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HBO’s Nuclear Family

The three-part documentary follows Ry Russo-Young’s mothers, Robin Young and Sandy Russo, who fought a long, emotionally fraught custody battle beginning in 1991 with sperm donor Tom Steel, a then-prominent gay lawyer. It ultimately would engulf her childhood.

The lesbians are such stereotypes it’s not even funny. They’re huge hypocrites, they setup the rules for the sperm donors informally as “well… maybe they’ll call you when they turn 18”, then decide to intimately include the fathers in the kids’ lives early on, but get super pissed when it’s not all on their terms. It’s all so typical Lez drama. Why does every lesbian become an angry, imperious Aspie at 25? These two gals even pull out the “he scared me” card against the gay men, luckily both kids were girls or these two would have pulled a Mia Farrow real quick.

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by Anonymousreply 114October 13, 2021 2:42 AM

What’s so confusing is the father who sued and one of the mothers were both lawyers, how did they not have the professional foresight to draw up a contract, that seems just irresponsible on both their parts.

by Anonymousreply 1September 29, 2021 6:16 PM

R1 Lesbians leave little loopholes leading to later drama. There is nothing a lesbian loves more than one big villain to bitch about for years and make them the victim.

by Anonymousreply 2September 29, 2021 7:01 PM

Wow, such homophobia! The film makes clear that they were entering territory almost completely unknown at the time. They trusted the guy and he turned on them. Perhaps you should see all three episodes before you jump on the "every lesbian becomes . . ." bandwagon.

by Anonymousreply 3September 29, 2021 7:49 PM

I'm a family lawyer in NYC and I remember this case! Thanks OP. Going to check it out.

by Anonymousreply 4September 29, 2021 8:00 PM

R3 still doesn’t change the fact that these bitches set the tone as “maybe a visit at 18” then flipped to “be Daddy but don’t be called Daddy”. Sorry the women are wrong here, they are totally selfish and played mind games. Thank god those girls had Tom for a father figure rather than just old curmudgeon Russo sitting in a lawn chair, chain-smoking Pall Malls and reading some obscure lesbian erotica.

by Anonymousreply 5September 29, 2021 8:42 PM

Typical… women expecting unrealistic emotions from others and holding no accountability to themselves. Do you have to be a psychiatrist to figure out that a person will become attached to their biological child after they’re around them for a long period of time?

by Anonymousreply 6September 29, 2021 8:46 PM

Didn't the father die of AIDS? I thought he just wanted a relationship with the kid (after bonding with her) and the lesbians went completely apeshit and tried to cut him out.

by Anonymousreply 7September 29, 2021 8:50 PM

R7 the lezzies started being all possessive and psychotic, wanting to pointlessly control every interaction. I think it was jealousy. I mean what little straight girl wants to hangout with two bumbling dykes over a fun Queen?

by Anonymousreply 8September 29, 2021 8:54 PM

Agreed R8.

by Anonymousreply 9September 29, 2021 8:56 PM

Lesbians are awful.

by Anonymousreply 10September 29, 2021 8:56 PM

Gee, fellers, you're making me feel all warm and fuzzy, what with all this love you're showing the lesbian community!

But then what else would I expect here at the DataLounge?

by Anonymousreply 11September 29, 2021 9:01 PM

What is the entertainment value? What is the educational value?

This smells like red meat for ignorant homophobes. After all, give gays the chance to reproduce and all hell breaks loose, right? Ugh.

by Anonymousreply 12September 29, 2021 9:04 PM

R12 the point is so the lesbians can be self-righteous about their pioneering ways in gay parenting, show off their ‘sophisticated in their own mind’ Diane Keaton-lite lifestyle, and get bragging rights to having raised a “film director”.

by Anonymousreply 13September 29, 2021 9:12 PM

Yeah, I was going to say "thanks for the thread, OP" as I've been interested in discussing this documentary series. Then I quickly realised this is just a lesbian bashing thread. So, you know, fuck off.

by Anonymousreply 14September 29, 2021 9:56 PM

R14 you fuck off, cunt! I know you’re used to ripping men all day with no pushback but these bitches deserve it.

by Anonymousreply 15September 29, 2021 9:59 PM

I worked with the lawyer (coincidentally a lesbian) who represented Tom Steel on this case with Ry. She fought like hell for him. Her partner was a friend of his and they both adored him. I remember years later they told me that the lesbian community in NYC was so horrified by her representing him that they were shunned for years following the case. Lesbians would cross the street to avoid them.


by Anonymousreply 16September 29, 2021 10:04 PM


by Anonymousreply 17September 29, 2021 10:09 PM

R16 a woman scorned applies to lesbians too and they have such a pack mentality, they’re easily swayed. I’ve heard so many lesbians supportive of adolescent transitioning, but only one gay man. They go along with whatever seems the most liberal position to have and it’s usually all style, no substance unless it personally affects them.

by Anonymousreply 18September 29, 2021 10:11 PM

FF R17 Fuck off to LCHAT please

by Anonymousreply 19September 29, 2021 10:11 PM

I’m watching now. It’s really well done. I like the daughter a lot.

by Anonymousreply 20September 29, 2021 11:16 PM

I'm a lesbian and I can't stand lesbians Robin and Sandy. They should have drawn up legal papers regarding the donors' relationships with the girls and when contact could be established. The maybe meeting the donors at 18 thing was stupid.

by Anonymousreply 21September 30, 2021 1:52 AM

The mothers, esp. "Russo" seem so presumptuous and a bit oblivious (or unwilling to confront) things as they unfolded. Tom's partner seems like he was a shitstirrer, I wonder if we'll hear more about that. It is odd that the two lawyers were so stupid about setting up a contract for this.

by Anonymousreply 22September 30, 2021 2:11 AM

I could see why they didn’t want to send the girls alone to that family event in California, but cutting him off like they did wasn’t smart and wasn’t best for the daughter who seemed to adore him. Their lesbian friend who introduced them to the donors and is commenting seems very rational - I like her.

