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Back in Duggar territory: why I kinda like the Browns

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In the past, I've written about my feelings on the Duggar family. These posts have been some of the more heavily visited and contentious posts I've made on this blog--lots of people agreed with my Duggar critique, and lots of people were horrified by it. Though the posts are years old, I still get occasional Duggar defenders commenting.

Recently, I've lost my interest in peering in on the TLC-version of the life and times of the Duggar family. I can't exactly say why--my criticisms of them are only more true as another generation begins (Josh and Anna have two kids now!) and the girls get older and seem all the more controlled by their father and their faith. Maybe I've just given up? Maybe it's too sad for me these days? Either way, 101 Kids and Counting isn't on my DVR anymore.

But I haven't completely reformed. There is a new "family of faith" I can't pull myself away from, again courtesy of an attention-seeking man and TLC. The Browns, of Sister Wives. Like the Duggars, the Browns have a ton of kids (17, I believe). But the kids are spread between Cody Brown's four wives. The Browns are fundamentalist Mormons, the polygamist kind. They are, more or less, the real-life equivalent of the HBO's polygamist cash cow, Big Love's Hendricksons. With more kids and slightly less drama. And I sort of adore them.

Well, let's back up on that. As was the case, oddly, with Big Love, I sort of adore the women. The dude in the middle? Him I could live without. I have no idea how much of it is reality and how of it is the spin TLC chooses for the show, but the more watch, the more I don't understand how Cody Brown could attract and keep even one of these women, much less all four. Obviously, their lives and views and priorities are worlds away from mine, but I find it hard not to get a kick out of the four Brown women. As I think I said at one point about their fictionalized counterparts on Big Love, there seems to be a real female friendship between them, a strong bond that their obvious issues with jealousy and competitiveness can't break. I like watching that. And, mostly, I like how they treat each other.

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Meri, Cody's first wife, is my favorite. She strikes me as someone with a backbone, a soul, and a good sense of ridiculous humor. The whole lifestyle seems to be the hardest on her, not least because she has only been able to have one child. More so than the others, Meri is honest with the camera about her jealousy and other issues. That strikes me as exceptionally brave, in her situation. I can't really guess why these folks have agreed to have their lives put under the nationally televised microscope, but of all of them, Meri strikes me as the most real about what she is saying while she's on the big stage. I like that.

Cody's second wife, Janelle, I love for her pragmatism. Cody is basically a huge, overgrown child, and though I believe his wives are technically all supposed to defer to him, Janelle seems to be the most apt at keeping him in line. Janelle worries about money (which is an odd issue in the show, as the Browns seem to both have plenty of it and never enough, and there isn't a good indication of where it's coming from). She is concerned about logistics. She doesn't suffer fools lightly. Janelle also seems to be the least jealous or competitive of the four women--she has her own thing to do and she mostly just does it. For Janelle, more than the others, I see the benefit of this lifestyle--it seems almost like a (stunted, but still) attempt at cooperative living, more than a multi-marriage. I can kind of see the appeal to that, especially for a woman who very much wants to work and have a lot of kids.

It took me a while to warm up to Christine, Cody's third wife. At first, she seemed to be the most like what you'd think of as a stereotypical polygamist wife. She's very traditionally feminine, her focus almost completely Cody and the kids, and seemed to defer to everyone else way too much. As time has progressed, though, Christine has grown on me. For one thing, it seems that she, more than the others, has a good grasp of the actual biblical basis for the lifestyle she's chosen. While I'm not particularly interested in it myself, I have to respect her for making the connection, especially when it seems largely lost on everybody else (including and especially Cody). Christine is also blessed with the gift of enthusiasm--whenever there is an event or occasion on the show, all the way down to going to Meri's gym for a weigh-in and personal trainer session (the last episode I saw), Christine is raring to go. I kind of like that.

Finally, there's Robyn. Robyn is Cody's most recent wife. They've been married...a couple of years, maybe? She just had their first child, though she brought three with her, from her first marriage. At first, I very much disliked Robyn. She seemed like the hot new home wrecker, messing up a system between Meri, Janelle, and Christine that seemed to be working just fine. She's grown on me, too, though. I have realized that most of the issues I had with Robyn are issues with Cody--the way he handled their "courtship" was infantile. Robyn herself, though, seems more and more to be sensitive to the feelings of her sister wives, and to really care about the family she's joined. A few episodes ago, she told Meri about her pregnancy before she told anybody else, hurting for Meri's hurt even while experiencing her own joy and excitement. I thought that was really nice.

So why am I telling you all this? Because I want to be clear that I actually like these women before I criticize their show. My critique of their way of life is only half-hearted: I don't really give a damn about plural marriage one way or the other, and they seem to be doing OK by their kids (at least for the most part). All of them have said that they don't expect their kids to necessarily choose their faith or lifestyle, and if that's true, then I'm OK with that. What bugs is agreeing to do the show, which pries into them and has to be really tough on the collective offspring. I wonder if they were consulted, you know? When Dad decided to turn their alternative family arrangement into a publicity stunt, did they get a vote? That critique is not Brown-specific, obviously--I wonder it about all of these types of shows. The difference with the Browns is that they already had teenage children when they started out on TV. Their younger kids may grown up reality stars, like Kate Gosselin's offspring and the Duggars, but the elder ones? They got shoved into this at a pretty darn sensitive point. And they don't seem to be dealing with it all that well. The kids aren't interviewed all that much on the show, but when they are, my heart always goes out to the older ones, who seem to be surviving, but not at all happy with what their lives have become.

Of course, I realize my criticism is ill-founded, given that I continue to watch these people's lives like some kind of peeping Tom. I can justify it by saying that they choose to be on TV and that they want this attention, but really, it's still pretty crappy. Were I a better person, I'd shake the habit of reality shows entirely and devote myself full-time to fiction, where there is no question about whether or not my watching is what they people on the screen are hoping for. Until I reach that level of enlightenment, though, it's nice to be watching something with so many women I actually like.

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I also like this show but cannot stand Cody. I agree with you about your opinions on the wives too, for the most part. Meri is definitely my favorite, and Robin did seem like a homewrecker at first. But she's so sweet, it's hard not to like her. Janelle is probably my least favorite--she seems negative a lot, but maybe that's just her being realistic and keeping Cody in line. Ugh, again, cannot stand him.

I completely agree with you.

re: Janelle - I almost get the impression sometimes that this is more of a business relationship than a real "marriage" for her. Which, nothing wrong with that IMO - I honestly can really see the benefits for her. I also think Cody gets on her nerves a lot, haha.

