The Modern Parents

The Modern Parents

"The Modern Parents" is a comic strip from the British comic "Viz".

The creator is John Fardell, who both writes and illustrates the strip. It is one of the most enduring and frequent strips in "Viz", having appeared regularly since the early 1990s to the present. It is a parody of 'left-wing' middle-class parents and the new age movement.

It has a similar theme to Fardell's other creations, like The Critics, in satirizing the snobbish attitude some liberals are alleged to have towards everyone else. On at least one occasion, the Modern Parents and the Critics appeared in the same strip, each pair mistakenly attending the event intended for the other.

Malcolm and Cressida

Malcolm and Cressida Wright-Pratt (a pun on 'right prat', prat being British slang for an idiot) are the modern parents in question, adults whose obsession with equality, political correctness, liberalisation, and environmental awareness often works against their basic role as parents to despairing eldest son Tarquin and backgrounded younger child Guinevere. Despite his female name, Guinevere is a boy. For misguided reasons of Political Correctness, Malcolm and Cressida occasionally try to make one or both of their sons wear girls' clothes or take "female" roles in some psychobabble ceremony.

The Modern Parents do not believe in gender stereotyping or traditional childhood activities such as visiting fairgrounds, frequenting fast food restaurants, taking part in games or competitions, playing sports or with toys, enjoying foreign holidays, or even going to school.

They have a tendency to impose their moral positions on their children and the children of others, whether it be solicited or not; they also expect everyone to be able to appreciate their actions, even said children.

For example, in the March 2008 issue of Viz, they visit Uncle Eddie for his daughter Amy's second birthday party. They give their niece an ethical gift: this seems to be a "donation to an Oxfam-funded goat thingy for a starving African family", according to Eddie, but turns out to be a donation to their own "Malcolm and Cressida Ethical Living Awareness Project"; in other words, their own back pockets. Tarquin and Guinevere give her a teddy bear (as two-year olds would like), to the dismay of Malcolm and Cressida, who declare it to be "an anthropomorphisation of wild animals", "an attempt to brainwash Amy into keeping pets" and "offensive and oppresive to the Sudanese people" (referring to the incident of Gillian Gibbons). They then assume Amy will "at least appreciate our effort to reduce the bear's carbon footprint by putting it in the recycle bin" and snatch it from her. She then throws her bottle at Malcolm in temper, causing the parents to leave (much to the approval of everyone else there).

They take the moral high-ground because of their apparent ideologies. Both of them have large upturned noses, perhaps indicating how they turn their noses up at what they believe to be the ignorant bigotted masses of unenlightened people. Cressida has her hair pulled back in a tight pony-tail and Malcolm has a scruffy beard and incredibly large teeth. Both have a tendency to talk with their eyes closed and noses stuck in the air, as if they were preaching.

Malcolm and Cressida were not originally married as they believed it to be an outmoded and sexist institution that enslaved women. However, they did eventually marry simply in order to get their hands on wedding gifts. They had their own pagan ceremony and had their own politically correct vows written ("Do you, Cressida, take Malcolm to be your husband so long as you find acceptable and convenient?")

They both seem to think victimhood is some sort of achievement, with Cressida delighting in pointing out that, as a woman, she is apparently an oppressed minority. Malcolm, in turn, frequently claims he has "Sensitive Persons Syndrome" which, as well as being completely made up, happens to get him out of various things. For example, as a committed environmentalist, he insists he supports public transport, but cannot use it himself because of his Sensitive Persons Syndrome preventing him from getting on a bus or train. However, he does point out that his Volvo "is Scandinavian, so it must be eco-friendly." Additionally, the pair are white British, yet often identify themselves very vaguely and dubiously with all sorts of ethnic minorities — such as claiming to have some Celtic heritage, or that they were Native Americans in a previous life.

Malcolm and Cressida also believe that all humans are equal even to the extent that there is no such thing as immaturity. As a result, their eldest son Tarquin is often greeted by the sight of his parents openly having sexual intercourse (having also previously announced this intention to their kids) and has to shield Guinevere from such activity. Each story of the Modern Parents finds the parents forcing the kids into participation in some new wide-eyed, hare-brained post-modern activity which ostensibly encourages a policy of togetherness but ironically ends up with Tarquin and Guinevere often escaping to their much more realist Uncle Eddie (Cressida's brother) who supplies them with the ice creams and trips to theme parks their parents refuse to allow. While the children are enjoying themselves with Uncle Eddie, their parents are likely to be suffering or arguing due to their latest idea/scheme going horribly wrong.

Malcolm's family visited for Christmas one year; Malcolm appears to have inherited his father's nose and his mother's teeth. He has a brother, Oswald, married to Lana (real name Linda), and a neurotic spinster sister, Joy. Oswald and Lana have a son, Hector James (an extremely snobbish spoilt brat). The family are Conservative and rich, damning the British worker and the foreigner with equal vigour. Malcolm too used to be a keen party member before meeting Cressida, while canvassing, and being lured into a new world of progressive ideological debate and sex - he abandoned a possibly promising political carear, and grew a beard.

