Home » Edge of Apocalypse » EoA: The Imminent Stepfordization of Cal Jordan

EoA: The Imminent Stepfordization of Cal Jordan

Edge of Apocalypse: pages 301-303 (Chapter Fifty-Two)

So, before we begin, to revisit some of my musical adventures, I was recently listening, once again, to Fine Young Cannibals’ “She Drives Me Crazy”, as well as Mr. Lee’s Get Busy (Chicago Mix), Heaven Scent by Bedrock, Robert Miles’s One and One and that hit single, Ice Ice Baby (you can tell I’m in a real 1990s dance/techno mood these days).

We’ll round it out with the last one I listened to while writing this up: Make a Move, by Los Charly’s Orchestra.


It is my sad duty to report that this chapter begins the inevitable alignment of Cal Jordan with the dogma put forth by Tim LaHaye and other fundamentalist fellow travellers, which insists on an uncompromising “father knows best” paradigm of family relations. Cal, as we know, has already been established as the “stray” of the family who wasn’t even cool enough to own an Allfone until he got a replacement.

This chapter is basically Parshall figuring out how to have the universe dump more crap on Cal after already having his mom love bomb him in that creepy way earlier in the book. But first, what about dear old Daddy Jordan?

In crowded Manhattan, up in his hotel suite, Joshua Jordan was caught up in his brain-storming session with Phil Rankowitz.

He’s going all-out to try and get his “controversial” news service ready to roll, by which we readers know it’s really going to be “All Joshua Jordan, most of the day” with some side slices of right-wing stuff probably partly provided by one Pack McHenry, or some of Josh’s Roundtable buddies who want to help him grind his personal axe.

But he’s thinking he’s forgetting something. What could it possibly be?

Oh, yes. Call his son.

Then he remembered his conversation with Abby. Before she left for Washington, she urged him to give a call to Cal to see how he was doing. He still remembered her words: “Josh, I think he needs to hear from his dad again. He always knows his mom’s in his corner. But you need to reach out. It’s been awhile since we’ve heard from him. Besides, you said your last call with him didn’t go anywhere.”

(bold mine)

With a mother like that in Cal’s corner? Dear god, I actually cringed when I read that. OMFG I AM RUNNING AWAY SCREAMING IN FEAR NOW. DO NOT WANT!

D-X

In all seriousness, if I were Cal Jordan, I’d want to be well away from either parent – a mother who seems to be able to manipulate her children into anything, and a father who seems to be more interested in giving orders than in listening to his children. Thank whatever deities may exist or not, that Craig Parshall didn’t write Deborah as being some kind of total asshole sister to him, because I don’t think I could stand to find out the Jordans are like extra concentrated toxic instead of just slightly concentrated toxic as they stand now.

*deep breath*

Let’s get down to brass tacks and follow along with the phone call:

Joshua dialed Cal’s number, confident in his signal-cloaking Allfone.

By which we mean the Allfone that does some bizarre as-yet-unknown-to-modern-science communication with cell towers. I think we need to, like, seriously hold an intervention with Tim LaHaye over this love of techno-gadgetry to the point of gee-whizzing about them without considering whether the devices (a) are realistic or (b) add to the plot.

It is now my sad duty to report the first giant bucket of crap Parshall just dumped all over Cal. And this, folks, was literally out of the fucking blue. I actually stared at this the first time I read it, my jaw dropped and I was like “WTF?! Where the… this wasn’t even foreshadowed at all!@!%@$#”

On the campus of Liberty University, Cal’s cell was ringing. He didn’t answer it at first. He was busy watching his ex-girlfriend, Karen, walking away from him.

You cannot fathom the lead weight that suddenly formed in my stomach reading that. The one halfway reasonable-seeming couple in this book just got sundered so Craig Parshall could make Tim LaHaye’s case that Christians that aren’t exactly 100% RTCs get the shaft and not the diamond mine. :(

The ringing continued. Without looking at the caller ID, Cal answered in an angry tone.

(…)

“Fine.”

There was another pause. Joshua dug deeper. “How are things between you and Karen?”

Cal muttered, “Wow, two points.”

