Here is a recently discovered box used to hold a classic Battleship game. The cover is composed mostly of a painting created sometime in the mid- to late-1960’s. What can this tell us about the culture and values of the time?
We see that the women have been banished from the dining area to clean up after dinner, a dinner which they probably prepared. It is unclear from this single painting whether the males used force, either physical or emotional, to impel the women forward to their housewifely duties.
At first, this was probably just a friendly, informal competition between father and son. But the painting captures the moment when the son has suddenly, unexpectedly bested his father by symbolically destroying the elder’s phallic symbol, piercing it with numerous red pegs.
The women – living for so long under the jackboot of the household patriarchy – smile with satisfaction at the son’s victory over their oppressor, little realizing that they will soon simply be trading one tyrant for another, the curse of any who participate in rebellion.
The man is left to hold his pierced, scarred, desecrated manhood, his smile slowly turning to a look of disbelief, hand on head as he begins to realize the severity, the magnitude of what has just occurred.
The son’s look of confidence and excitement indicates that he knows he has bested the patriarch of the household, and must now take his place. The painting is incomplete: we cannot see the son’s left hand. He could very well be reaching for a knife with which to finish off his father in a fit of oedipal fury. Or, depending on the culture, he could merely be reaching for a cudgel or other blunt object with which to beat his opponent until he leaves the household, forced to fend for himself from now on.
Though we may feel some pity for the fallen patriarch, we are merely seeing evolution in action, as the previous generation gives way to an even more capable example of the species.
Will the son use his new position to claim mating rights over his mother, or did his culture forbid such behavior? Does the woman’s smile result simply from the defeat of her oppressor, or is there also a hint of arousal? We cannot say for sure. But one thing is for certain: scholars will study this find for decades to come.