Cressida's family have made scant appearances; her mother and father seem to be separated, and her mother appears to drink. When Malcolm left her and Tarquin, Cressida wondered what she was going to do for money until Tarquin pointed out that is was always her father who sent her monthly cheques. However, her father had taken a new mistress, Since this mean he had no money to give to his daughter, Cressida experimented with prostitution.

Tarquin and Guinevere

Tarquin is the elder child, aged about twelve. As he knows how to be a con artist, Tarquin is a very effective foil to Malcolm & Cressida. Even if it only stems from his desire for normality or a desire to make money. His almost Machiavellian ability to play the political game is not only a means of resistance to the parental authority, but also diametrically opposed to Malcolm & Cressida's half-baked, wide-eyed schemes. Tarquin is very calculating and methodical in his manipulation of Malcolm & Cressida. In fact, because of his conservative (pro-establishment) outlook (at least in comparison to his parents), he could be a parody of the rebellious teenager, only he does it with style. He also has a more rational, realistic worldview that rejects vague ideas about spirituality and seems grounded in evidence and deductive reasoning. Tarquin is very sceptical about new age ideas such as crystal healing or rebirthing, questioning their rational basis (or rather, lack thereof), even aksing a practitoner of "Wan-Ki":

"Where did you get your diploma, University of Mumbo-Jumbo?"

An example of his Machiavellian streak is when Malcolm & Cressida take him to a "Whole Self Centre", claiming that Tarquin suffers from an "erotic shame complex". Tarquin tells them that he's picked up a few ideas and talks of a workshop, which ostensibly is about discovering the inner child. He gets the attendees to undress and get into the foetal position, where they think it's moving that they can learn from young people. He then gets them to touch each other, dance, and feel each others bodies. The scene changes to reveal that there are several smartly dressed businessmen queueing to get up a ladder and paying to see through the windows. This workshop is just a front for a sleazy peep show.A good example of how down-to-earth Tarquin is, is demonstrated by another episode. The parents have run out of cash, and decide to list their various abilities. Amongst them are juggling, vegan cookery and making earrings from twigs! Tarquin looks at them, then states, "You might have enough talent to work for McBurger's! (a blatant reference to another certain very famous burger-joint) And after several dreadful failures, this is indeed exactly what they wind up doing!!

His younger brother is Guinevere (which is actually a female name, but Malcolm and Cressida liked the name Guinevere and, when they found out their second child was a boy, decided to give him that name anyway, as they do not believe in gender-specific names.) He was born during the course of the comic strip and, interestingly, has grown from a baby through a toddler to his current age of about six. This is despite the fact that characters in cartoons and comics do not normally age. Tarquin did appear to get older in the early years of "Modern Parents" but he seems to have stopped at twelve, while Guinevere is now slowly catching him up! Guinevere, whose name is usually just shortened to "Guin" by his brother, is still largely a passive character, often easily upset by his parents' whacky schemes, his big brother Tarquin often coming to his rescue. Guinevere's first word was football although Malcolm and Cressida were keen for his first word to have been dolphin.

Other characters

Malcom and Cressida have many friends, notably Ashley and Cordelia, in the Ethically Aware Parents Support Group who, like them, are all middle-class, extremely politically correct and often into various causes such as freeing Tibet or combatting (or, more commonly, expressing paranoia about) global warming. These all turn out, rain or shine, to the amateur dramatic group, the story-telling circle, the Celtic music evening, or whatever other trendy obsession is rife among the avenues of Fulchester this month. Most of them have children who, without exception, have the same despairing and uncooperative attitude towards their parents as Tarquin and Guinevere have towards theirs.

Cressida's brother, Eddie - more commonly known as simply Uncle Eddie - is a normal guy who acts as a counter-weight to his sister and brother-in-law's outlook on life. Eddie treats his two nephews, Tarquin and Guinevere, like normal boys; giving them junk food, letting them watch cartoons and taking them to theme parks or the cinema. Naturally, the two boys think Uncle Eddie is great. Uncle Eddie is married, although his wedding ceremony was interrupted by Malcolm and Cressida pointing out the sexist connotations in the traditional marriage vows. This was just before they themselves got married after seeing all the gifts Eddie and his bride received.

'Guest' characters include Dr Earnest Rabbitt (who is firmly opposed to killing animals) and Professor Ruth Lesscow (an extreme women's rights activist), both of whom are invited to dinner by Malcolm and Cressida. However it's at the same time that Malcolm's family come to visit. Tarquin has a friend called Ian, of whom his parents clearly disapprove, and with a girlfriend called Dawn, over whom Malcolm and Cressida (wrongly) think Tarquin is controlling and possessive.

External links

* [ of a Modern Parents strip] - Malcolm and Cressida are 3rd and 7th from left respectively

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