Guest blogger Elizabeth Kuster: The viral video "David After Dentist" made me totally cringe, because it involved a dad, David DeVore, YouTubing his then-7-year-old son when the poor kid was high as a kite after dental surgery. (Yeah, it's kinda funny watching someone who's high totally freak out -- unless they're 7!) The vid made me feel so yucky, in fact, that I boycotted the (inevitable) follow-up, "David After Dentist 2" -- which included "never-before-seen footage" of little David's pre- and post-dentist nightmare. Thanks, but no.
Then I noticed something. Little David is actually David, Jr. His camera-happy dad? David, Sr. And I wondered: Could there be a connection between Big David naming his firstborn son after himself, and the fact that he'd felt fine about putting the hapless kid on the Web for all to see? (The video has gotten almost 58 million hits so far -- and counting.) Hmm ....
I called momlogic friend Dr. Michelle Golland to get her opinion. "The video is wrong on every level," she says. "For the father to videotape a child who's in a regressed state and on medication is a weird intrusion and an invasion of privacy. And to put it on YouTube -- that's as bad as any reality-TV parent."
Amen, sister. But was naming his son after himself a red flag that David, Sr. was a big
asshole egotist? "Well, that practice is common in many cultures -- Ireland, England," Dr. Golland points out. "Family legacies have been passed down via namesakes; one way families establish a sense of permanence is by naming firstborn males after their fathers. So for some -- especially in Europe -- it's tradition.
"That said, these are modern times, and this is America," she continues. "There could be a degree of narcissism involved. I mean, what mother have you ever, ever heard of who has ever named her firstborn after herself? Can you think of any? I can't, because it never happens. If it did, what an uproar we would hear!"
I informed Dr. Golland that David, Sr. had turned "David After Dentist" into a brand; that he'd copyrighted some of the things little David said while he was hopped up on goofballs and then put the "famous quotable lines" (as the website calls them) on T-shirts -- which sell for $20 a pop. The DAD website (yep, that's what it's called ! It's all about Dad!) also sports a large banner that proclaims, "We've turned our 15 minutes of fame into a family business!" (a business, by the way, that's brought in a sweet six figures so far). When the follow-up video was released, the blog trumpeted it like this: "...Viewers will not only relive the humor of the original video but will laugh all over again as they share in David's experience and hear him say new catchy phrases like 'I don't know what I'm doing' and 'Boo-Hoo!'" (What, no $1.29 iTunes podcast of the poor kid screaming? Well, maybe that's still to come.)
"The fact that David, Sr. has copyrighted some things little David said while he was under the anesthesia -- that he's making money off his child's frailties -- that's a scary thing," says Dr. Golland. "It does indicate that the child is just an extension of him, that little David isn't even his own entity, his own being. Narcissistic parents never give their kid any sense of individuality or sense of self. What David, Sr. did implies that the child has no feelings, no right of consent. The father had no compassion for what his child was going through. It's exploiting a child at his most vulnerable, when he has no say in the matter. Maybe little David feels terribly ashamed of the video being out there and everyone laughing. He may even be laughing along with his dad, just to go along with it. But laughing is not an indication that a child isn't in pain."
Per the experts, narcissistic parents "demand certain behavior from their children because they see the children as extensions of themselves, and need the children to represent them in the world in ways that meet the parents' emotional needs." In 2003, researchers Sandy Hotchkiss and James F. Masterson identified what they called "the seven deadly sins of narcissism." Do any of them apply to David DeVore, Sr.?
Let's see ....
- Arrogance: A narcissist who is feeling deflated may re-inflate by diminishing, debasing or degrading somebody else. (CHECK!)
- Bad boundaries: Narcissists do not recognize that they have boundaries and that others are separate .... Others either exist to meet their needs or may as well not exist at all. Those who provide narcissistic supply to the narcissist will be treated as if they are part of the narcissist and be expected to live up to those expectations. (CHECK!)
- Exploitation: This can take many forms, but always involves the exploitation of others without regard for their feelings or interests. Often the other is in a subservient position where resistance would be difficult or even impossible. (CHECK!)
According to CNN.com, David, Sr. got his son's permission before posting the video. "As much as he can understand, we've included him in the decision process," he said. Interesting wording there -- and it begs some other questions: 1) Just how much can a kid David's age (he's 9 now) understand the long-term fallout of starring in a viral video? And 2) What about the side effects of being praised (BIG TIME!) for being hilarious while on drugs? (FYI, the dental surgeon had given little David ketamine -- a.k.a. "Special K," a powerful hallucinogen which is often used for recreational purposes.)
The latter factoid makes me think about another famous Junior: Robert Downey. His dad, Robert Downey, Sr., is an actor/writer/director whose biggest claim to Hollywood fame is fathering his famous son -- and we all know what a hellish road the younger Downey has traveled. (A clip from the "Iron Man 2" trailer -- the movie opens on May 4th -- notes that Robert Downey, Jr.'s character "displays textbook narcisissim." Coincidence?)
I'll end with a bit of advice from Dr. Golland for little David's mom, Tessie DeVore. "I'm not sure of her role," says Dr. Golland, "but my advice to her is: Protect your child more. Don't let your child be exploited on the Internet." Couldn't have said it better myself.