Come and Get It: Families Around the Dinner Table

By  · Published on November 21st, 2016

A supercut of conflict, perfectly-timed for Thanksgiving.

The dinner table is emblematic of the family unit. It is where we start and end our days – together, breaking bread and nourishing our bodies, sharing the events that have transpired since last we saw each other, coming together for the sake of coming together and experiencing one another in a familiar and nurturing fashion.

But dinner tables are not all sunshine and camaraderie. There is a lot of power inherent to the dinner table. It does, after all, typically have a head at which sits the representative head of the family, meaning it also has a tail, and in between is structured the familial hierarchy, either descending in importance towards the table’s opposite end, or bookended by parents at either end with the children cradled safely between.

How these hierarchies are formed, utilized, and threatened are the theme of this video essay from Daniel Masse who has taken four scenes of conflict around the dinner table from four disparate films – Ang Lee’s Brokeback Mountain, Tony Kaye’s American History X, Lee Daniel’s The Butler, and Richard Linklater’s Boyhood – to underscore how there’s more to dinnertime than mashed potatoes and “How was your day?” From this most basic of rituals Massie illustrates how issues of “power, authority, politics, race, patriarchy, indoctrination, oppression, abuse, and American ideologies & histories” are raised, incorporated or resolved behind closed doors every night, everywhere in the country.

A warning, this does contain some mature language and subject matter, so maybe don’t watch it with your kids. But be sure you see it before Thanksgiving; think of it as an appetizer of patience.

Novelist, Screenwriter, Video Essayist