First of all, I apologize in advance if this post gets “Dancing Queen” stuck in your head. It’s a hard one to get out. I should apologize for the bad pun in the title as well, but I won't.
At any rate, regardless of how you feel about ABBA, or pop musicals generally, “Mama Mia” has a lot to teach us. For those of you who haven’t seen it, here’s a brief overview of the plot (spoilers ahead!): the movie is about Sophie, a girl who’s about to get married trying to figure out who her father is. She’s been raised by her mother as a single parent for her whole life, while running a hotel on an idyllic Mediterranean island- and by all appearances has done fine without a father figure around - but she’s got some romantic notions, and wants her dad to walk her down the aisle. She’s found her mother’s diary from the summer when, applying a little math, she knows herself to have been conceived, but herein lies the problem: her mother slept with three guys during the critical time, so any of the three could be her father. Her big idea: invite all three men to her wedding under false pretenses and somehow figure out which one of them is her father.
Now, her three potential fathers are all charismatic guys, played in the movie version by Colin Firth, Pierce Brosnan and Stellen Skarsgaard, and Sophie can’t decide who she hopes her real father is. Ultimately, at the wedding, all three potential fathers decide that they don’t want to know who the real father is after all: they all decide that if they can only have a third of Sophie as a daughter each, that’s enough for each of them. Sophie is delighted by this, as she likes all three, decides that she’s too young to get married and wants to travel the world with her boyfriend instead, Pierce Brosnan proposes to Sophie’s mom and steals the wedding; everyone ends up happy.
Who Wouldn't Want Amanda Seyfried in their Life?
In this fictional world, at least, the men do not care about paternity certainty. According to the Rational Model, they should recoil at the suggestion of being asked to devote any of their resources to a girl who might not be their actual daughter, but these characters jump straight in - they want to have Sophie in their lives, whether or not she’s their actual daughter, because she’s nice, and, well, having nice people around is nice.
Adults in our society don’t have much contact with young people other than their children, so that might not seem intuitive, but social connections between generations are actually very beneficial for both sides. The young benefit from the counsel and advice that elders can provide, and the self esteem of the elders is enhanced by being able to share their experiences, as well as the fresh perspective of new generations. People love to talk about stories from their lives, or subjects they’re experts in, especially when it could be useful to the audience. Plus, connection with the vitality and energy of youth, and having a connection with the future, probably makes older people happier. Everyone wins.
...and in the Unrated Version...
There’s also a sub-plot in the movie, where one of Sophie’s young male friends tries to woo a considerably older friend of Sophie’s mom, which shows another benefit of enhanced relations between generations. Sexual activity between generations (as long as not between actual close relatives) is good for all parties too - the youth get the value of experience in love and sex, and the elders get access, in another way, to youth and vitality that enlivens life. And if an attractive young man being attracted to and pursuing an older woman seems unlikely to you, just google 'MILF porn'. Humans are not, as the Rational Model seems to indicate, solely attracted to prime specimens exhibiting reproductive stock.
Counterarguments and Rebuttals
The easiest counter for a proponent of the Rational Model, when discussing this movie, is that Sophie is already grown, and doesn’t really need any investment. Sure her three fathers all want to be part of her life now, but would they have been willing to stick around through her childhood, feeding her and changing diapers? Maybe they’re willing to invest a little time and money in this girl now, without paternity certainty, but if they were being asked to make all of the sacrifices of a parent while Sophie was growing up, maybe they wouldn’t be so happy about it.
The rebuttal to this point is that in a real community with multiple parental figures for each child, the demands placed on any single parent are much less. Even with just four parents, the work for any of Sophie’s fathers would be much less than what modern new parents are asked to give.
Still, the question is a matter of degrees. Yes, they’re willing to give a little, and here we’re saying that the price of being a ‘multi-parent’ is less than we currently experience as parents, but it might have been too much for the fathers to get on board with. What this arithmetic forgets is that the fathers also get benefits from raising a child. Economically, they get more assurance that they’ll be cared for as they age if they have more members of the next generation connected to them. Additionally, they would still have had the companionship (and maybe the sexual interest) of the mother. Would there be issues with jealousy? Probably. But that doesn’t mean they’d be insurmountable. And imagine if, instead of one mother with three fathers, Sophie had three mothers and three fathers? More hands to help out, and more social (and possibly sexual) bonds between the mommies and daddies. Obviously the identity of the biological mother would be obvious, but that doesn’t mean that other women couldn’t be a part of the same economic unit, helping out and sharing the costs.
This takes us pretty close to the model of a Federation. The fact that we got there by taking the plot point of a popular movie to its logical conclusion only goes to show that the logic behind what we’re doing here, as radical as it might seem, actually has its roots in more common sense than you might think.
by Douglas Payn
August 14, 2014
Paradise always has singing. Always!
What kind of man wouldn't want to help these two? Especially if he'd already loved the mother?