I also didn’t fully understand their issue with Milton. He seemed a bit obnoxious but wasn’t THAT bad, especially considering how little they actually saw him.

Their insistence on Tom treating the girls equally was well-intentioned but not realistic. That was a lot to expect from a donor.

I think the lack of a contract was partly because this was such unchartered territory at the time.

And he wasn’t SUING robin… he filed a paternity case in family court, so he could establish a legal right to visit with the daughter. I don’t love how they keep claiming he SUED them.

by Anonymousreply 23September 30, 2021 2:16 AM

The family thing was in the Catskills. Whether the moms went there or not, it seemed odd and a boundary crossing. Otherwise, the mothers seems tiresome. The friend who knew the donors--I wonder if she's on speaking terms with the moms, I mean Tom and a dysfunctional drunk, she knew how to pick them.

by Anonymousreply 24September 30, 2021 2:49 AM

No the family thing was in Yuba City California. The mothers made a big deal about the paternity/visitation petition asking that he be allowed to take the kid to California. They highlighted that part of the petition.

They served her in the Catskills and the other daughter dropped the cranberry juice.

by Anonymousreply 25September 30, 2021 2:55 AM

I’m sure they’re going to acknowledge that they made mistakes, they kind of already have.

It was unrealistic to ask the donors to treat the girls equally - it seems something has happened to the other daughter, well, because she’s not there and they seem to speak of her only in the past tense.

The issue with Milton is that he was an outsider who was trying to push and define the situation on his terms, telling the girls to call Tom “Daddy”, etc. Milton was a stirrer.

by Anonymousreply 26September 30, 2021 7:45 AM

R23, I think “sue” and “suing” were how people referred to legal claims in a certain generation. Even though this takes place in the ‘90s, I remember in the ‘70s it was common place to use those terms. He is “suing for custody”. Family law has come a long way in the last 50 or 60 years - it used to be women would never leave their husbands because the legal prospects, among other aspects, were too terrifying. I remember in the early ‘80s there was the big case between the actor Lee Marvin and his partner Michelle Triola Marvin who sued him for what became known as “palimony”. There were a lot of landmark cases.

The 1st episode of this series documents very well how naive people were - some posters are forgetting: these women were not married. It’s only been a few years since the legalisation of same sex marriage but it used to be that the entire construct of being gay existed completely outside the construct of the law, placing all individuals and families at risk. That was the whole point of making it legal - removing the risk. Otherwise, gay people have been in committed unions and building families for decades. That is never going to change and didn’t just start a few years ago.

Also, the archive footage in this, of ‘70s NYC is great.

by Anonymousreply 27September 30, 2021 7:56 AM

R27: The show is very clear about the lack of a legal structure for what they were doing, yet two "out" lawyers (one a pioneer for gay rights) couldn't figure out how to make an effort. Whatever written agreement they did have is not really described except to suggest that the donor had no rights, unless the child asked.

The moms sound cavalier about genetics, a subject that wasn't exactly unknown in 1970. It would have made more sense for both girls to have the same donor. Too bad they didn't know the background of the first one.

I do wonder what was up with the sister. Nothing about her in the present. I'll bet the brother adjacent guy (who seems to be a filmwriter/filmmaker) had a lot of intersting observations about the whole business that never made it into the series.

by Anonymousreply 28September 30, 2021 11:36 AM

The sister, Cade, is married to a female-to-male trans person. The husband gave birth to their daughter a year or so ago. They may well appear more prominently in the series. Which reminds us that we should perhaps wait until all the episodes are aired before passing judgement.

by Anonymousreply 29September 30, 2021 11:53 AM

Between this and the Woody and Mia doc HBO sure loves to make shows about dysfunctional family drama. Maybe they will do a doc on Ryan O' Neal and Tatum next.

by Anonymousreply 30September 30, 2021 11:58 AM

Well this turned really weird, honestly I didn’t read OP post when I came to post at R1, but I think this is very interesting and a worthy show to discuss. Should we start a new thread and abandoned this one so as not to turn people off who want to thoughtfully examine this three part show? I don’t have the ability so if someone else does I say go for it.

by Anonymousreply 31September 30, 2021 12:16 PM

[quote] The family thing was in the Catskills. Whether the moms went there or not, it seemed odd and a boundary crossing. Otherwise, the mothers seems tiresome. The friend who knew the donors--I wonder if she's on speaking terms with the moms, I mean Tom and a dysfunctional drunk, she knew how to pick them.

In the article in the Hollywood Reporter, she's a mentioned as being a former friend of the moms. Ry mentions that she hadn't seen Cris since she was 5 and that it took awhile for her to get Cris and Milton's son Jacob to trust her before they on went on camera. I suspect the friend probably didn't want new drama with the moms.

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by Anonymousreply 32September 30, 2021 2:52 PM

thank you R27 - that's really interesting about "suing."

There were parts where I liked the mothers but parts where I thought they were ridiculous. Hindsight is always 20/20, but it seems crazy to invite the kid's father to meet her and go on vacations with him and then not expect him to get attached to her (and vice versa). To cut him off and still view him as not really a part of the family, but just a "donor" (when the kid clearly viewed him as her father - despite her primary caretakers being her moms) was selfish and unrealistic.

That being said, this was a different time and uncharted territory and it was probably terrifying that Russo had no legal rights to Ry (since this was pre-second parent adoption), so they were extra controlling because they were scared. And I think they wanted to do the right thing when the girls asked about their fathers - especially with Russo's history with her own father. And they seem like really committed mothers - so like easy to judge from a distance, but much harder when it's your own kids.

I was riveted by the first episode. The daughter is a strong filmmaker.

by Anonymousreply 33September 30, 2021 2:59 PM

I thought this was super interesting and well made, especially the end of the episode, which had me feeling very sympathetic even though I think the moms made some really bad choices here.

