Friday, February 18, 2011

"CHARMED: The Parental Style of Penelope Halliwell"

"CHARMED: The Parental Style of Penelope Halliwell"

Considering many of the fans' views on the Charmed Ones' grandmother, what I am about to say may be very unpopular. I believe that Penelope Johnson Halliwell was not a very good parent figure. Many fans have swooned over her wit, style and presence. Yet, I have rarely come across any real criticism of the woman. And I believe that she had done certain acts as a parent figure that I found highly critical.

During the show's early years, both Piper and Phoebe have commented on how Prue had more or less sacrificed her childhood to help their grandmother raise them. Unlike many fans, I did not find this admirable. I found it sad. And to make matters worse, I discovered that it was Penny who had pushed Prue into taking responsibility for her sisters:

"Phoebe: Oh, Prue was driving and she ran a red light. We didn't even hear the other car honk.

Piper: Phoebe was the only one hurt. She was in the hospital for over a week. It scared the hell out of us.

Phoebe: Prue never forgave herself.

Piper: It was a really rough time for her. For all of us actually.

Leo: Why?

Piper: Well, Phoebe and I were teenagers and Grams was extremely over protective.

Phoebe: But she was hardest on Prue. She kind of made Prue take care of us. She didn't let Prue go away to school. She wanted to go back east to be a photo journalist.

Piper: But Grams knew that we were gonna become witches and she wasn't gonna let anything jeopardize that."

When I saw the above scene from (2.16) "Murphy's Luck", I felt pissed off. This woman had forced her oldest granddaughter to give up her childhood and assume responsibilities that Prue was too young to deal with. Even worse, she forced Prue to attend college in the San Francisco area and abandon her ambitions to become a photo journalist. Why? So that Prue would fulfill her destiny to become a witch. Apparently, it was more important to Penny that Prue and her other granddaughters become witches than for them to lead their own lives.

Now many fans would probably make excuses for Penny and believe as she had done . . . that it was important for the Halliwell sisters to spend the rest of their lives being witches and killing demons. I cannot agree with this assessment. In fact, I found this idea more repellent than any demon, warlock or other supernatural baddie that might exist. By insisting that her granddaughter lead a certain life, Penny managed to rob some of Prue's free will.

One of Penelope's less than admirable traits is that she happens to be a sexist. To put it in a nutshell, she dislikes and distrusts men . . . despite being married several times. She viewed men as walking breeding farms to be used by Melinda Warren's female descendants to perpetrate the family line. Her dislike of men had extended to her son-in-law, Victor Bennett. In Season Three's (3.15) "Just Harried", she "reminded" her granddaughters that the women in their family always kept their name . . . even after marriage:

Piper: Sweet dreams. Bye.

(Prue and Phoebe go upstairs.)

Grams: I'll see you tomorrow at 4:00, Mrs. Halliwell. The women keep their names in this family.

(Grams disappears. Piper looks around the room.)

Liar. I do not know about Melinda Warren's past descendants, but Penelope Johnson Halliwell never kept her maiden name. She had been born Penelope Johnson in Boston, Massachusetts. And when she married for the first time, she took her husband's name of Halliwell. And kept it. Her daughter Patricia finally revealed in (1.17) "That 70s Episode" that Penny had coerced the latter to keep the name of Halliwell. And I believe that she had done so to spite Victor.

Another sign that Penelope was a misandrist - one who hates or dislikes men - appeared in the Season Five episode, (5.21) "Necromancing the Demon", when she met her oldest grandchild for the first time:

Grams: Oh, I'm sorry, I'm just so excited. (She steps out of the circle and becomes corporeal. She hugs Piper.) How are you, my dear?

Piper: Excited too.

Leo: Hi, Grams.

Grams: Leo. So, where's the little one?

(Phoebe and Paige walk down the stairs. Phoebe is carrying Wyatt.)

Piper: Right behind you. (They turn around and Piper takes Wyatt off of Phoebe.) Grams, meet the next generation of Halliwells.

