The show subtitled License to Kill is fantastically funny. I already summarized part of the plot from the previous blog post. I’ll talk more about it in this blog post. Little Eddie, the older boy with swag, has been trying his best to date Nicole, the pretty “girl next door”. The cheerful father Louis gives Eddie the simple advice to find out what Nicole’s interested in so that he can gain her heart.
One day, Nicole and Eddie found themselves in detention because Eddie found out that Nicole has been put into detention and he deliberately gets himself in there to be close to her. The conversation ensues that Nicole let out the most non-Asian value statement that she doesn’t need school anyway because she’s going to beauty school. One thing led to another, Eddie finally finds what interests Nicole: beauty school. Before we know it, Eddie is over Nicole’s place and getting henna tattoos on his arm and earring in his ear. This is just not Eddie the Asian swag king. Soon enough, his buddies notice the earring (I think the earring is pretty cool though). This is where the dad steps in. The dad reminds Eddie that he needs to figure out how to find common interest and retain his own identity.
In many ways, this little innocent episode of puppy love has a lot of profound implications for society and even church. The first implication of this episode is how value systems are so different between people when they come together. IF they’re from a different race, the complication gets worse. As an Asian, I can see the shock of most Asian parents when they hear that Nicole is going to forgo the university education for beauty school. Now, there’s nothing wrong with beauty school. In fact, my wife’s niece works for Vidal Sassoon. Forgoing a university education is a big deal however. Value systems are often different perspectives that people hold very dearly to. These systems may not be inherently moral or immoral, but the high value people ascribe to such systems can give it a hint of morality.
The second implication is anecdotal. The show whitewashes the severity of interracial dating in that area of the world. I think the show does so because it’s a sensitive and potentially offensive subject that doesn’t fit the comedy genre well. Although I didn’t grow up in Orlando, I grew up in Florida. My own experience tells me that it’s incredibly difficult for an Asian male to date people of a different race because of simple racism. Now, I’m not saying just because you date someone of a different race, you’re no longer racist. There’re people who are unaware of their own racist tendency even though they’re open to date people of a different race. Here, I’m talking about something much more straightforward. Back when I was a kid living down there, people simply don’t date people of other races. The precise reason why the show whitewashes this problem shows that just having a show about racism doesn’t eliminate the possibility that the show itself is unwilling to address racism directly. When I lived down there, I’ve been told to “stick to your own kind”. I’ve had black friends marrying white women whose families refuse to endorse the marriage and attend the ceremony. The list can go on, but that’s the Florida I knew. Perhaps things have changed, but I’m fairly sure that the time period of the show still has a lot of racial tension down in Florida. Such is the irony of show business because after all, it’s trying to get as many viewers as possible. If the show is being too “judgmental”, then it no longer entertains. This begs the larger question of whether comedy is indeed the best way to address serious issues. We shall wait and see.
The third implication is on dating relationships. Eddie who chased Nicole loses himself in the process. I’m very happy to see the father jumping in and giving fatherly advice. In many ways, the best teachers about relationships are parents. I know many parents who find talking to children about dating and sex to be awkward, but either way, the children will get their information somewhere. If parents don’t give them advice, they’d be getting advice from equally inexperience peers. The dad in the show does show good role modeling for Eddie who eventually has a more positive outcome to his pursuit of Nicole. These days, the parents’ roles are changing and quite often, the parents are the butt of the joke in comedy shows. I’m glad in this instance, the dad acts as a good role model to Eddie and his advice is practical and sound.
The fourth implication is also about dating. When we look at Eddie and Nicole, we can’t help but seeing a relational transaction. Eddie goes to great length to get Nicole’s affection by trading his swag in for henna tattoos. In our churches, many of young people who want to get married often complain that the church or whoever isn’t doing enough to help them find the mate. I want to push back on that complaint. No one can help anyone find the ideal mate. No one can even give general advice on relationship that will “work” 100% of the time. It’s up to each individual to figure out that courting someone is a transaction. It isn’t necessarily going to be fair transaction all the time. The pursuer might have to give up something to land the prey, so to speak (certainly, I don’t like using hunting metaphor but hunting is what most beginning dating endeavors look like). At a certain stage however, the transaction becomes more and more even. Perhaps, each party might be willing to give in 50% and so on. Yet, that’s a long way from marriage. The road to marriage is this kind of tricky dance. Eventually, the giving to each other will arrive closer to 100% because marriage is about 100% commitment to each others need, thus making the transaction ideally even. I should know because my wife and I have been married close to a quarter of a century. We’ve had our moments and certainly, we don’t always give 100% each other 100% of the time but we both know that 100% is the ideal we’re shooting for. This little episode shows that every couple should understand what stage of relationship they’re in. For those single people who don’t ever think they can give 100% to another person, they’re going to have a hard marriage. There’s nothing your church can do for you, no matter how much you complain. Little Eddie has a long way to go. Nicole might even have a longer way to go.