And so this week’s moment of happiness despite the news.
Late at night, when I am finally done with work for the day, I like to spend an hour or so in my recliner, watching a television show. It’s usually a blast from the past. I’ve watched the Gilmore Girls a few times through now, and Scrubs, the Bob Newhart Show where he plays a psychologist, the Mary Tyler Moor Show, This Is Us (not too far in the past yet), The Good Place three times and Parenthood twice. Recently, I was delighted to see that the old television show Family is on a free streaming channel, Tubi.
Family ran from 1976 to 1980. It featured Sada Thompson and James Broderick as the parents, Meredith Baxter Birney as the oldest daughter, Gary Frank as the sensitive middle brother (a wanna-be writer, of course), and Kristy McNichol as the precocious youngest child. In the last two years of the show, Quinn Cummings joined the cast, for reasons I can’t remember – she was an orphaned child who became the new “cute kid” when Kristy McNichol began to outgrow that role.
I remember being enamored of this show. I was in love with Willie, the writer/brother, and I wanted to be Buddy, the precocious beyond intelligent youngest sister. Unlike The Waltons, my favorite television show of all time, Family was “cool” to watch, and so I actually emerged from my room to do so. The Waltons, by the way, ran from 1972 to 1981, and so despite not being “cool”, it lasted far longer. It’s even referred to in Family, when Buddy says to Willie, “Don’t go all John Boy on me.” Personally, I think more of us need to go all John Boy. But I digress.
So I started watching this with vague memories and great anticipation. That changed quickly, but despite my disappointment, it still counts as my moment of happiness.
In the first few episodes, I was shocked as this family, meant to be a role model for viewing audiences, yelled at each other to shut up and called each other stupid. The father told the wife to shut up, the wife told the husband to shut up, they both told the kids to shut up, the father told Buddy she was stupid, Willy told Buddy she was stupid, the father told the mother she was stupid, they all told Willie he was stupid, and on and on and on. Really? That was considered a wholesome family? In a way, it explained a lot about that time period.
But then, a few nights ago, I watched as Buddy babysat for her big sister’s baby. Nancy, the sister, was going through a volatile divorce, one that involved both she and her husband smacking each other upside the head in front of the judge. Wonderful. But Buddy, playing with baby Timmy, explained her worries to her brother Willie. “What’s going to happen to Timmy?” she asked. “Boys that grow up without fathers become homosexual.”
My jaw hit my lap.
And Willie, wise, sensitive, wanna-be writer Willie, didn’t tell her that this was ridiculous, that you don’t “become” homosexual, and that it’s not a cause/effect of divorce. No. He said, “Timmy will be okay. That’s not how you become homosexual.”
And my jaw fell through my recliner to the floor.
This episode was in the first season, so 1976. I was either 15 or 16 years old when I saw this for the first time. And I don’t remember being shocked by it, or even questioning it. Now, I was glad my daughter Olivia wasn’t in the room when I saw this, as she likely would have gone through the roof.
So there’s been a lot I’ve been horrified by in our country and our world over the last few years. I’ve been shocked over the country’s attitudes toward racism, LGBTQ+, women’s rights, gun control, violence, even the reaction to the pandemic. The January 6th insurrection. I’ve been horrified, sickened, infuriated, and many times, felt completely helpless. I’ve even seriously considered giving up writing, feeling like there’s really nothing I can do, on my own, that would effect any change at all. Which, you know, giving up writing would be like giving up myself. But it’s been a really horrifying few years.
But then this episode. As I sat there afterwards, the tv screen gone dark, I thought about how I’m seeing more and more commercials that include gay couples, biracial couples, and all sorts of couples, and they go by and I don’t even really notice them, because it’s just a part of my life. I just saw the fabulous movie, Spoiler Alert, based on the memoir by Michael Ausiello, about a gay relationship where one of the men dies of cancer. My daughter has the bisexual flag hanging in her college dorm room. She talks about it freely.
So maybe, maybe, we’ve moved ahead, just a little bit. And that little bit gave me a glimmer of hope. A very important, very necessary, very welcomed glimmer.
Now granted, I just saw a news article yesterday about my own town’s school system passing a new rule that says that students can only be called by their preferred pronouns if they have their parents’ permission. And this is the same school system that no longer allows any LGBTQ+ information or support in the schools, no Black Lives Matter, nothing, because they feel it would interfere with education. A teacher last year was suspended twice for wearing a small rainbow pin on her blazer lapel.
So we have such a long way to go. A long, long way.
But there was a glimmer. Just a moment. Showing me that we have made some advances. Which helped.
Which is what this blog is all about.
And yes, that helps. Despite. Anyway.