This week on The Hold Up: Bad To The Bone: Why I Hate Rewatching The Family Stone

This week, we’re discussing what could be the most toxic holiday movie ever made, The Family Stone. That’s right, readers, this horror show hidden behind mistletoe is probably more problematic than Love, Actually. Released in 2005, and directed by Tom Bezucha, this movie puts the “Jesus f-cking Christ” in Christmas.

The Family Stone is the depraved (but meant to be romantic) story of happens when the Stones’ eldest son (Dermot Mulroney) brings his girlfriend Meredith (Sarah Jessica Parker) home for Christmas. And what happens is…family matriarch Sybil Stone (Diane Keaton) refuses to bless the relationship, withholds a family ring with which Everett intended to propose, and generally sabotages her adult son’s relationship. Because it’s an entire family of sociopaths, the rest of her children bully Meredith, too.

After reading the above paragraph, you obviously know this movie doesn’t hold up well after fifteen years, but let us analyse it anyway. I’ll even provide one argument in favour of its continued relevance!

 

Argument In Favour (Yes, Just One)

 

The Integration of American Sign Language

It’s lovely how Bezucha incorporates ASL. I wish I didn’t have to praise the movie for using ASL, but so few mainstream films integrate it – even in 2020 – that The Family Stone is progressive in this regard. Thad, one of the three sons in this incredibly crowded family, is deaf. As a result, the family translates most of their discussions (Well, usually they’re just arguments) into American Sign Language. The Stones may be bullies to their core, but it’s nice (and maybe a little out of character) that they put aside their narcissism long enough to learn another language.

 

Arguments Against:

 

The Rampant Bullying

Why are these people so mean to SJP? Don’t they know she’s Carrie Freaking Bradshaw? Show a little respect! Instead, Sybil insists Meredith is the wrong person for Everett without even getting to know her! Instead, she prude-shames Mer (Yes, I’ve given her an affectionate nickname) for not wanting to sleep in the same bed as Everett in his parents’ house. Um, are we not all allowed to have our own sexual boundaries? Obviously not! Because she will not have sex with their son in his parents’ house, Diane Keaton insists Everett cannot propose with his grandmother’s diamond ring. For a self-identified progressive family, they are quite intolerant!

Sadly, Sybil is not the most offensive character. That distinction goes to Amy (Rachel McAdams), the only sibling to meet Mer before the action starts. Amy hates Mer because, when she visited Everett in NYC, Mer made reservations at an upscale restaurant (Heaven forbid women like nice things!). Now, Amy has decided Meredith is totally “uptight.” Amy also makes fun of the way Mer clears her throat, because apparently it’s “grotesque.” Imagine someone hating you so much, they even quibble with the way you clear your throat? No wonder women feel like we have to be perfect all of the time!

 

It Features The World’s Worst Sister

Julie Morton is definitively the least sisterly sister ever to grace The Silver Screen. After Everett’s family keeps piling on, Meredith calls her younger sister Julie in desperate need of backup. Julie joins Mer at the Stones’ house in the town of “I Don’t Know, Somewhere In New England, Maybe?” At first, Julie appears to be an exemplary sibling. After all, she gave up her Christmas plans to rescue Mer. Or did she? Immediately, Julie and Everett start flirting up a storm! And, because he is delusional, Everett believes himself to be in love with Mer’s (much) younger sister after knowing her for a single night. Rather than slapping him, Julie reciprocates Everett’s advances by asking him on a date. Because she is also a sociopath, Julie propositions him before the dude even has a chance to officially dump her sister.

In 2020, the idea that any woman would ever choose a guy over the sister she’s known her entire life feels equal parts preposterous and offensive. Yes, Everett is also disgusting. But I can’t get over how this script thinks women are so desperate for d-ck we’ll take off with the man our sister was supposed to marry…

 

All The Special Treatment Julie Gets Just For Being Cute 

The minute Julie arrives, the entire Stone family adores her. And why? Basically, for no reason. They seem to like her whimsical job dispensing grants to artists (Mer is an economist, and everyone inexplicably hates her for it). Julie is also super cute in that “I’m 26 and traditionally attractive” way. Whereas, Mer is in her thirties, so the lack of nubility means we must all hate her. How dare a 30-something woman try to marry The Stones’ 30-something son? What gall! Doesn’t she know having an age-appropriate partner is pretty much the worst thing that can happen to an American man?

Everyone is so under Julie’s spell that she’s allowed to ask invasive questions about whether Thad and his partner have a preference as to the race of the baby they’re adopting. The family simply smiles and ignores Julie’s rudeness. However, when Mer asks an equally invasive question about how Thad feels about raising a baby as a gay father, the family all start screaming and accusing Mer of of homophobia. Now, do I think Mer should be asking questions that suggest gay parents are less valid than straight ones? Absolutely not, but why does no one chide Julie for doing the exact same thing? Ah yes, because adorable women get to be as rude as they want…

 

The Movie Validates The Stones’ Perspective on Meredith

Admittedly, the Stones have a bit of a revelation when they open a thoughtful Christmas gift from Meredith; suddenly, everyone realizes they shouldn’t have been so abusive to her when they see Mer made copies of a portrait of a pregnant Sybil (Apparently gifts are this family’s love language?). But at no point does anyone decide they should have just let Everett be with this flawed, but ultimately not as horrible as they are, economist lady. Instead, Everett does end up with Julie and my Mer ends up with Everett’s brother, Luke Wilson (Yes, his character has an actual name but Luke Wilson doesn’t exactly get lost in the part so he’s just Luke Wilson to me). So basically, the script validates this meddlesome family’s beliefs. Luke Wilson fixes Mer by teaching her how to get drunk in dive bars instead of answering work calls on her cell phone. Gah!

 

The Verdict:

This movie is a cold cut you left at the back of your fridge for fifteen weeks. It should not be rewatched. Let’s forget it ever happened! Enjoy your Christmas in peace and watch anything else – Yes, even Love, Actually. 

 

Sarah Sahagian

Sarah Sahagian

Sarah Sahagian is a feminist writer based in Toronto. Her byline has appeared in such publications as Elle Canada, Flare, Bitch Media, The Toronto Star, and The National Post. She is also the co-host of You Do You: A Dating Podcast. Sarah holds a master’s degree in Gender Studies from The London School of Economics. You can find her on Twitter, where she posts about politics and live-tweets The Bachelor