Monday, November 25, 2013

Living on the edge

Yukon Men is about a small down (pop. approx. 300) in northern Alaska, up by the Arctic Circle. One of the interesting things about the show is the father/son dynamic. The show illustrates better and worse parenting techniques. Of course, one can only judge by what the camera shows, and not what goes on when the camera isn't running.

Stan and Joey Zuray have the best father/son relationship. Stan is likable and laid back. Not too pushy. 

If anything, his son is harder to get along with that he is. His son is very competitive with his dad. And fairly aloof, unlike his gregarious, outgoing father. 

There's an undertone of sadness about the relationship. Joey is impatient with his aging father, who can't move as fast as he used to. There's a clear sense of the son replacing the father. The son overtaking the father. Of being valued as long as you're productive. 

Although I haven't seen every episode, one thing about the show is the absence of Christianity. If it's there, it isn't caught on tape. Or very rarely. Just the lack of prayer is conspicuous. These are people who live by their wits. But it's just them against nature. Eventually, nature always wins. They have nothing to fall back on. Just themselves. In an unforgiving environment, that only goes so far. There's no margin for error. One false step and you're a goner. 

James Roberts seems to be a basically nice guy. But because the residents of Tanana never know for sure where their next meal is coming from, it makes even naturally nice guys hard-nosed. James his making some classic mistakes with his teenage son Francis. Provoking him to anger.

Then you have Pat Moore. He isn't temperamentally cut out for life on the edge. He's in panic mode all the time. Lurching from one crisis to another. A nervous wreck. He swears at his own kids, as well as the hired help. His insecurity is exacerbated by the lack of Christian faith.  

Finally, there's Charlie Wright and his son Bob. Although this is where he grew up, Bob doesn't seem to be suited to this lifestyle. Charlie is aggravated by his son's lack of initiative, but it's obvious to an outside observer that his son would have more self-confidence if he wasn't saddled with a domineering dad who's always tearing him down rather than building him up. Charlie crushes his son's spirit–with predictable results. 

Charlie has the survival skills to make it in a tough environment, and he's clearly proud of his abilities. Up to a point, self-reliance is admirable. But Charlie's self-esteem is vested in his skill set. Yet that's very precarious. He lives in a dangerous part of the world. And he has an accident-prone lifestyle. He's only one accident away, one bear-mauling away, from being dependent rather than self-reliant. What happens to a man whose source of self-worth begins and ends with himself when he loses his edge? Accidents aside, the aging process can take the edge off. Like having (or losing) the visual acuity to shoot a moving target at a distance (e.g. geese). This, again, illustrates the lack of Christian grounding. 

Incidentally, even though the town is 80% Athabaskan, for some reason the enterprising problem-solvers seem to be white guys like Charlie and Stan. Does that reflect different cultures? 

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