Did you see that Robyn had the baby?

You're more enlightened than I am-that's for damn sure. This is such a thoughtful and kind review and I admire your ability to do that. I think you're just a more accepting and open person than I am in general, something I admire about you. I don't watch reality shows (except for "So You Think You Can Dance?") because it feels so painful when it isn't feeling set up. I really want to watch Project Runway for the fashion but I have a very hard time watching the designers get mean and fight with each other.

I don't think I care if anyone wants to have more than one wife or more than one husband provided everyone is okay with the arrangement but I'm very judgmental about people trying to have as many kids as possible. I am trying to mellow out about this but it really bothers me on a core level.

The Duggars really freak me out. Big time. I have a feeling I'm going to need to look in your archives!

Enjoyed your thoughts. I, too, like the women. Kody, another story. Drives his 60k sports car by himself while the wives struggle with the tents, food, children etc on a camping trip-that about sums him up for me.

But, like with the Duggars, I also feel the women are trapped by religious precepts conjured up by MEN. All the SW women were exposed to plural marriage and they are members of the AUB. Thus, on some level, they accept the teachings that require men to have multiple wives to get to the "highest heaven" and women only get to heaven if their husbands "call" to them so everything is dependent on men and what they choose. Now in LV, Kody is preaching to them in the home, similar to the home churching the Duggars do. And when Kody expressed the belief that Merry being with another man was "disgusting" while his picking up new wives was just hunky dory I knew his "religion" was also pretty self serving.

I guess my basic problem is with religion. I guess I just really hate it especially in regard to how they all end up favoring men and controlling women. I grew up Catholic so I know of what I speak. I find all religion absurd on some level-it's all fantastical thinking to me.

I also find them somewhat irresponsible and lacking in some basic intelligence. They obviously cannot afford their lifestyle yet Kody drives a Lexus sportacar. Public information show Kody and first wife, Meri filed for bankruptcy 6-6 2005, plural wife Christine Brown in 2010 and new plural wife Robyn, 6-15-2011. That’s three bankruptcies in one family in six years.

The teenagers seem miserable which at least makes me hopeful they will not follow in the polygamist lifestyle. However, the current wives all fell into it after being exposed to it in their own families so I think exposure does have a lasting effect and may cause one to seek it out in troubled times or when life gets hard.

Bottom line, I find it sad that women are still so susceptible to believing what men tell them God wants.

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Wednesday morning quarterback: SOA 4.08

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Eight episodes in, I am seeing the issue with this season of Sons of Anarchy. And it's not the show--it's me. I made a big mistake. While the show was on hiatus, I got all interested in the interworkings of it--I read Kurt Sutter's blog, watched all his WTF Sutter? videos, read articles, got into long discussions about the plot arc. And all of this thought, and information, about the making of the show has left me unable to simply sit back and enjoy the story.

What I mean is this: last night, when I watched with my mouth open as Clay killed Piney, my first thought was the same on that has been plaguing me since the beginning of this season--how does Clay, after committing all the crimes against his Club that he has now, make it out of Season 4 alive? And if he doesn't, how does the show go on without him? No matter how great the drama is, my brain goes back to that. And I wish it didn't--it takes something out of the joy of spectating. I can't just be in awe of Sutter's brilliant writing, I have to wonder how in the world he's going to write his way of this.

So, a warning: if you really love a show, don't read ANYTHING about it. Take it from me.

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That being said, episode 8 was another link in this season's brilliant chain. It continues to be one of the bar-none best things I've ever seen on television. Obviously, watching Clay's downward spiral is epic--both because of great writing and because Ron Perlman is nothing short of spectacular. And this particular few episode arc, with the fight-and-making-up between Opie, the increasing issues between Clay and Piney, and then Piney's murder, brings SoA firmly back into Hamlet territory. It was clear, the moment Piney touched Opie's face and Opie said, "I love you," that Piney was going to die.It became even more clear in this frustrated conversation with Jax. Oh, Polonius.

I have a friend and fellow fan of the show who is convinced that the arc will come to an end with Opie's killing or otherwise destroying Clay. Now Clay has taken away his wife and his father, and Opie, in the role of Laertes, will avenge them. I like this idea, but I don't see it playing all the way out (remember, Laertes eventually kills Hamlet). Still, I'm stoked to see the show returning to the Hamlet plot lines, and I love to see how Sutter plays with them.

There were two other relationships highlighted in this episode that intrigued me. The first was the one between Gemma and Tig. Gemma and Tig have always interested me, particularly since their brief sexual encounter in season 2. In last night's episode, Tig seemed to be looking askance at Clay more than usual, and there was something, a single moment, between Tig and Gemma that made me pause. This one:

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Did that give anybody else a tingling feeling in their tummy?

The other relationship that I can't keep my mind off is the one between Juice and Chibs. I loved last night's interaction, where Chibs interrupts Juice's second suicide attempt, beating on him for a second and then hugging him fiercely. I have no idea how it will play out--will Juice confess to Chibs? If he does, what outcome will there be? Last week, I believed Juice's sins against the Club to be so grave he'd never get out of this season alive, but perhaps he will? This part is all mystery to me, and I am very much enjoying how it plays out. Theo Rossi has been bringing serious chops to Juice's plight for weeks, and last night I thought Tommy Flanagan was equally brilliant. Chibs is probably my favorite of the show's characters, and I love it when he gets his own plots. I think his involvement in this one is perfect.

Finally, there is Jax. There is always, at the center, Jax. And right now, Jax is a big disappointment--to the viewer as much as to Piney, and, I think, to himself. He's trying to do what is right, maybe not most right, but most livable and still sorta-right, and it is biting him in the ass. He's losing his family, at least short-term (though I sort of doubt Tara is actually going anywhere), and the Club is still disintegrating. At the end of the day, it's on Jax to fix all of it, with whatever and of merry men he can assemble. With only 5 episodes left in the season, I'm thinking that has to be about to start happening.

Last night's episode is another one I simply can't say enough good things about. The pacing was perfect (again), the acting was stellar (again), and there was just enough humor (thank God for Chuckie) to keep it from dragging you down completely. Kurt Sutter ought to be really, really proud of his show.

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Oh, Chuckie.

"I accept that." LOL

Also, how about Clay publicly pitting Oswald against Hale? I'm not sure where Clay's head is right now. He's all over the place.

"Take me home, Tiggy". I know they share a very close friendship, but Tig's a bit too touchy-feely for this not to be some sort of foreshadowing, in my opinion. Is Gemma already moving on?

