Screen: MTV

Handled With Kid Gloves

Finding Carter's parents don't parent, and it's driving Sarah bazoo.

Finding Carter is a teen drama, and like a lot of teen dramas, when it comes to the parents, it wants it both ways: it's fine for them to play a central role in order to amp the drama for our young protagonists, but when it's not convenient for our young protagonists to have parents around in terms of drinking or dropping by one another's homes at all hours or never seeming to study? The parents don't parent.

Unlike most teen dramas, though, Finding Carter can't really position Carter's parents as ancillary to her drama, because they are her drama. They are the people doing the finding after she was kidnapped and raised by someone else, then returned to them. So, it's a little too convenient that Carter falls in with a crowd of friends who are more or less left unattended (Gabe's mother died and his father is pretty busy being a cop and boning Elizabeth; Bird's parents travel constantly and literally built her a clubhouse; Crash is basically on his own), but it lets the writing do certain things, and I can live with it. What's becoming increasingly hard to deal with is the characterization of David and Elizabeth as parents, which when it's even present is downright weird.

I've complained before about the fact that the show keeps forgetting its central premise -- that a child was kidnapped and raised as someone else, by someone else -- or that it would have ripples, and I stand by that. I absolutely don't believe that David and Elizabeth wouldn't hover over Taylor and Grant every second, afraid that someone would take them too, that some grave injury would befall them. Maybe the writers want us to assume that they used to do that and a therapist worked with them towards acting a bit more hands-off, but we've heard nothing of the kind. And once Carter's back, the idea that they don't cling to HER like white on rice is absurd. Okay, she's a sulky little hipster who, at least initially, hates the entire situation and doesn't want to live with them; she's still a minor, she's still their child, and they would dog her shit nonstop.

And this is where the show really loses me, because it's not just that David and Elizabeth don't act like parents of a child recently re-integrated into the family after being kidnapped. It's that they often don't act like parents at all. Again, this isn't completely unrealistic per se, because a lot of parents try to be friends with their kids and get trampled on as a result, but it drives me nuts in life and it definitely drives me nuts on TV. The shit TV teens will say to their parents that would have gotten me no-shit slapped to death, I can't even believe it -- and my parents were not abusive. They loved us. But we feared them, and if I had come at my mother with "I hate you, get out of my room," you'd be reading this article etched on my headstone. Not that I didn't think it and not that my mother was sleeping with her co-worker, but Elizabeth's reaction is to back out of her child's room like a kicked dog. THIS IS A LAW-ENFORCEMENT OFFICER.

It's not the only issue in the episode, certainly, which features a sitcommy "Mom leaves for five minutes; house falls apart" Idiot Plot that makes zero sense (Taylor does all the cooking; David is the one who's at home all day, not that he does shinola to discipline the kids or even know where they are). Elizabeth has Louis Vuitton luggage, somehow. But Carter is going back and forth between her parents, negotiating a peace so that Elizabeth can come back into a house only her name is probably on the deed of? Carter "will let" David write his book if he agrees to work on their marriage, and she gets line-edit veto power over everything he writes? The achievement Elizabeth is most proud of is Carter not hating her anymore? Nnnnnoooooo no no no no. You don't have the "I want to work things out" conversation in front of ALL THE KIDS. You don't take a leave from your job (and your side piece therein) when you have no other source of income. You don't ask your daughter if it's all right for you to mention Lori. YOU ARE THE PARENT.

Again, I know it's an awkward situation and Elizabeth and David DO want Carter to love and trust them, and are impatient for that to happen and might make some poor choices trying to speed that process along. It stops bearing any resemblance to reality when they start letting her broker ceasefires in their marriage; when they act like cowed classmates to their other two kids instead of like parents; when nobody is ever grounded, flexed on, or told to watch his/her tone, or asked where they were all night or where they got the marijuana they're obviously high on or how the test went. Max asks that stuff; David and Elizabeth think they're raising cacti, apparently.

Everything else about the show that's unrealistic: whatev. I'm in at least until they reveal why Lori took Carter and probably as long as Max is on the show, because I love that dude. Carter's brattiness doesn't bother me on its own, particularly; I like to see her variations on a theme of tank-top layering each week. It's her parents' pathetic gratitude when she "lets them" do things or isn't a pouty asshole that I'm not sure I can take much longer. Parents of TV are allowed to want their teens to like them, or to not hate them, but what they've got to stop doing is telling the teens that and giving them a permanent upper hand. Think of it as a reality show, moms and dads! You're not here to make friends!

At least make Taylor weed the yard for coming home shmammed. ...You know. Weed?

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