The most level-headed person in the show was Cris, except I kept wondering why she got in the middle of all of this (sending the pamphlet, finding the donors, etc).

Milton’s son turned out very cute!

by Anonymousreply 34September 30, 2021 7:02 PM

R34: The downside to Cris was Cade's donor/father being such a mess. I'm guessing that c. 1970, there was a desire to make change and that, as well as a sense of sisterhood brought her into this mess.

by Anonymousreply 35September 30, 2021 9:20 PM

Cade got the ball rolling, not Ry, interesting. They say they weren't thinking of genes but they wanted a cute donor.

Cris the friend was a fiery advocate who wound up defending the Enron guys. Steel sounds like he never lost his ideals. Milton may have been a dick, but he was the doc for SF jail and started an AIDS clinic outside of SF.

by Anonymousreply 36October 1, 2021 12:47 AM

Love Cris

by Anonymousreply 37October 1, 2021 12:50 AM

I feel sorry for Cris. She went in helping with the donors thinking it was going to be a good thing which it started off as.

Cade was curious about her father which is natural. It sort of reminded of a documentary I watched years ago about a lawyer who had donated sperm throughout law school to make money and pay his education expenses. Years later, he found out he had 75 kids. One people who used his sperm was a straight woman who decided to be a single mother by choice. She used his sperm twice for her two kids, one was girl and one was a boy. The girl eventually became curious about her donor and the single mom contacted the lawyer who agreed to meet her and the kids. In the documentary, the lawyer was engaged and his fiancee wasn't happy about him visiting the single mom and the kids. I suspect a lot of similar drama goes on in situations where sperm donors have their own spouses and families and then dealing with children who want to meet them.

In this documentary, it was shitty for Milton to stir shit with the whole thing about insisting the girls call Tom, "Daddy."

by Anonymousreply 38October 1, 2021 1:17 AM

I’m on the fence about Milton. He might have been an asshole but he could have also been trying to lighten shit up…. It seemed like a bit of a serious household with those two moms. He seemed to encourage silliness and playfulness then Tom also became silly with the girls. Kids love that shit. We didn’t really have any context for the “call him daddy” comment - it was just one of the moms reporting it with a horror as if he had taught her “Heil Hitler.”

Also if that was Tom’s partner and his son came along for the vacations - it was kind of shitty to just excise Milton and the son like they were trash and instruct Tom to visit alone.

You can’t have it both ways - encouraging the little girls meet their dads and spend time with them and then decide to take them away because of “boundary crossing” with the mothers. Little kids don’t understand the concept of a sperm donors.

Anyway, very interesting situation.

by Anonymousreply 39October 1, 2021 2:14 AM

A (former) friend of mine fathered a kid with a lesbian couple.

They were all crazy, if you ask me. He was a BS'er and a liar who told a good story. The women became very territorial when he got into a new relationship with someone. And the resulting child is a holy terror who knows how to play all three parents like a fucking fiddle.

by Anonymousreply 40October 1, 2021 6:23 PM

The mom’s big mistake (other than no contracts with the donors) was thinking that because they created their family in such an intentional way, that they could also avoid some of the annoying things about family, like a relative’s spouse who’s annoying on vacation, or even the donor dad who was an alcoholic. It’s not so easy to just cut people out of your life like that, or dictate that they only appear at your convenience or in a way that pleases you. If you bring a person into your family (which they did not by making the men donors, but by adding them to family activities and meetings with the kids), you in some ways have to put up with the baggage they bring with them.

by Anonymousreply 41October 2, 2021 10:41 AM

R41 that’s a really good point.

by Anonymousreply 42October 2, 2021 12:18 PM

Yeah, a kind of naive but selfish version of idealism. They seem very San Francisco, I'm surprised they didn't move there. Perhaps, they weren't quite annoying enough.

by Anonymousreply 43October 2, 2021 12:45 PM

I remember reading a lot about this family years ago, and seeing them in gay history docs somewhere along the line. This first episode was very well done. I don't much like Robin and Russo, and I'd love to hear more from Cade.

Why is Russo's name Russo? I know it's a last name, but her family last name was something Jewish. Is Russo the name of one her ex-husbands?

by Anonymousreply 44October 2, 2021 12:59 PM

I wonder if Cade was like enough already. Doesn’t seem like she’s participating. They seem to have old footage of her.

by Anonymousreply 45October 2, 2021 1:18 PM

R45 That made me anxious that she might be dead.

by Anonymousreply 46October 2, 2021 1:21 PM

Was he hot? "Tom Steel" is a name that suggests hotness.....

by Anonymousreply 47October 2, 2021 1:21 PM

R46 nah she’s on Ry’s Instagram - she has bleached blonde hair now. Her Instagram is private though- so I’m guessing she’s done with commenting publicly about her family. Especially if her donor was some drunk the mothers had to cut out, she might not want to revisit that in such a public forum.

But I have no idea.

by Anonymousreply 48October 2, 2021 1:28 PM

R47 He had kind of a JFK Jr vibe, good looking guy.

by Anonymousreply 49October 2, 2021 1:49 PM

My brother was a donor for friends who were a lesbian couple. My brother made it clear that he was a donor only and didn’t want any responsibility in raising the child. He left it to the parents to decide if they wanted their child to know his identity or have any relationship. Everyone had a lawyer, the couple, my brother and the unborn baby. My brother waived all rights. The child, a boy, is now 17. My brother didn’t maintain a friendship for reasons too complicated to go into but they have met a few times without revealing my brothers paternity. Oddly, my brother wanted our father to meet the women and the baby and introduced the baby as our father’s grandson.

by Anonymousreply 50October 2, 2021 2:06 PM

No, you don't r46. I attended a screening of the first episode. Cade was on the Q&A panel and was very much involved. She and her trans husband Max and their daughter live in the building owned and occupied by the Moms. They are a very tightly knit family.

by Anonymousreply 51October 2, 2021 3:20 PM

Years ago, there was thread somewhere here on DL, where a poster said he donated sperm twice to a lesbian couple. There was a boy and girl. From what I recall, he said never met the kids and that the lesbians would send him pictures and call with occasional updates.

by Anonymousreply 52October 2, 2021 4:02 PM

r51 - eye roll. Is she in the series? Nothing you stated contradicts what I wrote. A Q&A at some screening does not equal participation in the HBO series. Neither does what building she lives in.

