November 13, 2002
On not caring

Last night I watched the movie About A Boy on DVD, which stars Hugh Grant as Will, a lazy living-off-inherited-interest stay-at-home kind of guy, who spices up his solitary life with lots of entertainment toys instead of with people. "No man is an island" says his TV as the opening credits roll. Replies Will in voice-over: "… if I may say so, a complete load of bollocks … This is an island age." Can't think why it appealed to me.

For well-plotted but too complicated to explain reasons, Will finds himself befriended by Marcus, the son of a hippy-dippy suicidal single mum, who dresses like a CND demo and who not only loves Marcus a lot, but does things like say so out loud just as she's dropping him off at school. This turns Marcus' life at school into a living hell.

Much is made of the "role of the father" and the value of "male role models" in the raising of boys. This film (and the book by Nick Hornby on which it is based) explains something of what it is that a man can bring to the business of raising boys. Example is not the point, or not the only one. The great thing about Will is that he doesn't care. He cares about himself, not the boy. So when the boy turns up at Will's black leather, giant TV, tubular steel furniture bachelor pad and barges his way in, he finds an emotionally empty space within which to escape from the hell of school and the emotional minefield of life with mum. He can just chill out.

By the end of the story, Will has himself grown up a bit and is getting out more, which is also on my to-do list, but never mind that for now. My point here is that not caring is a very important thing you can often do for other people. If you don't care, you don't try to force their minds in certain directions, because you don't care what direction their minds go in. You don't force them to make rapid "progress", because you don't care whether they make progress or not. Consequently, they can make whatever progress they want, in whatever directions they want, and really get to learn things.

We in Britain have a very caring government just now, especially in matters educational.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 03:09 AM
Category: Boys will be boys
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