Random Pop Culture Question of the Week
Favorite Dysfunctional Family
the Staff
Random Pop Culture Question of the Week is a bi-weekly journey into the headspace of the Review to Be Named gang, in which a pop-culture question is posed, answers are sought, and discussions are generated about issues and hypotheticals from throughout the realm of pop culture.

This week's question comes from our own Rachel, who asked:
Thanksgiving is all about family, and, for me at least, family is all about dysfunction. So this week's question is: what is your favorite dysfunctional fictional family?


Sometimes the most obvious answer is the most apparent because it is simply the best. Several of my top picks for this are great families rife with dysfunction, somewhere between mildly depressing and flat-out suicidal. A little humor is always needed around the holidays. And anyway, if you're choosing among dysfunctional families, why not go with the Cadillac option: the Bluths? They have literally everything you could ever ask for in a dysfunctional family. There's the older generation, made up of George Sr., a philandering father in prison for "light" treason, Oscar, his idiot twin brother (but "oh...that hair") who happens to be in love with his brother's wife, and that wife herself, the venomous, diabolically manipulative Lucille. Then there are the Bluth children: Gob the insufferably arrogant failed magician and professional idiot; Michael, the good son always trying to prove his superiority by schooling the family in his oh-so-moral ways and trying to gloss over his own failings; Lindsay, the materialistic only daughter, always supporting a cause and rarely bothering to actually care what it is (and let's not forget her husband, who masks his questionable sexuality with a ridiculous desire to become an actor); and Buster, the baby of the family who has never matured and has quite the oedipal fixation (when he isn't making eyes at his mother's rival Lucille Austero).

Then there are the youngest Bluths, George Michael and Maeby, cousins, sure, but also possibly lovers, and definitely always entertaining to be around. Plus, if that isn't enough to make for some hilarious family get togethers, there are always the various hangers on that make their way into the Bluths lives, like the lawyers Wayne Jarvis, Barry Zuckekorn and Bob Loblaw, adopted siblings like Annyong ("hello fatty!"), and various employees like Kitty Sanchez, or classmates, like Steve Holt. At Thanksgiving, people usually eat turkey, but this is a Bluth family get together, which means two things: it's no place for children, and I will almost certainly get to watch this first hand:


I am sneaking away from my family to feverishly contribute my opinion via iPhone, so I don't really know what that says about me. But I do know I would probably fit in with the second most obvious answer: the Tenenbaums. A family of formerly successful savants turned into shells of themselves, the Tenenbaums combine all the fun of incest with all the laughs of suicide. Inspired by the works of J.D. Salinger, the Shakespeare of dysfunction, the relationships between estranged siblings, a distant father and an overbearing mother are exposed, poked at and then sewed back together. Wes Anderson explores the power and limitations of family in each of his films, but the Tenenbaums are the perfectly rendered embodiment of dysfunction and what happens when such people are forced together by blood. It's no wonder that they end up happy in the end.


Sorry guys, but as Editor of the comics section, I think I've got all of you beat with my dysfunctional family entry.

Scott Summer was a happy, normal kid, living a pretty ordinary life. Then on a family vacation to Alaska, the Summers family's little one engine plane was attacked by Aliens. Yes, aliens. Scott's parents strapped him and his brother Alex into their sole parachute and shoved them out the door of the plane (great parenting, and Scott took notes, more on that later). Anyways upon landing Scott hits his head on a rock and spends the rest of his life uncontrollably shooting laser beams from his eyes. The kids were found and placed in an orphanage where cute and plucky Alex was adopted almost instantly. Scott had to wear special red glasses that kept aforementioned laser beams from demolishing anything he looked at, which all the potential foster parents thought was a real downer that they'd just prefer to not deal with. So Scott grows up in the orphanage with no friends or family (with the exception of an almost immortal geneticist named Mr. Sinister who hung around in various disguises, nursing the seed of what would later become a full blown obsession with breeding and/or cloning Scott.).

