Arrested Development as Philosophy: Family First? What We Owe Our Parents

Palgrave Handbook of Popular Culture as Philosophy (2022)
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Narrator Ron Howard tells us that Arrested Development is the “story of a wealthy family who lost everything, and the one son who had no choice but to keep them all together.” The cult-classic follows Michael Bluth – the middle son of an inept, philandering, corrupt real-estate developer, George Bluth Sr., who is arrested for white-collar crimes. Constantly faced with crises created by his eccentric family, Michael does his best to preserve the family business, put out fires, and serve as a role model for his teenage son, George Michael. The Bluths’ misadventures raise the question, what, if anything, do adult children owe their parents? This chapter explores the relationships between the members of the Bluth family and argues that Arrested Development makes the case that, insofar as adult children “owe” their parents anything, such an obligation is grounded in a sense of friendship – a voluntarily entered relation that can be terminated at any time. As a result, Arrested Development challenges the often-unquestioned assumption that children owe their parents special consideration simply in virtue of the parent-child relationship.

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Kristopher G. Phillips
Eastern Michigan University


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