People were asking if she was dead.

by Anonymousreply 53October 2, 2021 4:19 PM

More Lesbian drama? No thanks.

by Anonymousreply 54October 2, 2021 4:23 PM

Fucking Cunt Troll thread!


by Anonymousreply 55October 2, 2021 4:28 PM

Nice try, r53. It was speculated that she might be dead or that she has walked away from the whole enterprise. Pretty sure my response answered those questions, although perhaps not in the direct way your limited mind demands. Whether she's in the subsequent episodes will be revealed soon enough.

by Anonymousreply 56October 2, 2021 5:52 PM

The moms and Tom seemed to carry around a lot of assumptions they never questioned---the moms had 25 years to do this and they haven't. Tom doesn't seem to have thought through what he was doing by allowing himself to argue so traditionally from the existent legal framework. No one says this , but the moms also argued somewhat that way--presenting themselves as a nuclear family, when they kindof weren't by inviting this guy to donate sperm and providing an opening to his participation.

The real hero in this episode was Bonnie the public attorney, who was attuned to custody issues and children---neither attorney for the Tom or the moms seemed to understand that. I'm surprised neither side had someone like her. Still, she could have prepared Ry better for the psychiatrist visits. The moms attorney basically tampered with evidence (the business with the pictures, the raincoat). we don't get a real assessment of the transcripts, but I suspect Cris would have had to call Tom a monster she never really knew to please the moms.

I was appalled let Ry talk to the media after the trial. They should have kept the children out of that circus. Custody proceedings are awful---Tom should have been warned about this and the potential for whatever relationship he had to be pushed beyond repair, but the moms' willingness to expose their children to tv people was inexcusable.

by Anonymousreply 57October 4, 2021 3:03 AM

I still think Milton was the villain in all of this. He was Iago whose whispers set this tragedy in motion; rather than see Tom’s relationship for what, in reality, what it was - a friend of the family’s - he pushed him to identity as an actual father, which he very clearly was not. (You see this in the testimony of Milton’s son, Jacob, he easily imposes the designation of “sisters” upon Ry and Cade when they had no familial relationship at all and had only met 3 times.)

As the supposed ace lawyer that he was, he must’ve known what a weak case he had; no involvement with this child until it was suggested to him, no child support payments, no obligation or care for the child. The annihilation of Russo in the court proceeding was proof enough that he had no understanding of their construct as a family, and while at the time he and his lawyers may have thought that benefitted him, it’s EXACTLY the kind of scorched earth tactics litigants resort to when they know they don’t have a case. That, and things like “lesbian fusion,” trying to control, characterise and define the defendants rather than dealing with the truth. Which is why, when they won the landmark case establishing the construct of a same sex parental family within family law, they had EVERY RIGHT to go on television and be visible, not just for themselves but as a model for other same sex parents. Their visibility was relevant and important because without it, the country would’ve been left with the litigant’s courtroom view of them as demonic scheming fused lesbians with brain dead, brain washed children. It’s not the Ry was presented as Honey Boo Boo, ffs.

The Russo-Young’s established rights for ALL same sex parents, not just lesbians. People taking sides here are missing the point - this is a story about a larger movement for LGBT rights that began with our liberation at Stonewall, continued with a sexual revolution and the impact of a plague that drove home our complete lack of civil rights; this case is one stop along the way of establishing the construct of gay people’s lives within the law.

I look forward to the conclusion.

by Anonymousreply 58October 4, 2021 3:19 PM

And I apologise for all the typos and errors.

by Anonymousreply 59October 4, 2021 3:22 PM

Lol r56 “limited mind….” why are you so nasty? Are you one of the moms? Are you Cade? Get off your fucking pedestal - if you went to a screening - let people know what you learned without being such a bitch. What’s the big deal? This isn’t some global mystery. It’s an HBO limited series about something that occurred 30 years ago. About 10 of us are watching and enjoying it. It’s not that deep.

Lord. Lesbian drama indeed.

by Anonymousreply 60October 4, 2021 4:00 PM

The parents on tv, yes. The kids, no. If Tom lacked empathy (the child protection attorney), I'd say theirs was lacking, too, with that move.

by Anonymousreply 61October 4, 2021 6:31 PM

What’s up with the filmmakers hairstyle? It may just have been the Covid-19 DIY hairstyles, and heaven knows she doesn’t have the best history of flattering hairstyles, but if you’re going to put yourself on film for all eternity don’t chose as thinning retro Joan Jett hairstyle to do it in.

by Anonymousreply 62October 4, 2021 10:00 PM

Russo doesn’t strike me as that smartest of lawyers, fucking up from the beginning and not doing a contract is one thing, but being excluded from the courtroom when she just could have had the wife pay her a dollar and declare her as one of the lawyers as part of her legal team is another and pathetically standing on a stool in the hall at the door. I feel like her arrogance and stubbornness also just added gasoline to this dumpster fire from the start.

by Anonymousreply 63October 4, 2021 10:05 PM

Knowing the gut punch of Tom having AIDS being obvious from the first moment you meet him still did not prepare for that ending.

by Anonymousreply 64October 4, 2021 10:07 PM

It surprised me that Tom did not seem to think through that he spent his career fighting the existing legal status for gay people and others discriminated against, and yet the suit he brought could have been groundbreaking in blocking those same people from rights. “He could only be defined as the parent if Russo wasn’t.” The psychology of being involved in litigation can poison someone’s good sense, and I feel like that’s what happened here, on both sides.

