The amazing Gortimer Gibbon
(First of three parts)
In family businesses, family issues are often more complex to deal with than business matters. Unfortunately, negative behaviors, mindset and values are hard to manage once they take hold.
Many parents and teachers find it difficult to guide children toward self-regulation and discipline, as countless young people harm themselves and despair when faced with routine challenges.
Media is also increasingly influencing our youth.
“My favorite show as a child was ‘Little House on the Prairie,’” says my batchmate, who heads a retail family business. “But many kids’ shows now are violent in word and deed. Children are rude to their parents, who are often on the losing end. Studious students are bullied, smart alecks triumph. [I tell my kids] when they get sassy, but many tweens and teens now disrespect people, particularly boomers.”
“Children now will say that respect has to be earned,” I reply. “But I agree. In real life, parents, especially fathers, are not the bumbling simpletons often portrayed on US shows. Life is not a sitcom where the kids resolve problems immediately, to adult acclaim, with no consequences.”
Except for excellent shows like Pixar’s “Up,” wholesome fare for teens and tweens that tackle meaningful issues is rare. Thus, it was a delight to watch Amazon Prime’s “Gortimer Gibbon’s Life on Normal Street,” with each episode 30 minutes or less. “Gortimer Gibbon” was recommended by English literature and Great Books expert Jonathan Chua, dean of the Ateneo de Manila University’s School of Humanities. A deep and broad thinker, Jonathan has fantastic taste in the arts.
After just three episodes, I was hooked. Time Magazine calls “Gortimer Gibbon” an “off-kilter, magic-realist, hangout comedy.”
Gortimer Gibbon and his friends Mel Fuller and Ranger Bowen, all aged 14 years old at the start of the series, live on Normal Street sometime in the 1990s. Reminiscent of a younger Harry Potter, Gortimer is big-hearted yet vulnerable, buoyed by Mel (as savvy in science as Hermione is in magic) and Ranger (as impulsive yet as brave as Ron). Normal Street in a seemingly ordinary suburb is bounded by “a quiet lake at one end and a forest of shady trees at the other,” but “what lies in between is anything but normal.” Whimsy and magic lie just beneath the surface.
Show creator David Anaxagoras was a preschool teacher for 23 years, with a degree in child development. “You need to be authentic and real,” he says, which extends even to the accuracy of academic lessons on the show. In one episode, a math teacher describes the trajectory of an arced basketball shot as a parabola, with the correct equation on the board, before shooting the ball through the net.
Logic and reason are upheld, against knee-jerk cultural sentiments. On one scorching day, Ranger says, “It’s not natural, this heat. Something’s not right, like maybe some sort of punishment.”
“For what?” asks Mel.
Ranger says, “Chopping down the rainforests, abusing fossil fuels, reality TV shows—I don’t know.”
Mel’s reassuring reply: “Reality TV shows don’t correlate with seasonal changes in temperature.”
Words are properly used. One time, Ranger says, “The plan is to make it up as we go.” Mel retorts, “That’s the opposite of a plan.”
Instead of trite puns or toilet humor, skillful wordplay delights, without kowtowing to kids. Of a machine that makes frozen ice drinks: “It’s said that the peculiar sounds the machine makes when birthing an Arctic Sludgy are the laws of physics screaming in protest.”
Of a possibility of holding a lizard race: “Lizards don’t race so much as flee.”
Of finding a slender book in a huge pile of tomes: “It’s like looking for a needle … [not in a haystack but] in a pile of other needles.”
Of a win-at-all-costs robot: “Wiñata: A person or thing that is stuffed so full of win that if hit with a stick, it would spill win all over the floor.”
Of love: “They say that love is blind, but the real danger is being blind to love.”
(To be continued)
Watch “Gortimer Gibbon’s Life on Normal Street” on Amazon Prime.
Queena N. Lee-Chua is with the board of directors of Ateneo’s Family Business Center. Get her book “All in the Family Business” via Lazada and the ebook version on Amazon, Google Books and Apple Books. Contact the author at [email protected].