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Rules for Life

Is parental alienation a topic that’s too controversial to make a TV drama about?

My name is Caesar James, I’m a screenwriter and actor living in Los Angeles.  I’m developing a scripted TV series about the importance of a positive male role model in the life of a child.

It’s about what happens when a teenage boy being raised by a single mom, in the most confusing of times, is motivated to seek out his biological father who he’s never met. 

The boy in our story is named Conor and his parents separated shortly after he was born.  Conor remained with his mother as she moved them far away cutting off all contact with his father. 

Hearing mostly terrible things about his father his whole life, Conor wonders: 

Will I too grow up to be a “monster?”  After all, I do share his DNA. 

So one day he decides to reach out to his father and maybe spend some time living with him to see for himself.

“A big part of my inspiration for writing this TV series is biographical. Being raised by a single mom, I always felt I was missing something.  …my mom accomplished an amazing feat… But it was simply beyond her scope to give to me what only a father could’ve given me.” 

A big part of my inspiration for writing this TV series is biographical.  Being raised by a single mom, I always felt I was missing something.  Don’t get me wrong, my mom accomplished an amazing feat, going well above what was expected her.  I wouldn’t have traded my relationship with her for anything or anyone. 

But it was simply beyond her scope to give to me what only a father could’ve given me.  I didn’t realize until later in life just how much the lack of a father’s presence impacted my life.

There are many reasons why some children grow up fatherless.  And most of the single women who often sacrifice their own dreams (like mine did) to provide for their children and raise them to become the very best they can be, need to be commended and applauded.

“I’m writing this show for the many boys who are lacking a positive male role model in their lives.”

This series, while in no way diminishing the efforts of raising a fatherless child, will simply point out the importance of having a father’s presence in the lives of the children whenever such a presence is possible.

I’m writing this show for the many boys who are lacking a positive male role model in their lives.  I know first hand the import of a strong male influence to help navigate the difficult climate in today’s society.  A maternal influence is important, of course, but I feel it must be coupled with a male perspective whenever possible. 

The boy in our show isn’t an anomaly; nearly 40% of US school children aged 6 to 18 live in homes where their biological fathers are absent. That’s a lot of kids wondering what it would be like to have a father’s influence in their lives.

No child should be without a father when there is a father available, just as no child should be without a mother if there is a mother available.

“As the series progresses, we’ll show the transformation that occurs in a teen boy after a strong male role model does become involved in his life.”

Hatred and spite between a couple separating should never be reasons to deprive a child of either parent, yet it happens more often than not. We have many alienated fathers who wonder about their kids. 82% of custodial parents are mothers.

The inspiration for this show also came from having friends who are divorced dads and witnessing their challenges, longings and frustrations over not being able to spend enough, if any, time with their children. 

In our show, a typical teen boy is being raised by a single mom without a positive male role model.  This scenario has always been a difficult one as I can attest.  But in today’s world, this is multiplied by a hundred times.

“I believe there’s never been a greater need for a strong male presence in the lives of children than there is right now.  And yet we see fewer and fewer strong males as anything positive when portrayed in mainstream media.”

As the series progresses, we’ll show the transformation that occurs in a teen boy after a strong male role model does become involved in his life. What will the audience think about the boy “before and after”? That will be part of the magic of the show.

I believe there’s never been a greater need for a strong male presence in the lives of children than there is right now.  And yet we see fewer and fewer strong males as anything positive when portrayed in mainstream media.  Quite the opposite.  Strong men and masculine virtues, such as being independent and being competitive, are now incorrectly labeled “toxic.”

In a Gillette razor commercial addressing what it calls “toxic masculinity” it shows young boys horsing around and roughhousing, and implies that this is toxic.  What I have experienced and witnessed in my own life is that this kind of rough play toughens a boy up.  In my case, having been raised by an overly-protective single mother, I was sheltered from this for most of my childhood.  But I ultimately did have to physically stand up for myself (when my mommy wasn’t around) and defend myself against a bully.  Life will throw bullies at you.  And if this anti-male “toxicity” movement’s lofty intent is to ultimately and completely rid the world of bullies, it’s got another thing coming.  That just isn’t realistic.  And what of all the unprepared boys (like myself) that will suffer along the way to this utopia?  And is a world full of “soft” boys-turned-men really best for our future societies?  For instance, what kind of soldiers are our armies going to have?  Are we to believe that the armies of other countries will also be less tough? We too used to believe that masculine virtues are good. Hell – even Gillette did, until recently. I don’t believe toughening up our boys through rough play is toxic.  

“Hardly any current TV show fairly represents the majority of real-life fathers and real-life men.  Why is that?”

There are, of course, dads represented in current TV/streaming shows.  But too often these dads are presented as a helpless person unable to do laundry by himself, or the dim-but-lovable clown characters there primarily for levity. Hardly any current TV show fairly represents the majority of real-life fathers and real-life men.  Why is that? Assuredly, it’s been a very long time since dads were portrayed as the parent that makes any sort of significant or meaningful contribution to the son or daughter of the TV family. Our show is a look at familial life but from a perspective that has not been presented in a long time, ironically, making it “fresh” in today’s climate.

“I hope [the show] will resonate with the great number of people who have been largely ignored by Hollywood and most of the TV networks.”

The show could be described as nervy, raw and “unwoke”. I hope it will resonate with the great number of people who have been largely ignored by Hollywood and most of the TV networks.  Most certainly, it will plug in with an important audience that has been greatly underrepresented and under-served.

I’ve been developing and “pitching” this project for over a year here in Hollywood.  One famous TV actor with his own production company reviewed the project, and although he truly liked it, he ultimately passed on it, saying: 

At a time when buyers are looking more and more for female driven and female perspective shows, it becomes increasingly difficult to make strides on such a male skewing premise, even when the underlying idea is as unique as this.”

I took this as a complement and was not surprised he passed, for that is indeed the current state of Hollywood.  And this particular actor has deals only with major TV networks.  I never expected a major network would air this show. 

I wasted several months with another established producer before he eventually begged out by actually confessing that he was afraid of getting “canceled” here in town by being involved in such a “fundamental” show.

Picture: Still image from Fortunate Son Concept Scene

Fortunately we have several streaming platforms that are very hungry for content and most are very open and eager to reach different demographics and that is where I envision this show landing. There are also a some new “conservative” platforms where a show like this would very much fall in line with their values.  It seems most “conservatives” identify and see a benefit in what is plainly a more traditional way to raise a child. 

To be able to have a decent chance at “pitching” one of these platforms, we need to have at least the pilot episode completely and professionally produced. But as the artistic creator of it, I lack the producing, money-raising talents usually found in producers that are more akin to individuals with a business background. Nonetheless we’ve managed to shoot a kind of “prototype” of what will be the first scene of the pilot on a tiny, shoestring budget.  It’s rough, but it will give you a taste of one of the main dynamics of the show. It’s about four minutes long, and I’d love to see your thoughts in the comments section below.

I’m hoping with this TV series to show how vital a man is in raising a child.  I also want to show that just because a man is masculine, it doesn’t automatically make him toxic.

You can view the first scene of the pilot of the show here. If you would like to contact with suggestions to help the project move forward, please email Caesar James at caesarjames@live.com

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