Between the Rows: Overlooking the Flaws

Published online: Jan 29, 2021 Between the Rows Tyrell Marchant, Editor
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This article appears in the February 2021 issue of Potato Grower.

The other night, I plopped down on the couch in front of the TV with my wife and kids to see what Disney+ had to offer. Seeing a thumbnail depicting a beautiful horse running on a white sand beach as the sun fell below the horizon, my daughter squealed in delight and begged to watch that movie. I rolled my eyes a little but, being the sucker I am, I relented, and the movie started.

I should say here that I’m a bit of a snob. Most of my youth was spent horseback on my family’s ranch in southern Idaho, and in my experience, most films featuring horses in a leading role are, to put it delicately, stupid. The actors obviously don’t know how to ride, the lingo is forced and awkward, and the drama is way too heightened. Hollywood routinely oversimplifies the bond between human and animal into some bleeding-heart, pre-teen vision of Cinderella crossed with Bambi. Anyone who’s spent a lot of time around horses knows that bond is real, but it’s not at all like that. (Dog movies usually have this same problem.)

In Disney’s defense, this particular movie wasn’t too gag-worthy. I even could have enjoyed it, except … What in the world were all those people wearing on their heads? They were supposed to be Utah cowboys, but looked more like Indiana Jones tracking down the Ark of the Covenant in Nepal. A five-second Google search would’ve shown whoever was in charge of wardrobe what the costumes should’ve looked like. Instead, they chose to go into some little shop in whatever tourist trap of a town they were filming in and write a blank check to the first huckster who was willing to throw all his unsellable leather and denim into the waiting Disney trucks. The result was passable for anyone who’s never actually met a cattleman.

Told you I’m a snob. 

There’s something at least mildly irritating about everything—and, indeed everyone—you love. But you love them anyway.

I’m sure there are a lot of people who cringe every time their profession or something else with which they’re familiar is depicted on-screen. Courtrooms, hospitals, police precincts, football fields, political campaigns, battlefields, newsrooms—everything most of us know about these things is probably a pretty far cry from any form of reality. But that’s not really why people watch Law & Order or Grey’s Anatomy or Parks and Rec or Yellowstone. (For that matter, it’s not why we watch CNN or Fox News, either.) If it’s reality we’re looking for, our TV screens aren’t where we ought to flee. No, we escape into our screens because it’s a respite from the harsh or monotonous realities of life. 

Not that we hate our lives; sometimes it’s just nice to have a little break, and a familiar show or fun new movie is an easy way to do that. And just like we do in real life, we will ourselves to overlook or even accept the flaws in the formula on our screens.

The point is this: There’s something at least mildly irritating about everything—and, indeed everyone—you love. Your F-250 pulls more than its fair share on the farm and has tons of legroom, but it costs twice as much as the old Camry does to take on a road trip. That half-section behind the old homestead has a great mountain view and consistently yields 15 percent more of whatever crop you plant than any other piece of ground, but it will also forever yield up 6,000 percent more rocks. And that coffee can-sized dollop of sour cream you like to put on your perfectly baked russet … well, we all know the pros and cons of that.

Maybe your wife can never find her wallet and leaves piles of cosmetics-related potions and doodads all over the bathroom counter. Maybe your husband, after decades of marriage, still leaves the toilet seat up and doesn’t take off his muddy boots before tromping across the living room. Maybe your dog’s habit of licking your face every time you come home can never be trained out of him. Maybe your brother only calls when he needs a favor, but seems to misplace his phone whenever you need one. Maybe--no, certainly--your kids fight and scream and refuse to get out of bed in time for church. 

Does any of that make you love them any less? Of course not. Because nobody ever loved a person or a piece of land or a basketball team because the relationship was perfect. Not once. You can’t have love without at least a little bit of disappointment along the way. But it doesn’t matter. As a species, we’re hard-wired to seek and give out love.

Every kind of love is an investment. The return on that investment is always enough (though sometimes just barely) to make it worth it, even if no one else can understand why.