It seems she'll know that Clay is who murdered Piney. And why. Then she'll realize Clay is after Tara, and I think that may push her to some sort of decision, right around the season finale.

Excellent writing, excellent acting all around.

Ah, Juicy Boy.

"Did that give anybody else a tingling feeling in their tummy?"

YES!!!

Which brings me back to you saying once that Tigg felt very Iago to you in the first season. I didn't see it at the time, because Iago's determination to undermine Othello's relationship with Desdemona seems so central to his character that with that element not in the mix I couldn't see the shades of Iago in Tigg. And remember, Tigg actually gave Clay good relationship advice in season two (a couple days after banging Gemma, granted! LOL)

Now, having re-watched the first season recently I do see the Iago moments you saw earlier. Tigg leaning very subtlety on Clay about Opie's loyalty... and loyalty, a particular brand of it, that can be measured and can be compared, is a very Iago touchstone. So it now seems very possible that having established one layer of Iago-ness in Tigg in the first season Sutter may go for the aspects of Iago that I was looking for in this season. Gemma feels the ground shifting under her feet. She can no longer trust Clay... she will need a powerful ally and she will secure that ally to her the way she always has. This could get veeeerrrryy interesting.

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Wednesday morning quarterback: SOA 4.07

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Once again, big fat spoilers. Read at your own risk.

After Kurt Sutter's Twittered thoughts about non-professional blog reviewers of his show, I went back and forth a bit about whether or not to keep writing these Wednesday Morning Quarterback posts. Ultimately, I decided I may as well. For one thing, I don't for a second think Sutter is reading a blog with my low readership. For another, I very rarely have anything but good things to say about the show, so even if he were, would I really be one of those about whom he is so upset? Probably not. Maybe when I stop having nice things to say, I'll stop writing these synopsis/reviews, but that hasn't happened yet.

So, on to last night. Since the episode's last minutes were so incredibly dramatic, it's hard for me to put together coherent thoughts about the rest of it. So, I'll start at the end--Juice's suicide. I don't know whether I think he was successful or not, but either way, it's dramatic. At this point, it's impossible for me to see a way for Juice to get out of this season alive, and while I was surprised to see him try to kill himself in only episode 7, I wasn't surprised at it as an eventual outcome. What did stun me, last week as well as this week, but especially last night, was Theo Rossi's acting chops. He was incredible. The scene between Juice and Clay, when clay gives Juice the "Men of Mayhem" patch, very nearly had me in tears. Juice has always been this character who struggles to be taken seriously in the Club, and to have that happen just as he's so far dug in there is no way out, is so incredibly bittersweet. It was one of those beautifully scripted, perfectly acted, heartbreaking scenes that the show does so well, and it isn't one that will leave my mind soon.

Beyond the Juice story line, I thought the episode did an excellent job of increasing the growing tension between Gemma and Clay, without hitting anybody over the head with it. Gemma is really starting to distrust Clay, and the potential of danger from Gemma working against you is not insubstantial. I am really interested to see where her allegiance will ultimately lie. As the season progresses, I have a harder and harder time seeing how Clay can survive it, and yet I am equally unsure how the show would continue without him (and they got picked up for a 5th season this week!). It will definitely be interesting to see how it turns out.

Tara also continues to interest me. She took the news about the cartel and Jax not having been completely honest with her about it far better than I would have expected her to, especially after having been issued a death threat and spending the morning pulling a bullet out of a Mayan. She still seems, to me, to be leaning to roll with the Club lifestyle more with each episode. I wonder, too, about Lyla's taking off and whether it was meant as a juxtaposition, what Tara could, or even should, have done. She also seems increasingly trusting of and friendly with Gemma, as if maybe Gemma's confession about her love for and betrayal by John Teller had its intended effect. I'm still not convinced she wants out.

Another character I want to shout out to, even though his actual role in this episode was small, is Bobby. With all of the Shakespearean overtones of the show, it's impossible not to see Bobby as a The Fool, telling everyone what they need to hear, but not what they want to. His calling for a vote on Clay's presidency is a huge, dramatic move, and signals without any doubt that the status quo is not going to fly. I love Sutter's willingness in this season to push action and drama so much harder than usual, stuffing every episode full of it. Things develop not slowly, but quickly, the entire previous three seasons' foundation making them realistic. It's risky, and it's working.

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A girl after my own heart, fellow SOA fan! I don't wanna be spoiled, so I won't read the post, but yay! Thanks for your wonderful blog, I'm bookmarking so I can visit often!

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Wednesday morning quarterback: SOA 4.06

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Good God. Last night's Sons of Anarchy episode just about had me in tears. It was relentless, brutal, at times unexpected--it was really, really rough. This show isn't about low-key relaxed TV-watching, that's for sure. If the intensity keeps ratcheting up every week, I'm going to need tranquilizers to watch it by November.

To begin, the Juice story line. Clearly, that was all going to go bad, but I was shocked at how bad it went this quickly. Watching whatever was left of Juice's naiveté crumble in the face of self-preservation struck me as the most true, relatable thing about the whole situation Sutter has put him in. At this point, I don't care in the least whether or not Juice's fears about being outed as Black make sense in the show's context--his desperate, brutal reaction is so damn good it doesn't matter.

The scene early in the episode, wherein Ima is first confronted by Gemma and Tara, then taken on by Lyla, resulting in her pulling a gun on the whole room, is another one I never would have believed would work on paper, but the strength of the way it was written and acted made it believable. Gemma's tiredness, Lyla's sorrow, and most of all, Tara's hard, bitter, "keep that .38 close, bitch," all struck me as absolutely perfect. I do hope we keep getting to see glimpses of this Tara, the same one who punched her boss in the face and said, "that was assault." I can't help but believe that after everything Tara has seen and been through, she'd have to either implode or grow a spine. The latter is certainly a more interesting concept.

The interaction between Tig and his daughter, Dawn, was my favorite part of this episode. It took me several seasons to come around to the idea of a softer side of Tig, and I still think it could very easily be taken too far, but his willingness in this episode to allow himself to be "played" for a large sum of cash struck me as likely. The scenes with Dawn, particularly Gemma's initial introduction of her to Tara as "Satan spawn," also added much-needed levity to a show that would have otherwise been oppressive in its intensity.

