I saw a 1968 Hollywood movie last night – and musing it over, it’s about metaphysics. But it seems to be about something else – a blended family. It’s called “With Six, You Get Eggroll”. WARNING: do not read the rest of this blog posting, if you haven’t seen it yet and want to be surprised. Because I have to get into the entire plot, including the pinnacle of the film, in order to show you how it’s about metaphysics.
A widow with three sons, one of whom is teenage, dates a widower with a teenage daughter. Predictably the kids are angry and hostile to have their deceased parent replaced by a stranger. The parents try to work around it as best they can, then they get fed up and just get married, announcing their nuptials to the kids only after it’s done. Chaos ensues. They try to alternate households, to be fair to everyone, while putting their too-small homes up for sale. The title of the film comes from an amusing moment when the youngest child says, while they are at a Chinese restaurant, “I’m so happy that we’re all together! Because with six, you get eggrolls!”
Long story short: the parents have an argument; the Dad falls out of a camper being driven by his wife, in his underwear; he ends up wearing a dirty restaurant uniform, wandering the streets; two road accidents happen involving a chicken coop; the chicken coop driver tries to beat up the teenage son; more chaos ensues; the entire family goes before a judge, with an entourage of hippies at their side. Silly, right? And finally, because of the argument, the two auto collisions, and the attempted assault, the whole group pulls together as a real family! How do we know? Because the daughter refers to the teenage son as “my brother”, and the son in turn refers to the male parent as “my father”, while arguing before the judge. The parents hug and the movie ends abruptly.
What a wonderful illustration of metaphysics, alternate timelines, conjecture, false causative conclusions, and actualized potential!
There are two ways to understand this chain of events. Both are mere conjecture, only “what ifs” based on what happened, what didn’t happen, what could have happened, and what couldn’t have happened. Are you with me? This is a very valuable exercise. I didn’t know that there were real philosophers hidden in Hollywood. I’m glad to know it.
The central figure in this movie is not the Mom. It’s not the Dad. It’s not any of the kids, nor the well-meaning, meddling sister in law. No. The central figure is the jerk driving the chicken coop, who tries to assault a teenager. Because if it wasn’t for him, this group would not have pulled together as a family.
This last statement is the error that’s commonly made. “Something bad needs to happen, for anything good to happen.” That’s just wrong. Now I’ll explain how this erroneous thought involves metaphysics, conjecture, and alternative timelines. Stay with me now.
What did happen was that this jerk driving a chicken coop, who got into this family’s way on the road twice, causing two collisions (thereby raising the aggression level), and then raising his fist to a teenage boy’s face in front of his step-father and step-sister, was involved in a chain of causation which ended up with a very happy, well-bonded family group. But the most important fact to take away from all of this is that this is not the only way that the family group could have bonded. Yes, we are into alternative timelines at this point. Because in order to assert that “this is the only way that could have happened”, you have to imagine that it didn’t happen. “If this hadn’t happened, then they wouldn’t be a bonded family.” That is imagination. You’re into the realm of alternative realities at this point – the alternative reality where there were not two road accidents and an attempted assault, followed by a heated courtroom scene – with hippies.
Now, if we are going to get into non-events, such as “what if this didn’t happen?” then let’s do it. I have a different take on it and I would argue that my understanding is more correct. It’s based on potentials, and actuality, as well as imagination. If those who espouse “bad things need to happen for good things to happen, and this movie plot is an example” can draw upon their imaginations to make their incorrect point, then so can I.
Here’s the correct take on it. This group pulled together as as family, because that’s who they are. They have this potential within them, it just needed to be actualized. The actualization of their potential as a family could happen in infinite numbers of ways. It was bound to happen because of who they are, and what they do, and what they are likely to do. And the triggering cause for this actualization to occur does not need to be a bad thing. It could easily also be a good thing. One can imagine many positive alternative scenarios, causing chains of causation to arise, which result in family bonding. And these chains of causation need not involve any bad actors.
In fact, even if the argument hadn’t happened, and the Dad didn’t wander around the streets in his underwear, and the two motor vehicle accidents hadn’t occurred, this family group was SO headed towards emotional bonding that it may have even happened that same day, with the same speed. One could say that this was a family waiting to happen. A clue to that is in a scene just before the chaotic pinnacle of the film. The mother finds a way to bond with the daughter, having her do a list of chores to show her what’s involved in running a household – and then sends her off to go and have fun and relax, demonstrating that she will teach her without using her. The daughter kisses her step-Mom on the cheek, showing that her hostility has vanished. That’s the REAL pinnacle of the film, because it demonstrates the potential for loving family being actualized, out of something positive – the willing performance of chores. Another clue comes from the fact that it’s the daughter who first shouts “He was going to hit my brother!”, starting a cascade of pronouncements from the rest of the children showing that they have now bonded.
So, the REAL cause of the bonding emanates from the mother-daughter moment, which happens BEFORE the jerk with the chicken coop comes along. In fact, when you see the chain of causation in this way, with the daughter at the centre, the chicken coop driver reduces from “central figure” to “mere bit player”, playing a role of catalyst which could just as easily have been filled by anybody else. He isn’t important, after all.
So, rather than saying “This films proves that bad, chaotic stuff needs to happen in order for people to bond together”, which is incorrect on the above analysis, one could say “This film proves that people carry within them the potential for a certain positive outcome, and one way or another, this outcome is bound to occur – call it ‘fate’.” The outcome of “well-bonded family group” emanates from these facts: these two are good parents, they love eachother, they love their kids, and these are all good kids, who are eventually bound to appreciate one another via any number of infinite potential chains of causation, only one of which occurs during the film, and in this case, happens to involve a bad actor doing bad things.
Finally – the title is interesting. The small child says, “With six you get eggrolls!” but the plural “s” is missing from the film’s title. So we are left with eggroll. Families are based on a woman’s eggs. The “egg”, which symbolizes life’s “potential”, is actualized in the film. Her egg is born, with a new loving family. That’s why they call it “eggroll” in the title, rather than “eggrolls”.
Say, maybe I should try a career as a film critic?