I felt so awful for Cris to be just sliced out of the mothers’ lives, for trying not to side against any of her friends.

by Anonymousreply 65October 4, 2021 10:31 PM

Not having been on this thread, I was almost certain that Cade was no longer with us until I watched the latter part of the most recent episode. First, there was only the old interviews of her, then it was the talking head family friend who got emotional about how this case so badly impacted on Cade. Then she shows up in real time.

by Anonymousreply 66October 4, 2021 10:38 PM

R66 yeah, I’m the one early on in the thread who asked if she was dead, because it obviously mirrored Tom not being interviewed. Now it seems very calculated and suspect by the filmmaker purposely orchestrating it in this way and undermines the good will I felt towards her. I feel emotionally manipulated.

by Anonymousreply 67October 4, 2021 10:48 PM

My assumption was Cade was just tired of it and didn’t want to be involved. I was glad to see her looking happy.

by Anonymousreply 68October 4, 2021 10:56 PM

Watched the first episode. 2/3 of the way through the second. I must be missing something. Gay dad surprisingly loves his daughter which he didn’t expect and all hell breaks loose? He is not looking to do anything bad, just to spend time with her. How awful!!

by Anonymousreply 69October 4, 2021 11:47 PM

Cris went on to defend Enron execs, so I think she could easily compete with Tom in the sell out department--we also don't know if the tactics were pushed more by him or his attorney.. Still, he was stuck with some pretty awful case law and had to use it. None of the lawyers here seemed very bright. The advocates for Tom and the moms should have found retired versions of Bonnie to help them navigate all this.

By the time they decided to reinvent the family, there was considerable knowledge about other social experiments from the 60s and early 70s, esp. intentional communities. The ones that actually endured had very clear rules, none of this "assuming the best" stuff.

Tom obviously is dead and his still alive, shit stirring partner did not participate. We don't know what kind of person Tom might have become. The moms, OTOH, went in naively and seemed to believe that their "belief" would not potentially be trumped by someone else's feelings because they (the donor) wouldn't be in the picture until a long time had elapsed. Dispensing with the drunk probably reinforced that. Russo and Cris should have researched what was known about relevant law at the time and used their networks to find specialists to help with this, so they could have an ironclad contract. The business about not finding a way to get Russo in the courtroom was a good catch---we never do get a sense of what sort of lawyer she is/was. Instead they had some naive ideas that they still feel are within their zone of privilege based on nothing--they seem only a little willing to to admit their stupidity.

I'm looking forward toe Episode 3 and I'm curious what, if anything, Ry will say as a closer.

by Anonymousreply 70October 4, 2021 11:54 PM

So many kids are neglected, abused, abandoned and not wanted. Too many people love and want these kids. This is some fucked up shit.

by Anonymousreply 71October 5, 2021 12:04 AM

[quote] So many kids are neglected, abused, abandoned and not wanted. Too many people love and want these kids. This is some fucked up shit.

Yes, if the daughter/filmmaker intended this to be a hosanna for her moms, she did not succeed.

by Anonymousreply 72October 5, 2021 12:16 AM

I wish you’d all stop looking at this through such a judgemental “I know better and would’ve done this differently” lens. It’s so annoying.

by Anonymousreply 73October 5, 2021 9:02 AM

[quote] I wish you’d all stop looking at this through such a judgemental “I know better and would’ve done this differently” lens.

Oh, dear.

by Anonymousreply 74October 5, 2021 12:54 PM

Russo and Robin made a point of saying that the narrative of how this was an attempt to forge a new kind of family was not their intention, which was repeated framed as, two parents and kids--we're the nuclear family, not looking for an intentional community of multiple parents. So the tension seems to touch on that difference in interpretation.

by Anonymousreply 75October 5, 2021 2:28 PM

Ry does a much better job than I would have expected of letting her mothers tell their side, but then using the interviews of surrounding people to give conflicting facts or different slants on the story. She could have left out things like the home videos of the trips that make clear she and Cade were close (at least in some ways) to her dad. In the first episode, I thought it was noticeable that right after her moms said basically “we visited them once in a while if we were in town for other reasons,” Ry cut to videos and pictures that made clear all the adults rented vacation houses together and hung out for summer trips and spring break. She clearly loves and sided with her moms but isn’t afraid to present what she sees as a more complicated truth.

by Anonymousreply 76October 5, 2021 2:32 PM

I think the mothers are coming off horribly. They are arrogant and nasty and obnoxious. He just wanted to see the kid. He had a relationship with her that the mothers asked him (!) to engage in. It's absurd. He wanted to see her on summer breaks and they went apeshit, made the kids undergo a trial, fucked up the other kid, etc. etc. etc.

Love Cris. Also like Bonnie - the law guardian.

Poor Tom. And poor kids.

by Anonymousreply 77October 6, 2021 7:18 PM

I also liked the moms’ friend who teared up talking about Cade. The moms and Tom both seem to have nice friends.

by Anonymousreply 78October 6, 2021 7:59 PM

The moms seem to have wanted it both ways—a new kind of family but also their own nuclear family—-and still do. That’s the heart of their inability to look critically at what they did.

by Anonymousreply 79October 6, 2021 8:02 PM

I think that’s true. But it also sucks because the reason they couldn’t have just a nuclear family was basically homophobia, in that if both moms could have been legal parents, I think they would have been less worried about Tom trying to manipulate that legal status. His suit was such a threat because the two moms couldn’t fill the two legal slots of parent in the eyes of the law, but Tom could.

by Anonymousreply 80October 6, 2021 8:06 PM

The preview for episode 3 actually made me emotional (MARY!). Ry is a talented filmmaker. Knowing that Tom died when she was a kid and she missed that little bit of time with him is so fucking sad. Because the mothers refused to just take her to California to see her biological father who was dying of AIDS and instead he had to file for visitation and then they still couldn't work it out with him and put everyone through a trial... all the while he's dying.. that's a tough pill to swallow. You could see the sadness when she described her meeting with him at court (where she basically told him to fuck off).