(Piper hands Wyatt to Grams.)

Grams: Ohh.

Piper: Baby Wyatt.

Grams: Wyatt? That's a silly name for a girl, isn't it?

Phoebe: Grams. It's a boy. Look at the outfit.

Grams: What?

Paige: You didn't know?

Grams: Well, no, I-I mean I just assumed it was a... What went wrong?

Leo: Wrong?

Grams: Oh-oh, well, I don't mean wrong, wrong. It's just that we've always had girls.

(She hands Wyatt to Leo.)

Piper: Now we have a boy.

Grams: Right. Well, um, okay, well, we've got a lot of work to do before I perform the wiccaning.

"What went wrong?" Is that how one viewed a new grandchild? By treating his gender as some kind of genetic freak? Later in the episode, Leo revealed that she did not even bother to get to know her grandson:

Piper: What are you doing with Wyatt? I thought Grams was gonna spend some time with him.

Leo: Well, she didn't want to.

(Piper laughs.)

Piper: What? That's ridiculous.

Leo: Really? Then why didn't she want to touch him or change him or feed him?

Piper: Well, she's probably just resting before the ceremony. She said she was gonna do it as soon as we get rid of the Necromancer.

Leo: Piper, this has nothing to do with the Necromancer and you know it. Grams doesn't like the fact that Wyatt's a boy and she makes no bones about it.

Penelope eventually learned to accept Wyatt's gender with an open mind. But the matter of the fact is that she should have never been hesitant to accept her grandson in the first place. Penelope came off like some sexist man who is only willing to view males as worthwhile family members.

Another revelation about Penny's role as the sisters' guardian lowered my opinion of her even further in this scene from (7.03) "Cheaper By the Dozen":

"Grams: They were in a much bigger book, thank you. Now, these contain spells I used to use on the girls when they were younger.

Victor: You used spells on my daughters?

Grams: Oh, every now and then. Hey, you try raising three girls by yourself. Keeping them in line. How else was I gonna stop them from misbehaving?

Victor: Gee, I don't know. By talking to them?

Grams: Talking?

Piper: Hey, how's about we just find that damn spell. How's that sound?

Grams: That's your answer for everything, isn't it? I was essentially a single parent. Patty was dead and it's not as if you were ever around.

Victor: You wouldn't allow me to be.

Piper: Okay, do I need to find something to separate you two?

(Piper snatches the book off Grams.)

Grams: You know, your daughters only ended up saving the world every other week. Believe it or not, it might have had something to do with the way I raised them.

Piper: Found it. Spell to resolve sibling rivalry.

Grams: Oh, good, good. I'll get the boys and you call your sisters. We'll get rid of the rivalry and then you can use the power of three to vanquish the demon, okay.

Piper: Great, more magic.

Grams: Do you have any other suggestions?"

This was Penny's idea of dealing with her squabbling granddaughters? Magic? So, instead of forcing the sisters to deal with their differences with a talk, she had cast spells upon them to cease their fighting. Talk about lazy parental skills. What kind of parent was she?

And it seemed she was also responsible for Victor's disappearance during the sisters' lives following the end of his marriage to Patty. One could condemn Victor for staying away between (1.03) "Thank You For Not Morphing" and (3.10) "We All Scream For Ice Cream". But apparently, Penny was responsible for his disappearance during the sisters' childhood.

In a way, Penelope reminded me a lot of Willow Rosenberg from "BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER". She seemed to have no qualms in forcing her will upon her granddaughters . . . to the point in robbing them of making their own choices in what they might want to do with their lives. Well . . . she did this with Prue. At least Piper managed to pursue her own career choices. And she used magical shortcuts to deal with emotional problems within her family. And if Victor's comments are anything to go by, she deliberately kept him away from his daughters.

Penelope Johnson Halliwell may have been a witty woman with a lot of style and a formidable witch. But in my opinion, she was a lousy parent.

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