Fast forward some years, Scott was discovered by Professor X and now leads the X-Men as Cyclops of which his brother Alex is also a member having been reunited by the Professor. Things are looking up for Scott. He's got friends, a mentor, an assault team of highly trained and powerful Mutants under his command, and best of all he meets a pretty girl named Jean Grey. These two crazy kids are thinking of settling down and having a family, but then as luck would have it, Jean becomes possessed by the cosmic force of destruction incarnate and tries to destroy, well, everything. Scott and the gang head into outer space to try and save Jean from herself and those that would stop her dream of universal annihilation, and it was here that Scott learned that his father, Christopher Summers not only survived his alien abduction but was now a space pirate and in a very committed relationship with an albino cat alien.

Anyways, loooooong story short, Jean dies, Scott is pretty sad, and Christopher has a major and embarrassing problem with hairballs. A few years later Scott meets a girl named Madeline Pryor who coincidentally looks and sounds EXACTLY like Jean Grey (she's actually a clone created by Mr. Sinister who wasn't gonna let a little thing like death get in the way of these two making some babies that he could later kidnap and dissect). Scott and Madeline get married and have a son named Nathan. Scott lives out a year or so of married bliss until Jean comes back to life and Scott splits on the fam faster than you can say "Screw settling!" and starts putting the moves on Jean again. Don't worry about Madeline though, she turns evil and kills herself (See kids, do overs DO exist). Scott and Jean decide to raise Nathan, but the kid is quickly infected with an alien virus and Scott figures the only logical thing to do is to send him thousands of years into the future where he can be raised in a nigh apocalyptic wasteland that despite its failings, boasts a pretty decent universal health care system. Nathan returns from the future as Cable, a half cyborg, old enough to be Scott's father, and with an affinity for gigantic, definitely non-phallic compensating guns.

Now I could go on to discuss Scott's psychic extra-marital affairs, the years Alex spent trying to kill Scott, Cable's adoptive daughter who he himself decided to raise in an apocalyptic future after his similar experience made him into the happy well adjusted man he is today, or that one time when silly ol' Scott assembled a team of assassins and put a hit out on Cable, but do I really need any more evidence to convince you that the Summers family is dysfunctional?


I love the Bluths and the Tenenbaums. But while they may be delightfully dysfunctional, they've both got money (or, at least, used to have money) and are therefore a very different kind of dysfunctional than that shown by a relatively new additional to my menagerie of deviants, the Gallaghers of Shameless. In both the UK and the US iterations, the Gallaghers are a motley crew of a family, headed by alcoholic father Frank, and composed primarily of six children who struggle daily to keep themselves together in the face of their father's complete and utter failure at everything life related. There are various neighbors, friends, significant others, and sworn enemies that also take part in the action, but really, both the UK and US versions are at their strongest when episodes are focused strongly on one of the many Gallagher children: Fiona, the eldest daughter who actually raises and supports the children (but is no saint, by any means); Phillip, aka Lip, the eldest son, who is actually brilliantly intelligent but expends most of his smarts getting in trouble and scheming; Ian, the initially closeted next-in-line who knows how to protect himself and his family; Debbie, the surprisingly astute middle-schooler who is pretty talented at get-rich-quick schemes that help keep the family afloat; Carl, the sociopath; and Liam, the baby, who Frank claims as his own even though he is clearly the result of one of absent mother Monica's many indiscretions. The Gallaghers are dirt poor, prone to lives of crime because of their poverty-driven desperation, but necessity is truly the mother of invention and it is very clear that these people (these dirty, uncouth, ridiculously insane people) really love each other, even at the height of their significantly entertaining (and often incredibly filthy) hijinks. What's not to love about that? Here, enjoy this promo and catch up before the US season 2 starts in January.

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Note from Rachel: Unfortunately, my brilliance is sometimes a finite resource. Send us your ideas for future installments of Random Pop Culture Question of the Week on twitter @reviewtobenamed (follow us here), or shoot us an e-mail at reviewtobenamed@gmail.com.

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