Which brings me to Opie. Poor, sad, fucked-up Opie, and his already-doomed marriage to Lyla. Again, I was surprised to see shit between them blow up so terrifically so soon, but it makes sense. Piney's clocking Ope and telling him he didn't even know who he was anymore seemed like exactly the right thing from the old man, who is so desperate to save what he can of his Club and family as they're killing themselves. I was also again impressed with the interaction between Opie and Jax--their friendship is so believable, and there is so much implied in the silences in their short, simple conversations. Jax's observation that Lyla may not want to leave the life she's in struck me as a reflection not only her, but on Tara and her increasing level of comfort with the Club. I'm still extremely interested to see how that plays out.

Now, my favorite thing about the episode--a small thing, but, I think, an important one--Chibs and Juice's conversation about the Club rules. Chibs' responses, about not necessarily agreeing with some of the more archaic rules, but thinking it was important to respect them, was really interesting. In many ways, this entire season is about breaking the old rules--Juice's race, the Club taking on drug running, etc. And Clay has NEVER respected the rules when they don't suit him. As per Chibs' logic, it's this disrespect for the guidelines they all signed on to that is tearing the Club apart.

The big drama, of course, is Clay's putting a hit out on Tara and Unser's feeble attempts to protect her. This situation worries me less than the Juice plot line, if only because I can't see Tara leaving the show. It certainly builds tension, though, and is one more illustration of just how far off course Clay has gotten. I can't really see Clay leaving the show either, but I have no clue how this is all going to be able to work out without somebody dying.

Finally, I have to say something about Jax's character transition. The last scene, where he smashes Ima's face and threatens her, was the most out-of-character thing I've ever seen Jax do, and I found it more than a little bit startling. The Jax that took a risk on letting the eye witness to Bobby's murder at the end of the first season, because she was a teenage girl, seems to be gone for good. Unlike the majority of his atypical behavior so far this season, there was no larger reason for last night's scene with Ima--he wasn't trying to keep anything together, or make anything better, he was just trying to make his own personal life easier. It was completely selfish brutality. Which is a whole lot like Clay.

Once again, I am in absolute awe of the story and spectacle Sutter is providing this season. This isn't just the best yet season of Sons of Anarchy, it's one of the best seasons of any show I've ever seen. The raw relentlessness of it is astounding, and the writing and acting continue to be absolute top quality. Halfway through the season, each episode really is playing out like a tiny, perfect movie. Amazing.

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While I know I enjoyed Season 3 more than you did, I totally agree with you about Season 4. Sutter has really ramped it up to the next level, and all arcs are firing on all cylinders.

I still didn't buy the Tara line. Maybe because it's such a departure from her character? It just seemed very forced to me.

I can't believe we are already 5 episodes in. I don't want it to end!!!!

Interesting--I don't see Lyla and Tera as juxtaposed but Opie and Tera--both with SOs that they married in a lifestyle they don't want. Both knew the lifestyle before they committed but both think the other person should change somehow.

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Wednesday morning quarterback: SOA 4.05

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Spoilers. Big ones. Read at your own risk.

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A few minutes after finishing last night's episode of Sons of Anarchy, I hit my Twitter. Having spent the majority of the episode holding my breath and waiting for things to go completely pear-shaped, I had to communicate with the show's leading sadist in the only way I could.

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Seriously. The shit is piled up deep, y'all. In what amounted to a tiny, nearly anti-climactic scene between Clay and Gemma near the beginning of the episode, we learned last night that Clay did indeed have John Teller killed, and that Gemma knows about it. Something in me had hoped that there was some other explanation, that Hamlet wasn't going to be followed so literally, just because I want Clay (and especially Gemma) to be redeemable, but it was not to be. Now I'm just glad it's out in the open (for the viewer)--makes it easier to concentrate on their cover-up.

Clay and Gemma clearly have different ideas about how things ought to be handled at this point. Clay looks bound to kill--Piney, Tara, maybe even Unser. Gemma, uncharacteristically, wants to keep blood from spilling, or at least from spilling on Jax. And so they don't trust each other. A lot of last night's episode centered on their attempts to hide things from one another, with Unser right in the middle. It was, to my mind, incredibly well done. It's difficult to know who to bet on in a battle of wits between Clay and Gemma, but it is sure fun to watch it play out.

Unfortunately, last night's episode was also a battle of the witless--namely Juice and Bobby. I can kind of roll with the Juice story line--Juice is acting stupid because Juice *is* stupid. A friend described him as out of his league, like "a cat in a room full of rocking chairs." I can get behind that analysis (and I kind of need to, because it's the only way this plot with him stealing coke from his Club to take to the police works). Watching it happen is teeth-grittingly terrible, but I can sort of see how it would.

Bobby, on the other hand, is supposed to be the smart one. And given that, in what alternate universe does he not know what a terrible idea it is to lie to Otto, who just found out he was sleeping with LuAnn before she died, about the Club having killed Georgie? Clay's decision to keep Georgie alive, facilitated by greed and/or his obsession with keeping development out of Charming, made sense. Jax going along with it, though stipulating that Georgie was dead as soon as he was no longer useful, even made sense. But Bobby lying about it to Otto, just because he couldn't bear to tell Otto the truth? Not buying it. Otto would have been pissed, but his Club loyalty is always being touted--would he really have reacted in any way that could hurt Bobby or the Club? I don't think so. Will he now, when he finds out he's been lied to? Way more likely. I just don't believe Bobby would be that dumb, especially about something he'd had time to think on.

And speaking of characters making dumb decisions, we have to talk about Opie. Ope finds out Lyla has been taking birth control and reacts by--wait for it--sleeping with Ima! I would have expected to hate this plot line, but the way it played out actually really worked. They didn't dance around Jax having done exactly the same thing last season--it was addressed directly--and once again there was a scene between Jax and Opie that made the whole episode. The two actors are SO good together. Best friends is something I've very rarely seem portrayed well on TV, particularly men, and Jax and Opie are perfect.

My final note is on Tara, who was barely seen last night. At the beginning of the episode, Jax presents her with two thick stacks of cash and instructions to get Gemma to show her the ropes as far as stashing it in a safety deposit box. This is one of those moments that is borrowed straight from mob movies, and you expect Tara to show some sign of freaking out. She doesn't. She seems thrilled, and maybe even turned on. I can't help but think that has to be relevant.

After last week's less intense episode, episode 5 got me right back to feeling like this season is going to be an unrelenting high-speed ride. And stressful as watching is becoming, I'm so, so looking forward to whatever next week brings. Once again, my proverbial hat is tipped to the mad sadistic genius of Kurt Sutter.

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Wednesday morning quarterback: SOA 4.04

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I really, really wanted to write another glowing review of last night's Sons of Anarchy episode. The first three episodes of the season were so stellar, my hopes had gotten up too high, I think. And so, I set myself up for last night's disappointment.

