Each week, in Slate’s long-running advice column “Dear Prudence,” Daniel Mallory Ortberg (formerly of The Toast) provides some much needed perspective on the personal and familial issues plaguing the online magazine’s readership. It’s an opportunity for real people to candidly and anonymously open up about what’s bothering them and perhaps find some sense of closure. But, as A.V. Club reader Ufon Umanah pointed out to us this week, Ortberg seems to have unintentionally offered some advice to the very fictional characters of Hank and Dean Venture.
Q. Dad has a clear favorite: For as long as I can remember, my dad has clearly favored my twin brother, “Dean,” over me. It’s a little bit ridiculous. All of his friends acknowledge it and joke about it. Our dad has always thought Dean to be the smarter one, encouraging him to study, go to college; taking him to internships; and talking about his bright future. He even shared his beloved record collection with only Dean. To me, he makes offhand comments about how menial labor might be what I’m destined for. How can I not let this affect my relationship with Dean, who actually is a great guy and asks for none of this?
A: I think it’s admirable that you want to maintain a good relationship with your brother despite years of painful and obvious favoritism, but I hope you don’t feel that you can only do this by minimizing or ignoring your sadness at being slighted. It may help to talk to Dean about this—not in a way that assigns blame to him, or that asks him to fix your father, but simply to acknowledge reality and be honest about how it makes you feel. It may also help you to say something to your father: “Dad, it hurts when you say that I’m destined for menial labor and spend a lot of time talking about Dean’s bright future. Please stop.”
Fans of the show will immediately recognize the question as describing the plight of one Hank Venture and, while Ortberg’s genuine advice would be helpful to any normal teen stuck in this situation, it’s hard to imagine Rusty Venture responding well to Hank’s heartfelt plea for understanding. Since “Dear Prudence” functions as a live-chat with readers before being edited for publication, it didn’t take long for someone to point out to Ortberg that he’d been duped.
Q. Re: Dad has a clear favorite: Prudie, unfortunately you got taken. The writer is describing the family dynamics and plot points from The Venture Bros.!
A: Taken indeed! I can only live in hope that there are at least two siblings in real life who find the plight of the Venture brothers relatable.
Kudos to Slate and Ortberg for publishing the full Q&A with the goof question included. Perhaps they should consider doing a separate advice column specifically for cartoon family squabbles. We have a feeling there’s a young boy named Bart out there who is tired of getting choked out by his beer-swigging father.
Thanks to reader Ufon Umanah for the tip. Send Great Job, Internet tips to firstname.lastname@example.org