Also, it undermines the mothers' argument about their TERROR re: him trying to take custody of Ry and fight their choice of orthodontist (such a strange example), when they knew he was HIV positive in 1991 and also lived across the country.

In the preview for the final episode, when the mothers scoff and say "do YOU think we rewrote your history??" and she just stares, I got chills.

I'm glad she was able to speak to his friends.

by Anonymousreply 81October 6, 2021 8:09 PM

The preview for episode 3 reminded me a bit of an HBO documentary from the 90s where the filmmaker similar to Ry used home videos. In that documentary, the filmmaker's father had been closeted for a long time and had divorced the filmmaker's mother. She chronicled the last year of his life when he was dealing with AIDS through home videos she took and combined with interviews from others in their life. I can't remember the tile of the documentary, but it was quite sad. Nuclear Family sort of reminds me of that documentary with a similar style.

by Anonymousreply 82October 7, 2021 3:53 AM

Dragging Ry onto Leeza and into the media was awful and inappropriate. The moms never should have done that nd I wonder if it contributed to her acting out. It sounds like they had no idea how to set limits, in other ways. They also seemed to have a shockingly naive approach to sex and sexuality ("we assumed you were a lesbian", "go have sex with him"--Ry's first bf). They also seemed to have terrible limit-setting skills and little ability to deal with Ry's feelings Custody battles are awful and the people involved are never angels, so it doesn't surprise me that the moms' limitations as parents become evident.

Both the moms and Tom had to distort reality because of the litigation. Cris seems to capture what happened and it's clear that her explanation really started a discussion with the moms.

It's too bad we don't hear about the cute guy with the stubble whom I assume fathered her son.

by Anonymousreply 83October 11, 2021 2:58 AM

Cris is the only one who seems to objectively understand the truth of this situation. I'm glad she was still around to share her perspective with Ry. As awful as some of the behaviors of Russo, Robin, and Tom were, I know from experience in my own family that parents' deep love for their kids can make them do some irrational, painful things that affect their kids that in the moment the parents think is for the kids' best interest or protection. The irreparable tragedy in this case is that it's clear Tom loved Ry very much, but succumbed to AIDS long before any chance of reconciliation and a renewed relationship. I hope Tom's soul is long at peace, and I hope Ry found solace and resolution exploring her true story. It's also pretty clear from those last minutes in the finale that Russo's "FUCK HIM!" directed at Tom -- a man who's been dead for 23+ years -- means she is most likely taking that rage and hatred to her bitter grave.

by Anonymousreply 84October 11, 2021 7:46 AM

Ry did a beautiful job on this film.

The reality here is that Tom was right that Ry had a lift filled with many people who loved her, the moms were right to be terrified about the legal threat Tom would pose if declared a legal parent, Cris was right that the moms rewrote history, and Ry was right that the moms did that because you couldn’t tell that more complicated story in court.

The legal system might be the best system we have, but it perverts reality and encourages participants to harden their stances and take any nuance or complication out of the story and to confuse winning with being right. What happened in this family, which Tom and the moms share blame for, should be avoided by any means possible.

by Anonymousreply 85October 11, 2021 12:35 PM

I loved the ending of this episode. The contrast between Russo’s fury when she shouts “FUCK HIM” about Tom, and then the shot a few minutes later of Russo gazing at Ry and her new baby with total love and adoration. The good, the bad, and the ugly of family.

by Anonymousreply 86October 11, 2021 12:52 PM

Well, R86, and a few moments later with Ry brushing Russo's hair out of her eyes before they shoot, and Russo holding the newborn baby. What moved me in the final shots was how much of these people's stories, how much of their memories are at the beach, how the ocean was such a powerful visual metaphor for this story, its depth, its motion, its tide like an enduring rhythm of life itself, its darkness and murkiness. It was well done.

Points for the classy inclusion of a Low song on the soundtrack.

I mostly agree with R85, certainly - having been there myself - in terms of how the legal system perverts reality, exempts nuance (there is NO room for nuance in a legal proceeding) and hardens stances. However, I do not think that Cris was right - the mothers were right to distance themselves from her and Cris revealed why. She was not a mediator. She took sides. And as she said what she said, I thought a darkness was revealed in her - not an evil but what she revealed justified the moms position with her. At best, Tom was like an uncle (and I speak as one myself), not a father and certainly not a parent. He may or may not have been responsible with Ry, I'm not questioning that; but he never did the hard graft of parenting, of spending every waking moment of your day concerned about your child's welfare. At best, he was a fun uncle, or a babysitter, and that's a BIG difference. It's easy to look back - decades after the case - and minimise the threat that was posed at the time, a threat he made manifest by suddenly taking them to court. Listen up, kids: once you take someone to court, it's over. That relationship is OVER. Did he think he was going to win and just rub it in the mom's faces? People here are like, the moms diminished him - he completely excised Russo from the court room! How was that NOT warping reality? How could Tom be a top lawyer and say something like, "I had no idea how much energy and time and effort this case was going to take." WHERE was he practicing law? In The People's Court?

Tom had his own reasons for pursuing that but his motives were not altruistic and were somehow wound up in facing his own mortality and wanting to feel he'd achieved something that would outlive him - that was clear in the video when he described his reward as being "the court acknowledged I was the father." Ry doesn't weep for him as a father; she wept for him as a lost soul.