“Didn’t quite get that…”

“Never mind, Dad. Just about the Karen thing…”

“Tell me.”

Cal didn’t really want to. But he blurted it out anyway. “We broke up today.”

Aw, man. Poor Cal. *patpats*

It turns out that for reasons not fully explained, Karen Hester has just up and decided she likes that other dude, Jeff Hitchney, more than Cal. The swiftness of this change of romantic partners makes me wonder if LaHaye and Parshall are so out of touch with young adults (18-22) that they believe university students act like high-schoolers. If Cal and Karen were like, 15 or 16, I could believe this.

Not at Cal’s age.

Incidentally, is the “two points” thing some kind of weird basketball metaphor, ’cause I don’t get it.

We get a nice dab of gender-essentialism in Josh’s response:

“Gottcha. That hurts. Male ego’s a powerful thing. But I know you had some strong feelings for her. Sorry it didn’t work out.”

Cal, naturally, given past history, doesn’t believe it. And since Father Knows Best, instead of being sympathetic and lending a bit of an ear, Joshua Jordan promptly starts bullying Cal, using the fact that he pays for Cal’s university education as a weapon against him (bolding in the text is mine):

“Well, that’s not how it came across. Okay? The way I see it, it’s just one more way that Joshua Jordan is trying to control the world, including his son.”

“That’s a cheap shot, Cal. I pay your tuition. I think that gives me some say-so in your school life. Your choice of major. Relationships that might jeopardize your studies.” Joshua’s voice was firm but not angry. Cal, on the other hand, was having a hard time keeping it together, so he didn’t talk. His father filled in the blanks.

“Look, let’s keep this civil. Adult. You’re not a child, Cal; you’re a man. So I’m going to talk to you that way. You and I need to be able to converse about things with the drawbridge down. Okay? You have a problem with me, that’s fine. I can take it. Speak your mind. But I’m going to keep speaking mine. Don’t cop an attitude with me just because I let you know that your compass is going whacky and your trajectory is off. All right?”

Jesus Christ, what a controlling asshole. Parshall probably wrote Karen out of Cal’s life because as it was, there would probably be no way she’d take that kind of shit lying down, and she’d totally take up on Cal’s behalf if she heard that kind of crap. The commenter who once mused that Karen probably spotted this unattractive trait of Josh’s at a family gathering, and that Josh somehow reacted at an instinctive level, is very likely correct.

The fact that Parshall introduces unintentionally cult-like control behaviors in Cal’s parents is rather worrisome in light of how it dovetails with LaHaye’s version of Christianity: that the insular cloistering-in of the group, the insistence on unquestioned authority, and the repeated inisstences that the authority figure loves his subordinates and children (even when the authority figure’s actions are contrary to such statements), are all acceptable and valid expressions of religious faith, even if it leads to the final conclusion that whoever is in charge that claims to speak for God should be obeyed without discussion or debate.

Don’t forget the tendency of such groups to harshly socially ostracize people who try to leave, or who successfully leave. Such groups claim they’re teaching skills to their followers, but in my readings I’ve found that the personal statements of ex-cult members often reveal that they’re psychologically poorly equipped to deal with a world that generally expects a certain level of independent action from people.

Now, Josh’s love-bombing wrapped up in his bullying tactics isn’t as blatant as Abby’s, but here it is:

“Is that a yes?”

“Yes, sir.”

“One more thing.”

Cal was listening.

“You need to know something. More important than anything else.”

“What’s that?”

“Your father loves you. Get that down pat. Nothing’s ever going to change that.”

God, that’s creepy. “Your father”, in the third person. *shivers*

And now for the final paragraph:

Then the call ended. An instant later, as Cal was staring at his cell phone, he realized that he’d screwed up. For the second time recently, his dad told him he loved him. But Cal hadn’t reciprocated. He wondered, What is my problem anyway? Down deep Cal knew he should have said something. To let his dad know how he really felt. Of course Cal looked up to him. But more than that, he harbored a towering sense of awe for his father. But there was always so much other turmoil getting in the way between the two of them. Whenever his dad reached out, which wasn’t often, well, he didn’t know how to handle it. So he’d go silent. Maybe it was time for that to change. Next time I talk to him, I’ll let him know how I feel. And that I love him. Respect him. I’ll tell him that, no matter what.

