April 28, 2007
Alec Baldwin and his daughter, Ireland.
A special day places the spotlight on the sort of parenting skills associated with your average celebrity, writes Raymond Gill.
DID YOU KNOW that last Wednesday was an important national day? Not Anzac Day. That's fine and all. Soldiers and stuff, but, you know, time to move on.
More importantly, it was also the day marked in countries around the world as Parental Alienation Awareness Day. To be more specific it was the Parental Alienation and Hostile Aggressive Parenting Awareness Day (PA-HAPAD).
It may sound like some kind of rights group invented by a scriptwriter for the purposes of an emotionally manipulative and politically worthy movie of the week, but no, this is real life founded by the appropriately named Sarvy Emo in the US - obviously.
Parental Alienation is a condition considered by the Parental Alienation Awareness Association to be a form of child abuse whereby children - whatever their age, even 58 - have been emotionally manipulated by one parent to get at another. This is the case where one of their (divorced or divorcing) parents is a selfish, manipulative, lunatic - so that accounts for statistically 90 per cent of all divorces.
In the US the heartbreak this syndrome causes runs particularly deep, because - as we know from TV and movies - it deprives Americans the inalienable right to blubber: "Daddy/Mommy I Looove You!!!!" each time they get into the Hummer to hit the shopping mall.
PA-HAPAD in Australia this week was, according to http://www.parental-alienation-awareness.com, marked with "posting flyers and putting advertisements in local papers" while, in Canada, activists blanketed a fence in Yellowknife "by hanging three plywood signs that read: Stop Parental Alienation".
In the US it was a much, much bigger deal as victims' stories of PA syndrome were unleashed across the media.
This second annual PA-HAPAD might not have the attention it deserved if not for the Alec Baldwin incident last weekend when the actor called his 11-year-old daughter Ireland a "thoughtless little pig" in a phone message that you can now download as a ringtone on your phone, or hear as the really cool "Alec Baldwin Father of the Year Mega-Mix" on www.liquidgeneration.com.
As the PAA website reminds us, the "selfish, vindictive and malicious actions by the alienating parent" leaves its victims "disturbed, confused, frightened and robbed of their sense of security and safety". The really nasty parent is never you of course but the manipulative, money-grubbing monster with whom you are locked in a custody battle. Which for Alec happens to be his ex, actress Kim Basinger, who last time anyone checked in on her was lying on the floor in front of a fridge eating strawberries off Mickey Rourke in 9 1/2 Weeks.
While Americans, it seems, are quite relaxed about the effects of handguns and small rockets, not to mention eating fruit off the floor, they will not tolerate parents scolding their children. While they are willing to forgive Mel Gibson for anti-Semitic rantings, calling a brat a brat is verboten.
All week, US blogs and websites have gone ballistic as the country takes he-said-she-said sides over whether Kimbo or Alec is the bigger pig in the issue but where does this leave the piggy in the middle, little Ireland?
For some, Alec's outburst was - as any self-respecting children's rights organisation will declare - completely inappropriate. But as anyone will know who has supplied a 12-year-old with an expensive mobile phone that somehow is never audible or charged, or on the child when you want to talk to them, or has been programmed with a ringtone alerting the kid the call is from a parent they don't want to talk to, then "pig" is a relatively mild term, in fact it's almost a term of endearment.
Alec Baldwin could not get through to his child, literally or figuratively and Kimmy was too busy Fed-Exing her answering machine tape to gossip website TMZ.com to help. Life sure is tough for "slebs" who are judged so much more harshly than mortals.
It's perhaps the patron saint of all celebrity parents, Joan Crawford, who was most vilified - posthumously - for her parenting skills courtesy of the Mommie Dearest tell-all. But did anyone ever stop to think that wooden coathangers are better than wire ones?