Don't get me wrong--episode 4 wasn't bad, it just wasn't as good as the previous ones. The pacing that I've been enjoying so much just wasn't there. I think because the bulk of the episode took place with the Sons in one location (Arizona) and the supporters (Gemma, Tara, etc.) in another, it reminded me of last year's Ireland split, which was difficult to pace. For some reason, part of the strength of the show is how it mostly takes place in Charming. It seems always to lose a bit when there is a location change.

The episode's major thematic arc, using the SAMTAZ club and their decision to sell drugs and the events surrounding it as a way to highlight the danger zone SAMCRO is in, didn't really work for me, and I still can't quite figure out why. It could be that it was all just done a bit too neatly. It could be that SAMTAZ are brand new characters, never heard of before, and I couldn't make myself care about their Club dynamics at all. Either way, it felt a little bit forced, and not feeling forced is one of the things I generally really love about the show.

There were, however, a few things I liked a lot about last night's episode. One was the cinematography of the road shots--the way the light was filtered, the camera angles, everything was just beautifully shot. This isn't something I typically notice, as I'm very wrapped up in character and story and less in tune to how things look, but I noticed it several times last night.

Another thing that impressed me was Piney. I don't think that William Lucking has often been used to his full potential in the show, and he is beginning to be in this story line. To have him be the one who pushes Tara to expose the letters, or pushes Jax back against Clay, fascinates me. It's one of the things I am most looking forward to seeing play out this season.

I also really enjoyed the interaction between Gemma and the new police chief's wife, Rita. Once again, I was struck by the balance between truth (Gemma does, I think, really care about saving the park in Charming) and manipulation. I've been hearing some murmurs of displeasure at seeing the "softer" side of Gemma this season, but so far it works for me--I think the mix between real feeling and power struggle in Gemma is part of what makes her so great as a character, and being able to convey it so clearly is part of what makes Katey Sagal so impressive in the role.

I'm still on the fence about the story arc concerning Juice's race. Once again, other members of the Club (this time SAMTAZ's president, Armando, played by Lobo Sebastian) give a pretty strong impression of being mixed race. How does that jive with Juice being so worried about SAMCRO finding out his father is Black? I'm not writing it off completely yet, but it still seems pretty strange. I'm curious and a bit concerned about how it's going to play out.

Finally, I have to say a word about Tara. She's...growing on me. I still think she and Jax have the worst chemistry in the world, but I liked her scenes with Piney a lot. I am beginning to wonder, if it all comes down to it, if Tara really wants out of the life. Even if she won't admit it, she seems to be increasingly comfortable with it, and I wonder if that's going to factor in to whatever big club-splitting drama is coming down the pike.

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Wednesday morning quarterback: SOA 4.03

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Three episodes in, I am comfortable saying that season 4 is going to be the best season of Sons of Anarchy to date. All three of the episodes have been action-packed, perfectly paced, well-written, and immaculately acted. Just like in the previous two weeks, last night's episode slowly pulled away the layers on each character, saying less with more, showing each character's motivations a bit more without hitting you over the head with them. I've always loved the show, but it's really hitting its stride now.

In specific, last night I had my eye on Bobby. More than any of the other club members, Bobby is aware of what is happening to Clay, how he's losing his psychological grip as he loses his physical one. Bobby's reactions in the scene where he and Clay meet with their Native American ammo-making contact are absolutely spot-on perfect. Fantastic acting on Mark Boone Junior's part, and really good direction by Peter Weller.

The other strength of last night's episode, for me, was the guest appearance of Marianne Jean-Baptiste as neighborhood matriarch Vivica Potter. Vivica is badass, in charge, and hilarious. The begrudgingly respectful conversation between she and Jax was one of my favorite SOA interchanges ever. I like seeing the show branch out a little bit in the kinds of power it displays.

Another thing I liked about the scenes with Vivica, as well a the sub-plot being constructed around Juice's racial heritage and what that means to his place in the club, and the race of the new sheriff, is that the show is looking like it's going to address race in a way it hasn't before. At first blush, I wasn't crazy about the idea of Sheriff Roosevelt using Juice's Black father as leverage over him. It wasn't like SAMCRO ever thought Juice was White--he's portrayed as Puerto Rican--and Happy clearly isn't 100% White either. Why should we believe anybody will care that Juice has a Black father? However, after thinking about it, I think it could unfold in interesting ways, so I'm reserving judgment and hoping for the best.

Katey Sagal is stellar in every single episode of this show, but I loved her particularly much last night. The combination of manipulation and, perhaps, a kernel of truth in her "confession" to Tara about John Teller's abandonment and the beginning of her relationship with Clay was superbly done. Even though I knew everything Gemma knows about the JT letters Tara is holding, I wasn't sure how much of what she was saying to believe. Watching the scene, it was so easy for me to put myself in Tara's shoes--she knows Gemma, and knows her capacity for manipulation, but there's something else going on, too. Absolutely amazing.

I honestly can't say enough good things about this show right now. Every episode I watch draws me in deeper and leaves me with a greater respect for the cast, the crew, the writers, and especially the pater familias of the whole deal, Kurt Sutter.

1 Comments

Okay we clearly diverge. Tho I was happy with more info in this episode particularly with the Tera reveals, I thought it was mostly boooooring. I do not care about the gun sales subplot but I agree that Vivica is cool.

I think the idea that samcro suddenly hates black people is weird. It's never been mentioned before and their enemies used to be white power dudes, so how did they suddenly start to hate black people? seems written in last minute. all of their allies are non-white groups pretty much.

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Wednesday morning quarterback: SOA 4.02

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Wow. Just...wow. I liked the season opener last week, but last night's Sons of Anarchy was simply fantastic television. The show was perfectly paced, balancing dramatic conversational scenes, moments of levity, and action. It gave the viewer a strong sense of where every single one of the characters landed in terms of the events that are underway without ever seeming overly expository. It had beautiful scene juxtapositions--particularly the beginning sequence wherein Clay & Gemma; Jax & Tara; and Opie & Lyla talk about what happened to the Russians. It was shot well, the dialog was tight, and everything in it happened for a reason. Once in a while, a show hits an episode just right, so that it's apparent that the creator, writers, directors, actors, and everyone else involved know exactly what they're doing. SOA 4.02 was one of those episodes.