Ry Russo-Young is a canny filmmaker and she teased out the threads of this a bit to pad the final hour. (Or like the narration that went, "I never spoke to Tom again - pause pause pause - un-til..." She's knows what her job is.) She did it delicately but - as someone who's worked in factual programming - the scene with her moms seemed like kind of thing a commissioner would push a filmmaker to do after viewing a rough cut OR after they saw the interview with Cris. It shows what supportive and loving parents her moms are that they sat for it and confronted those feelings but neither seemed particularly shaken or fearful of it - I laughed when Russo said "FUCK HIM" which is pretty much how EVERY litigant feels about anyone who takes them to court UNTIL THEIR DYING DAY. (I still occasionally google a former employer's name who took me to civil court - followed by the word "obituary". I was also pleased to see in less than 5 years after she took me to court, her company folded. Good. Doesn't make me a bad person, certainly not after what that fucking bitch put me through for nearly 2 years - and I WON!) The moms weren't just protecting Ry, they were protecting their family and decades later they have a LOT to show for that. As Ry asked them those really tough questions and they engaged with her on the subject I thought, my gawd, my parents (one of them dead now) wouldn't even talk with me - as an adult! - about their homophobia or the Catholic church or why they've always voted against me, much less ANY questions about their parenting! AT ALL. The moms are really extraordinary parents.

by Anonymousreply 87October 11, 2021 4:33 PM


And the poster banging on about the media again - I guess you missed the part where Ry said she was interested in film making and the media and wanted to use the opportunity to be in it and explore it more. You may have noticed, erm, she's a documentary filmmaker who made her husband film her in the lift at the hospital while she was having contractions? Yeah? I don't think the moms had anything to do with it other than supporting her interests and endeavors (they all dressed up as Red Riding Hood for her too).

Does anyone else get the impression that Ry married her 1st boyfriend? He was irresistible. If not, she certainly has a type.

by Anonymousreply 88October 11, 2021 4:34 PM

She may have been interested in working in the media, but that doesn't mean they should have taken her on a show like Leeza or sitting for interviews with journos of probably varying agendas. It seemed like a pattern of not really protecting her and using her as an outlet for their own anger. They showed a lot of bad judgment in other ways---not really knowing how to set limits or discuss sex, and cavalierly suggesting she have sex with her bf and get it over with.

The moms stood up for their family, but Russo being a lawyer (and one who worked in legal aid, apparently) should have known what a potential quagmire they were entering. Not discussed here is what would have happened if the moms had broken up.....I'll bet that would have been interesting.

by Anonymousreply 89October 11, 2021 4:43 PM

[quote] The moms stood up for their family, but Russo being a lawyer (and one who worked in legal aid, apparently) should have known what a potential quagmire they were entering. Not discussed here is what would have happened if the moms had broken up.....I'll bet that would have been interesting.

I also wonder if they have had ever discussed what would have happened if there had been a breakup. Would the moms have split custody? Or, would each mom would have moved on with the daughter she gave birth to?

I vaguely recall some custody case in the late 90s/early 00s with a lesbian couple who had a child through artificial insemination and the bio mom didn't want to give the other mom visitations after a break up.

by Anonymousreply 90October 11, 2021 4:57 PM

However, the strength of their relationship was never called into question. The "what if..." scenario is just another attempt to demonise them. A break up is not part of their story, and was not contemplated at any time during their history. Nice try, though.

by Anonymousreply 91October 11, 2021 5:05 PM

Meant to add as well, this would be a potentially great Noah Baumbach film.

by Anonymousreply 92October 11, 2021 5:14 PM

If I were an adoptive mom and spent the first nine years raising a child and then the bio parent swooped in, sued to be legally recognized as the child’s parent effectively extinguishing my rights yes I would also feel “FUCK YOU” rage twenty years later, so I get Russo’s animosity

by Anonymousreply 93October 11, 2021 5:37 PM

r93, I thought it was initially the two mothers who changed their minds, and decided to ask the father to participate in the child's upbringing. Is this not correct?

by Anonymousreply 94October 11, 2021 5:41 PM

The mothers agreed that once the children started asking questions and expressing interest in knowing their dads, the moms would reach out to the dads and ask them to introduced themselves (both dads getting to know both children). Cade started asking around kindergarten age, which got the ball rolling (so to speak), but Cade’s bio father was an alcoholic, so the moms eventually cut off that contact unless he agreed not to drink around the kids (which he wouldn’t) and the girls really only got to know Tom.

by Anonymousreply 95October 11, 2021 5:54 PM

R94, I guess it depends on what “participate in the child’s upbringing” means. We visit and vacation with my kids’ grandparents once or twice a year, do they “participate in [my] child’s upbringing”? Perhaps. If they sued to be recognized as my child’s legal parent, I would hate them and it would destroy everything

by Anonymousreply 96October 11, 2021 5:58 PM

Ry has said that she's considering making a fictional adaptation of the story for a future feature. She's probably not finished with this. Any suggestions for casting?

by Anonymousreply 97October 11, 2021 8:12 PM

Catherine Keener for Robin time-traveling Tom Selleck for Tom Tyne Daly for Russo

by Anonymousreply 98October 11, 2021 8:37 PM

Lens Dunham for Russo

by Anonymousreply 99October 11, 2021 8:38 PM

I would love to see Tyne play Russo, but it would be a great role for Kristy McNichol to come out of retirement for. Clip in some fake protruding teeth, Kristy, it's time.

by Anonymousreply 100October 11, 2021 8:49 PM

The funny thing about Russo is her personality is extra-large, but when they show her on the old vacation tapes she looks so small compared to the other, tall adults.

It’s amazing to me how people used to meet life partners almost so casually - Robin and Russo bumped into each other as total strangers in a city only one of them lived in and managers to hold that connection? Today you’d think, ah well, I have a bunch of prospects closer to home on my dating app.

by Anonymousreply 101October 11, 2021 8:53 PM

[quote] If you bring a person into your family (which they did not by making the men donors, but by adding them to family activities and meetings with the kids), you in some ways have to put up with the baggage they bring with them.