Thus, the title of this writeup: “The Stepfordization of Cal”. He’s going to be made to be the smiling son whose main goal in life is to get even a smidgen of some kind of praise from his father.

I’ll take up the remainder of this chapter in another write-up later on. For now – ugh, this chapter! I feel like I need to douse myself in something to get all the ick off.

11 thoughts on “EoA: The Imminent Stepfordization of Cal Jordan

  1. The “two points” came off to me like the result of a private bet with himself about whether Dad would mention the now-ex-girlfriend right off the bat.

    A moment of silence for poor Cal Jordan, who thinks that HE’S the one with the problem, even when he acknowledges that his (controlling asshole) dad doesn’t reach out often.

  2. Utterly creep-inducing. Change Cal to a female and you’re hearing every abused wife/daughter speaking.
    That “Your father loves you” line sounds like a foreshadowing; what’s the betting that at some point Daddy Dearest will tell Cal “Your Father in Heaven loves you”?

  3. Well, you know, these ATHEISTS, swapping partners like a square dance…

    Yeah, that’s classic domination stuff. “We can talk as equals, just as long as you acknowledge that I’m right and you’re wrong.” And “I love you” is just a way of forcing you to say you love me. Well, yes, brainwashing does work, especially if you pick someone who’s feeling a bit lost (which is why so many RTCs and other cults recruit heavily at colleges where you can always find someone who’s having a hard time).

    So long, Cal. And so long, Karen, who will now join the Lucky Escape Club – after all, it was that, death, or Stepfordization.

  4. I’m pretty sure the “two points” is a basketball reference…which makes little sense, as Parshall has previously established that Cal is a hockey fan.

    This is also one of my pet peeves (not just in fiction–I’ve seen it happen in real life): when people use their profession as their only frame of reference. Josh only speaks in military metaphors. If I was his kid *shudders* that would drive me crazy. It’s actually prettty effective if we’re establishing Josh as a tool.

    Mission accomplished.

    And the “I’m paying tuition, so I get to choose your girlfriend and your major”? That is SICK. If my parents ever said that to me, I would stop their tuition payments, get three jobs, and study part-time, if that was what was necessary to live life as something other than a 13-year-old.

    Mixed messages and keeping the target guessing is classic manipulation. You’re an adult, but I get to run your life.

    Oh, OH, and finally…gotta love how Josh makes the loss of Karen about “male ego.” I’d love for Cal to respond: “Well, Dad, maybe you see all your relationships as mirrors, but I loved Karen, and I miss her.”

    But I imagine that loving other people because of who they are is a foreign concept for Josh.

  5. I hope beyond hope that the fullness of how wrong this scene is, is made amply and abundantly clear to both these two men before they shuffle off this mortal coil, such that they recant.

    Because if I say how I REALLY feel about them for pulling this crap and presenting it as some sort of ‘ideal,’ there are not enough faux swear words in all of SF/Fdom for me to use without repeating myself seven times over.

  6. “The male ego is a powerful thing.” BWAHAHA. Yes Joshua, your male ego is a powerful thing, I’m pretty sure it’s visible from space.

    “I’m going to speak my mind to you whenever I want, but you can speak your mind to me to. I did mention the bit about me paying your tution like, 20 seconds ago right? Just in case you think I actually mean you speak your mind and not what you know I want to hear.” Asshat.

  7. “Is that a yes?”

    “Yes, sir?”

    “Yes, sir, what?”

    “YES, SIR, I KNOW YOU LOVE ME, SIR!!”

    “Good, son. I really value these heart-to-heart chats we have.”

  8. Buck does that gross, bullying “don’t you dare ever doubt I love you” thing to Chloe in the Left Behind books too. I think it must be some kind of theological point for Tim LaHaye. It definitely shows something creepy about his imagination.

  9. Pingback: EoA: Cal Jordan’s Peril | Apocalypsereview's Blog

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