In terms of what it said about where the show is going this year, the episode left me with more questions than answers. I'm wondering how seriously I am supposed to take Clay and Jax when they worry about money. Nothing in the previous three seasons has led me to believe that either of them is in dire financial straits, and Clay and Gemma, in fact, struck me as fairly well-off. I get that being outlaw doesn't come with a retirement plan, but they own the garage, right? Shouldn't that provide some sort of income? I wonder if the concerns about money are, in both Clay's and Jax's case, a patsy for a more basic fear of leaving the Club and never being somebody again. With SOA, neither of them are anything special, and neither of them have any idea what else to do.

Then, of course, there is the ongoing mystery of what happened to John Teller, and now what Unser has to do with it. Did he commit suicide and Unser and Gemma covered it up? Did Clay get him killed? Was Gemma involved? Did Unser cover that up? None of these ideas seem quite right to me, so it will be interesting to see that progress. I'm also curious about how Tara is justifying not having shown Jax the letters Maureen sent, or told him about them. Is she protecting him? Herself? Does Tara really want to get away from the Club, or is the Old Lady thing starting to appeal to her?

The most interesting bit of intrigue, though, at least for now, is how the Club will decide on, and, I assume reconcile itself to, running drugs. The scene between Jax and Clay early on, when they reach their agreement regarding the drug mule deal, and the ones with Bobby and Clay and then Bobby and Tig discussing it later, were extremely well done. Bobby seems set to play a bigger role this season, being, in some way, the voice of reason for the Club. I'm happy to see that, as I think the character has been a bit underutilized in the past.

Another underutilized character who is getting increased screen time and tearing it up is Opie. I LOVED Opie in this episode, especially as he played off Jax. It's been a while since we've see the alternate love and tension between the two of them, and it's a great dynamic. Opie also shows an amazing level of self-awareness, both in his comments to Jax about the potential drug running, and in his assessment of Lyla ("I love her, but she's not Donna."). I wonder about this stability, though, and how long it can last.

I have only two complaints about last night's episode, and neither is very serious. First, I think Gemma is going off the rails a little bit more than seems justified about the letters. I mean, obviously there is something she's hiding, but her level of paranoia seems strange. Secondly, Chibs is almost non-existent. There had to have been some serious aftermath of the Irish situation for him personally, and I'd like to see that.

Once again, I'm awed with what Kurt Sutter and his team have put together. Can't wait until next week.

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Wednesday morning quarterback: SOA 4.01

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As I've mentioned here a few times, I love television. A lot. More than most. And since I love TV, and love writing and talking about TV, I thought maybe I'd start an occasional feature here on ye olde blog wherein I do some light analysis and review of what I'm watching. The trouble with this plan is just that I very rarely watch anything when it's actually on--I usually wait for the DVD, or at the very least catch up at my leisure via DVR. That's not as much fun, or as interesting to read, as the up-to-the-minute stuff. So, I'm going to try to watch a few more shows live. One show that I will always watch live, however, because I can't wait a second more than I have to for it, is my very beloved Sons of Anarchy.

For those who aren't already on the SOA train, you can catch up, and you should. Seasons 1-3 are available on DVD, they are only 13 episodes each, and they are absolutely worth your time. Last night was the season premiere of season 4. Be forewarned--I'm going to have spoilers in my thoughts. I don't see the point in trying to talk around what I actually want to say, so if you aren't caught up and want to be surprised, you should probably stop reading. I probably also won't go into all the season 1-3 back story, so if you haven't seen the show, it might be a bit confusing.

All that said, let's get down to last night's episode.

In the pre-season ramp-up to the show, Kurt Sutter had quite a few interviews and stuff where he talked about how season 4 is going to be all about Charming and the internal stuff that is happening to the Club. The premiere dug right in with that, showing the incarcerated members of SOA (Clay, Jax, Tig, Happy, Bobby, and Juice) getting out of Stockton after 14 months inside and coming home. I very much liked the first scene montage, and the song it was set to, Joshua's James "Coal War", was as perfect as any piece of music on the show has ever been, which is really saying something. Wonderful. I had goosebumps by the time they showed the opening credits.

From there, it was mostly good and often great. There was a little scene early on between Gemma and Tara, wherein Gemma tells Tara how well she handled Jax's being in prison and Tara tells Gemma she couldn't have done it without her, which I found exceptionally interesting. Since Tara found the letters Maureen Ashby meant for Jax, she knows that John Teller was suspicious and afraid of Gemma and Clay (a la Hamlet). Yet her fondness for/appreciation of Gemma in the scene seemed sincere. This leads to one of two conclusions: either Tara is torn in her feelings about Gemma, or she's manipulating her. I'm torn as to which I think it is.

Which brings me, actually, to my major gripe about the episode. Jax and Tara have an extended post-coital conversation about how Jax is going to leave the Club and their little family is going to escape and have a normal life. I don't buy this for a whole bunch of reasons. The biggest issue I had was the cavalier way Jax wrote off his mother, with "she's just an Old Lady." Yeah, she is, but she's also his mother, and unless I have majorly misread their relationship through three seasons, he loves her. Even if she'd allow it, which she won't, leaving her wouldn't be that easy. Beyond that, though, I am just sick of Jax's lack of real introspection, given his constant navel-gazing. He spent 14 months in prison thinking about leaving the Club? Did he give any thought to what his life would be like without it? Without the Club, Tara and his sons are ALL he has--no other family, no other friends, no job skills (which he did mention), and most importantly, no identity. Sons of Anarchy is who Jax is. Him trying to change it from within is one thing, and, for me, believable, but leaving? Yeah, right.

Also? Jax and Tara have the chemistry of flat paint. Really. I like both actors, a lot, but they just don't have any sexual heat at all.

My other, more minor gripe, was just that I wanted to see more of the minor characters in the episode. One of my favorite parts was the little scene where Tig, Happy, Chibs, Juice, and Kozik discuss what they're getting Opie as a wedding present. It's a tiny scene, but very funny (particularly the part about Happy being so cheap he reuses condoms). Scenes like that make the show for me--each character is so interesting, and each actor is able to do so much with so little time and so few words. SOA has a pretty stellar cast of actors, and I love it when they're able to play off one another.

Another major strength of the episode was the Unser element, and the scenes between him and both Gemma and Clay. I liked each scene on its own merits, but I really liked them in juxtaposition. Gemma is concerned about Unser, for his own sake. He's in her circle now, someone she cares about, and she's treating him as such. Clay is concerned, but only as far as Unser is useful to him. I go back and forth on the relative ruthlessness of Clay and Gemma, but those two scenes really painted Clay as the worst of the two, and I think he ultimately he is. I am also really hopeful about the story arc for Unser himself. He didn't do time, but the events in season 3 ended up hurting him worse than anybody else (well, except Otto).

