truffle cake on her plate! She offered up an icebreaker, and did
you flirt back (a shriek, some eye widening, a bit of laughter, for God's
sake), thrilled at her audacity in using bad language just for you? No. You
ignored the brave child.

And you failed the cool mom test.

The only question lingering in my mind is: What would your mom have done at
the party? Sounds like she was way ahead of her time.

-- Roz Hawley


Joyce Millman's review of "Family Law" fascinated me; having watched the
premiere, I couldn't help but wonder how a show with such a fundamentally
ludicrous premise -- a husband-and-wife law firm on the splits, where one
spouse literally steals the entire firm (lock, stock and client list)
out from under the other's nose, virtually overnight, without the wronged
party even having the tiniest whiff that something was amiss until she
walks into the freshly emptied room -- ever made it on the air.

But apparently this was a mere device to usher in the real raison d'etre of
the show: the gleeful embrace of naked misandry writ as uplifting
empowerment. Can anyone imagine a network television program in 1999
with a male character hiring a divorce lawyer who promises not only to win,
but to leave the soon-to-be-ex broken and whimpering on the carpet?
Or hiring an attorney whose self-professed qualifications for the job are 1) "I hate
women", and 2) "I play very dirty"?

It makes perfect sense, though, in the world of "Family Law," since there are
no good men. Every male character is either malignant, sleazy or stupid,
or at the least weak and hopelessly confused. Even the male children are
faulted -- when the 11-year-old son of the addict mother acts out in anger
at mom's attempts to regain custody (after abandoning her children for her
habit) by leaving a rock of crack cocaine within temptation's reach, he is accused of
being (gasp!) "childish."

Indeed, the only "acceptable" males in the premiere episode are either
hunks to be ogled, or sources of much-needed cash. The lone male attorney
who is accepted into the ranks of the newly reconstituted firm of Holt &
Associates makes the cut because he is both -- first mistaken for a beefy moving
man (and summarily ogled), then accepted, albeit grudgingly, because even
though he is a sleazy personal injury attorney who does commercials
advertising his services, the firm will get a bite of his sizeable, um,

The underlying message of the show isn't even underlying: "Family Law"
announces in bold and certain terms that Men are Scum -- except for the
ones we need for cash or sex. As a signpost of the popular Zeitgeist, it
sends a chilling message: Payback may be a bitch, guys, but wait till you
meet her lawyer.

-- C. Spector

Nice married guys


Why "J.M. Fitzroy" -- who lives and loves under another name -- listened
to that pathetic loser for as long as she did amazes me. As a single
man, let's just say I'm embarrassed for my half of the species.

-- Erik Milstone

St. Petersburg, Fla.

Fitzroy states, "Married men have a fantastic ability,
better even than journalists, to detach themselves from
reality as if they were not participants in life." On
finishing her story, I found this claim highly ironic.
I'd wager that it applies to her much more aptly than it
does to most married men, particularly when she is not
acting as a journalist. Rationalization, projection,
self-denial: She needs to reread that article and focus
those psychoanalytical tactics on herself (objectively this
time). At least one of us has learned something indeed.

-- Michael W. Anderson

Alameda, Calif.

Internet icons on parade?


Sure, maybe "a lot more kids will know who Jeeves is" after the Macy's
Thanksgiving Day Parade -- but if Janelle Brown's article is any indication,
they will remain unacquainted with the stalwart butler's creator, the
British writer P.G. Wodehouse, and his hilarious evocations of 1920s
upper-crust Britain. This is unfortunate, since Wodehouse's Jeeves stories,
many written during the first third of this century, stand as
masterful examples of the use of the English language in comic writing and,
as such, transcend their era. For anyone who can appreciate the idea of
highbrow (or maybe just "arched brow") literature laced with howl-inducing
farce, I advise the immediate acquisition of "Right Ho, Jeeves." See if it
isn't one of the funniest books you've ever read, and see if you do not
return to it and the other Jeeves stories again and again.

-- John Mason

Austin, Texas

Is this what we are to expect of the cyber age: the rapid oblivion of the
culture of the printed word? Janelle Brown should at least do her homework. Even the
inimitable Reginald Jeeves can be found on the Internet.

-- Mark Stoll

Lubbock, Texas

Maslin bails, critics rail



I am sad to hear Janet Maslin is leaving the Times.
When I read a movie review, I want three things: some prediction of whether I
will enjoy the movie being reviewed, guideposts by which to interpret and
respond to the movie and good, intelligent writing. In my experience, only
the New York Times provides all of these; in fact, only the Times provides
any of these. I really appreciate Maslin's willingness to judge a movie in terms of
its own ambitions, and not by narrow snobbish or populist taste: If it's an
art movie, does it succeed in pushing our boundaries and taking us to a place
we've never been? If it's a big, dumb action movie, does it succeed in giving
us a rush and getting stuff blowed up good, real good? Naturally, there are
moments when I disagree with her taste ("Titanic" and "Face/Off" as two of the
top 10 films of 1997?), but I have found her reviews to be extremely
helpful and perceptive.

-- Aaron Hertzmann

Buchanan, McCain go head-to-head


Jake Tapper, though in a distinct minority as a member of the Fourth
Estate willing to call Buchanan for the bigot he obviously is, could
easily have pointed out still more ironies. Though Nixon indeed thought
that Buchanan was a bit far out from reality on the race issue, it was
Nixon who sent his errand boy to "count the Jews at Justice," and who
blew minority voters off with "They don't vote for us anyway." And it
was Buchanan who wrote the words dutifully read by the First Idiot in
that German cemetery: "The S.S. were victims, too."

-- Frank Smith

Bluff City, Kan.

Once again, Buchanan has shown himself to be a bully, a bigot and an
embarrassment. No sensible American should regard him as anything but a
joke. Unfortunately, there are enough of his type rattling around in the
body politic to make things scary. Sen. McCain has nothing to apologize
for. It is about time someone of his stature took on this loudmouthed
bigot. As for painting himself as a victim now -- isn't that always the case
when you call a bully's bluff?

-- Al Schlaf

Des Moines, Iowa

Political circus


In Micah L. Sifry and Doug Ireland's article, there are six different instances
where someone is speaking about Trump, or on his behalf, and in each case the source is
unnamed. The article included descriptors such as "one of the Donald's
political consultants," "a Trump advisor," "a non-Washington counselor"
and "the top executive of one of Trump's companies." Why isn't anyone
willing to speak on the record about their association with Trump? With so
many unnamed spokespersons, it leads me to wonder: Is "the Donald" running a one-man

-- Mike Tronnes


Murky future for tax cuts


At a time when Americans are finally realizing that the Social Security
program has been raped by past administrations and that the books
have been cooked by the Unified Budget Act, for the administration
to veto an across-the-board tax cut is unconscionable! The targeted tax
cuts that the administration is pushing does not grant relief to the right
people. As a late-40s baby boomer with no kids at home, I am a member
of the most highly taxed group of Americans, and Clinton's tax proposal gives
this group no help. This group must try to make up the
shortfall for retirement years created by the abuse of SSA funds.. We will
probably be dependent on the government without some relief from excessive
taxation. I hope the plight of upper 40s empty nesters is examined more closely.

-- Dave Atkins

Pleasant Hope, Mo.

If we leave the money in Washington,
that's something like hiring rats to guard the cheese. The
thing to do is go for the flat tax with a generous standard
exemption, so that the people at the bottom get to keep their money.
If they can do it fast enough, Y2K will become a non-problem for
millions of people -- and the IRS.

-- Jerome C. Borden

Antelope, Calif.

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