Probably. But you all don't seem to remember or are too young to know what "child custody" was like in the 1970s. These women knew that millions of dads were perfectly content abandoning their kids. Kids born from one night stands mostly never met their fathers because the "dads" didn't want a part of their kid's lives

There wasn't shared custody. Most men were perfectly content to have nothing to do with their kids lives. Most divorced dads saw their kids during summer vacation. If that. In the mid 1980s, some dads started getting every other weekend custody visits. Most didn't even want that.

by Anonymousreply 102October 11, 2021 9:00 PM

Ry and Lens both went to St Ann’s and Oberlin. I wonder if theyre friends

by Anonymousreply 103October 11, 2021 9:19 PM

This doc has upset me more than recent ones I can think of. WTF did they think Tom was going to do to Ry? I must have missed all his evil doings. Visitation? The horror! I am sure I am dense and missing the moms justification for all this. Truly sad.

by Anonymousreply 104October 11, 2021 11:11 PM

They was a lot of naivete with the mothers. Even though there were no established protocols at the time, they just assumed wanting a new kind of family was enough. As an attorney who started law school in 1987 I would have known a contract was required. Yes they love their children but requiring the paternity test was just stupid and alienating. If both sides had made a good faith attempt to mediate, they would have avoided so much pain. Hubris.

by Anonymousreply 105October 11, 2021 11:18 PM

R104 The crux of it was that the method Tom was using to gain visitation would have put him in one of two available legal slots of “parent” for Ry, with the other slot for Robin, leaving Russo as a non-entity (legally). This is what incensed the moms, who were insistent that Ry had two parents only, the two of them—but back in that day, the state would not recognize two women as the legal parents (homophobia is the real villain in this story).

If Tom and the moms were really putting Ry first they would have compromised, mediated, and found a contractual solution that didn’t require bringing legal parentage into it. But both sides became furious and intent on winning in court.

by Anonymousreply 106October 11, 2021 11:24 PM

Thank you R104. Appreciate your reply. I guess the thing that upsets and angers me is that it didn’t need to get to lawsuit stage. If the two meshugenas would have just allowed Tom and Ry time if would have never gotten to lawsuit stage. Kids going to spend summer at Uncle Bob and Aunt Betty’s farm during summer vacation. Done. Spending time with your LA cousins. Done. All those beautiful lake cabins with your best friend’s family. Done. Why all the idiotic drama?

Again, Tom wound up loving someone he didn’t expect to. Failing to see how he was a monster.

by Anonymousreply 107October 11, 2021 11:42 PM

^ Robyn said she feared Tom wouldnt be vigilant with the kids near water if they were doing some lakehouse retreat without the moms, which I can kind of understand. Some people are more lackadaisical with kida around water, kinda scary, I wouldnt want to risk it

by Anonymousreply 108October 11, 2021 11:53 PM

R108, yeah, that’s kind of the BS stuff the two moms would say. Was there a previous experience where Ry was endangered that made Robyn say this? If so, I don’t recall. As a parent, there are a million things that CAN happen you don’t expect. It’s all part of the process. You learn and move on. Shit happens. Again, I am clearly not seeing how Tom was such a bad person.

by Anonymousreply 109October 12, 2021 12:23 AM

You're not? When Tom is in the courtroom and sees Russo excluded from the proceedings, her forehead peeking through as she stands outside on a stool she's found so she can peer in and see the family she's excluded from because of his actions--even then, you don't see how Tom was such a bad person?

by Anonymousreply 110October 12, 2021 10:28 AM

It's Robin. With an "i."

by Anonymousreply 111October 12, 2021 12:33 PM

Loved this series so much. Ry is a wonderful filmmaker. And loved that she really confronted them at the end and made the point that they were thinking of themselves and not her in the way they handled their reaction to the lawsuit. Loved that she said she wouldn't have minded going to see him in California for a week and loved that she pointed out the 4 year traumatic lawsuit was much worse than her seeing him for a week during the summer.

I didn't believe the mothers at the end when they claimed they called Tom and Milton all the time and tried to work it out but they were just too nervous to put anything in writing. I didn't buy it. That read as panicked lying because she was finally calling them out on their shit. And I didn't buy that nonsense about Robin being scared re: Ry being near water either - (1) because a few years down the line they let her go full wild child in NYC and encouraged her to fuck her boyfriend and (2) Tom wanted to take her to Yuba City, CA for the family reunion - which is inland, not near any ocean. She was 9 years old - she wasn't a toddler.

Loved Cris and loved that she defended Tom the way she did - I'm sure her initial reaction when Ry called her about the documentary was "no thank you" but then she felt she owed it to Tom. He had some really lovely friends. Very sad that Milton now has Alzheimer's. His son was lovely and also seemed to really love Tom.

And finally what really incensed me was that the mothers knew he was dying of AIDS and still spouted that bullshit that they were scared he would try to take her away. It was so cruel. If anything, I would have respected them more if they just said they were worried she would get too attached to him and he was dying and that would be too upsetting for her and they didn't want to put her through that, etc. Because then at least it would have been about Ry and not them. But that was never their reasoning. It was always about them and what they wanted.

Which, at the end of the day, is their right as her parents.

Beautiful series. Brought up some really interesting questions and a lot of feelings.

by Anonymousreply 112October 12, 2021 11:01 PM

Milton’s son had such gorgeous, kind eyes!

by Anonymousreply 113October 12, 2021 11:14 PM

I thought this was good but it would have benefitted from an unrelated third party to provide some unemotional commentary. Also, Tom’s daughter tried to get their Moms to say something…anything…in terms of understanding Tom’s position…even intellectually for just a moment…but even after 30 years they cannot.

by Anonymousreply 114October 13, 2021 2:42 AM
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