And Otto! I so hope Sutter continues to suck it up and be in his own show more than he really wants to, because I love Otto. The more beaten and brutal he gets, the more I like him. There is no bullshit with Otto--he's straight up thug. I think the show needs that.

Finally, I thought the end of the episode, with the parallel of some of the Sons' most violent and behavior ever and the tacky sweetness of Ope and Lyla's wedding, was perfect. I was stunned and absolutely impressed with the cruel efficiency with which the Sons committed multiple homicide, and the reactions of each individual member (or lack of reaction in many cases) struck me as absolutely right. I'll definitely be watching Juice. Doing the equivalent of leaving heads on stakes at the end of the episode, just in case anybody was wondering who really runs Charming? It was the icing on the cake. Beautifully written, Sutter.

1 Comments

1. i hated the whole gemma/tara thing. and i hate that they make tara wear old lady club clothes when jax gets back from prison. i like that tara is a normal person.

2. i agree that jax's gemma speech was totally weird but i can see how he thinks she's a manipulative bitch. i think thye are setting us up for a scenario where Jax is ready to leave but Tara isn't.

3. did katy segal lose a ton of weight? she seems concerningly thin!

4. i had a lot of logistical questions. wouldn't jax's pay just go to tara while he was gone and clay's go to gemma? that seems fucked that while in prison the wives don't get any club help. Likewise, why has the club not helped Unser this WHOLE TIME?

5. I think Jax/Tara have reasonable chemistry. I think
you are just jealous, lady. :)

6. I thought the ending was a totally cheap godfather ripoff with no nod to make it an homage really.

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Move over Joss, there's a new sheriff in town

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As we've discussed, I have a bit of a thing about TV. And this thing peaks and wanes and I get obsessed with this show or that show, but basically, I love the medium. There are a lot of things I like about it, but the most pressing is serial writing. I love watching characters, plots, sub-plots, thematic arcs, relationships, and everything else develop over the course of a season (or, ideally, several seasons). I like living with the characters, having them in my head day-to-day.

Usually, after I get involved in a show, I start getting obsessed with the creator(s) of said show. More so than the actors, who, no matter how good they are, are just using the material they've been given, I fall in love with the brains behind the characters. The minds from which they came, and through which they exist.

My first and, to this date, most extreme TV producer love was for Joss Whedon. This is hardly surprising--Joss Whedon is a genius. He creates worlds. He populates them with people (and other various creatures) we recognize, no matter how fantastical they get. He makes them talk in ways we wish we could. He's amazing. He's also, from what I can tell, done with television. And it's hard to maintain an affair with someone who is gone. I can only re-watch Buffy so many times.

There have been other, more minor, flings. David Simon (The Wire, Treme) is extremely talented. Nancy Miller (Saving Grace, The Closer) is great. I wasn't a big fan of NYPD Blue, but David Milch blew me away with Deadwood. I have only good things to say about Shawn Ryan (The Shield, Lie to Me). There are a pretty good handful of people making good TV. But I've never had another Joss.

Until now. It has happened again, my people. I am in love with a man's ideas.

And that man is Kurt Sutter.

Sutter, for those not in the know, is the creative force behind Sons of Anarchy, a show I have proclaimed my love for on this blog before. What I didn't know, until this recent bout of obsession, is that SOA is his first show of his own. He worked on The Shield, but previous to that has no other TV (or film) writing credits. It's dude's first go-round, and it's epic. If you haven't watched it, you should. There are two seasons on DVD, another coming out in August, and a fourth season starting on FX in September. Do it.

A few people have laughed at me and said I only like SOA because of the man candy. I am not gonna lie--it's got a smoking hot cast (Charlie Hunnam, Tommy Flanagan, Kim Coates, Ryan Hurst, David Labrava--and Sutter himself, who plays a small role on the show, isn't bad to look at either). However, that's not really the point. It's just a great show. It has Shakespearean overtones (undertones?), but doesn't follow Shakespearean plot-lines in that narcoleptic remake way. It has operatically (or at least soap operatically) large plots, but they take place in this microscopically detailed little world. The dialog is fantastic. It's funny. And there guns, bikes, and explosions. Hell yes.

In the past few years, as I have watched more and more TV and paid more and more attention to the TV I watch, I've felt myself moving towards something. When I was immersed in Whedon's work, I really thought I wanted to become some sort of cultural academic, doing textual analysis of these great shows, relating them back to the times and places in which they existed. With this show, though, I finally realized that being a critic, in any sense, is not at all what I'm drawn to. Sons of Anarchy isn't just the kind of show I want to watch. It's the kind of show I want to write. I've been struggling for years to figure out how I fit into the world of writing, where my ideal place is. I've tried a couple of novels, a lot of short stories, magazine articles, personal essays, political essays...but now I get it. I want to write for TV.

I realize that reads a little bit like, "I want to fly to the moon." It's not like you can just start writing for TV one day. But knowing that's the place I think I'd fit is a tremendous relief for me. There is nothing that says I can't write TV shows. Nobody can stop me. I can't promise they'd ever get made, of course, but I can definitely write them.

In the meantime, though, I'm really enjoying the peek into the making of SOA, and particularly into his process, that Kurt Sutter is making available on his YouTube channel in this weekly feature he's calling "WTF Sutter?" People email in questions about the show and he answers them--it's really interesting. There is also a little interview with a couple of the staff writers (here) which I found particularly fascinating. I could be those guys, right?

(All of this was, by the way, my long-winded and only partially on-topic response to Genie's Living Out Loud 29: On Writing).

3 Comments

You can do it, Grace!

SOA also has a fuck-ton of complicated versions of gender roles. The show kinda bores me, but I watched it and was like, "this show is all about Men and Women".

It's probably about some other stuff, too.

Thanks for this post. I never really thought about the people writing the shows and giving them the credit. The credit usually goes to the actors but you're right. They are only using the material that the writers created. Great post!

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In which I tell you of my television love

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So I flat-out love TV. I know it's popular to be all "TV, mindless drivel, blah blah blah," but that just is not how I roll. I respect TV as a medium, I think great stories are told there every day, and I am an obsessive watcher of television shows. I love TV.

It hasn't always been like this. I grew up in a close-to-TV-free household. It wasn't that my parents had some philosophical problem with it (though they're much more readers than watchers), it was that we lived out in the middle of nowhere and to get any real reception we'd have needed a satellite, which was not a spending priority. So, until I was in high school, we got one network (ABC) some of the time. You can tell when you quiz me on 80s TV trivia--if I know anything about it, it must have been on ABC.

