Thursday, February 12, 2015

The Private Life of an American Mom - Characters (2)

I introduced Mom in my very first blog post, since this whole endeavor is about redefining “Mom” in our modern world. There is no story without a struggle, no victory without a villain. Mom’s struggle is to find her identity in a world that does not value work in the home and yet at the same time requires it of almost every woman who becomes a Mom. Our villain in “The Private Life of an American Mom” is hard to nail down or identify as a single person. The villain is representational, and more often than not, Phil Kronus, the women’s psychiatrist, represents “The Man.”

His name, Phil Kronus, was carefully chosen, and the name comes with an incredibly rich mythology. First the name “Phil,” I loved the play on the sound of the word, similar to “feel” for  a therapist. The contrast is meant to amuse, since Phil Kronus in PLAM is not at all touchy-feely. I hope the audience will forgive him for being a bit straight-laced, because he plays an essential role in the script. He must represent some of the forces that hold women back, while at the same time doing a commendable job helping the group of Moms learn to help themselves and each other. Phil is extremely perceptive, but not sensitive or sweet. In the end, it’s not clear whether this group of struggling moms learns to support each other in spite of or because of his guidance methods.

The name Philip means “lover of horses” or more accurate historically, the leader of the calvary. This meaning leads to the idea that Phil is preparing these women to ride into battle. Aren’t women trapped in a perpetual battle? Or the meaning of Philip could be a reference to the wild woman who won’t accept help in the U2 song “Who’s Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses.” Interestingly, the meaning of the Greek word, philos, which is the root of Philip, means love between equals.

Now for the really good stuff: in Greek Mythology Cronus, or Kronus - and later, Saturn by the Romans, was the last Titan. The twelve Titans were the children of primordial gods, Gaia (the earth) and Uranus (the heavens). Uranus banished all twelve of the Titans that Gaia bore him to Tartarus, or the bowels of the earth inside Gaia. Gaia was furious at him and asked her children for help, only Cronus, the youngest, volunteered. She gave him an adamantine sickle forged within her depths. Cronus hid while Gaia seduced Uranus, then Cronus severed Uranus’ genitals and took the throne with his wife Rhea. Then commenced a “Golden Age” of peace and prosperity on the earth. But power corrupts, and Cronus feared being overthrown by his children. So Cronus swallowed his children until Rhea hid Zeus from him. And the cycle repeats: Zeus overthrew his parents…

It is interesting to note the gender roles going back to ancient Greece, circa 180 BC. (The library of Apollodorus). The interesting symbology of this myth is that the son of the earth overthrew his oppressive father with the help of his mother. Then once again the male deity oppressed his children, and once again the female devised the plan and freed her children, but the replacement male deity is given all the credit. Anyone notice a pattern here? Phil Kronus is the son of a mother, and yet I think he recognizes that he is part of the system that oppresses women. To break the repeating cycle of history, it must be women this time who wield the weapon.

The Mutilation of Uranus by Saturn - fresco by Giorgio Vasari & Cristofano Gherardi c. 1560.

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