Even though TV was limited, I do have some childhood television memories. No cartoons--I'm sure I must have watched them at some point, but I don't remember them at all. The first show I remember really connecting to was on ABC from 1988-1993 (so when I was 9-14). It featured some historical events, some fantastic period costuming, a hippy older sister and a butthead older brother, a lovely girlfriend who grew up to be a math fiend, and a strong voice-over element. The Wonder Years.

Another show that features heavily in my childhood memories, and this is a tangent I'll save for another time, since I think this show is in mortal danger, is General Hospital. My mom wasn't a fiend, but she was a general fan of ABC soap operas, and even though I think she preferred the now sadly lost All My Children and One Life to Live, General Hospital is the one that resonated with me. I remember recording it and watching it at night all the way through college, and I can still easily get sucked back into it if I'm home during the day. (For those in the know, my allegiances are as follows: Sonny belongs with Carly; Jason belongs with Robin; Lucky belongs with Liz; and Nikolas can sit and spin.)

My other teen years show should surprise exactly nobody. My So-Called Life was only on for 19 episodes, in 1994 and the beginning of 1995, but I watched every one of them when they aired (and possibly cried when it was taken off the air). I loved every minute of that show. Unlike many of its viewers, though, I never thought of myself as Angela. I always wanted to be Rayanne. The scene of her singing the Sesame Street theme song outside the movie theater still features occasionally in my dreams.

I didn't watch much TV during my college years (aside from the aforementioned daily taping of General Hospital). I knew people who were really into the The Simpsons, and this weird show called Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but I had no particular interest in either one. One thing I do remember doing during those years, though, is occasionally flipping on my small TV (a high school graduation present that was usually used for watching movies) to check out syndicated reruns of Roseanne. Running from 1988-1997, the show's trajectory ran parallel to my adolescence, and I had always been aware of it, and seen a few episodes, but hadn't ever watched it regularly. Watching the show in college, it provided me with a really welcome look into a blue-collar world that was much closer to the one in which I'd grown up than anything else to which I was being exposed at that time. Roseanne felt like home.

I still haven't seen every episode of Roseanne. I always intend to go back and watch it from the beginning (the joy of Netflix streaming!), but I haven't done it yet.

Immediately post-college, I moved in with two of my friends and we had a TV! And channels! And, finally, time, at least more than we'd had at Reed. I don't have a ton of TV memories from those days, but two stick out: The first is my friend N., coming home from her AmeriCorp job and sitting in front of the TV eating (I shit you not) carrots and celery dipped in ketchup, watching Friends (in syndication on TBS--I think there were multiple episodes per night). The other? The first season of Survivor. I'd watched a little bit of MTV's The Real World in high school (taped by my cousin Jessie--we didn't get MTV even after we got a satellite), but other than that, had never seen or thought about reality TV. Survivor was a revelation. And a really good time. But it was just that one season--I haven't seen it since.

The next show I remember really loving was another no-brainer. Just like every other freshly minted liberal, I adored The West Wing. It was a few seasons in by the time I got into it, and I still haven't seen the first few seasons, but those middle Bartlett years were crucial to me. Mark and I watched it together when we first got together, and we had a regular Wednesday night date with our housemate, E., during the 4th season. I never watched the post-Martin Sheen show, either, so really my West Wing love is probably just seasons 3-6, but it is strong.

Mark got me into The Sopranos during those years, and I remember watching a lot of home improvement shows as well (that was when Trading Spaces and While You Were Out were getting really hot). Those were also the opening days of my getting into watching TV shows on DVD, which was an amazing change--having to wait for new episodes was one of my major complaints about TV from the beginning, as I'm much more the gluttonous, one-episode-after-another type.

After The Sopranos, Mark and I watched a number of HBO or HBO-styled dramas, and liked a lot of them. We loved Deadwood, The Shield, and the first season of Rescue Me. We got into watching House for a few seasons. The show that really sticks out, though, is The Wire. I maintain to this day that the five season run (2002-2008) is the best thing I've ever seen on television. The writing was fantastic, the acting suburb, the music stellar, and each season was held together by a tight overarching theme. The second season, in particular, which focused so smartly on the comparable institutions of power and powerlessness between white blue-collar union dock-workers and the black drug scene, blew my mind. I had previously liked television. The Wire made me love it.

Mark and I were still watching The Wire when I was introduced to the first show that constituted not just a TV love, but a TV obsession. You all know where this is going--finally, after denying any interest for years, I started watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer. And I kept watching, burning through all seven seasons in only a few weeks and then starting over again at the beginning. Buffy wasn't just about recognizing great writing and use of metaphor beyond anything I'd ever imagined (though it certainly is that). Buffy was like a new lover, or a new religion. Buffy was in my thoughts, in my dreams, and in nearly all my conversations for months. I didn't just want to watch Whedon's world, I wanted to swallow it whole. It was intense. And oddly immature, really, for someone in her mid-late 20s. I had my teenage response to the show ten years too late. But I'm not at all sorry I did, and Buffy remains a show I can and will re-watch endlessly.

In the last few years, Mark and I have discovered that it does us a lot of good to have a show we can watch together, preferably on Netflix, so it works into our schedules. We watched the first three seasons of Dexter, the first two of Breaking Bad, and made a go at Battlestar Galactica, which we both kinda hated. Then Mark had an idea that I thought wouldn't work, but has been awesome: go back to something that he saw years ago and liked, but barely remembered, which I hadn't ever seen. Something legendary. Something epic. Something so painfully early 90s at moments that I have to pause it to laugh. The X-Files. The show ran from 1993-2002, so there are LOTS of episodes to get through, and though some of them are ridiculously cheesy, others are actually quite good. Though it doesn't move me the way Buffy does, I can easily see how people were obsessed with it.

Aside from having a show to watch with Mark, I like to have something I'm watching on my own. I'll watch just about anything, but there are two shows I have watched recently, one that is still on and one that was sadly cut short after only three seasons, that I think are fantastic. The one with the untimely cancellation is Saving Grace, which is a beautiful show that does a fantastic job with hard topics (it's almost like a grown up Joan of Arcadia, another show I loved) and stars Holly Hunter in what I think is the best role she's ever played.The one that is still on is one I've discussed here before: Sons of Anarchy. The show's fourth season is set to start in September, which gives you plenty of time to catch up on seasons 1-3 and start watching in real-time. It's worth it. I didn't think I'd like it, and only started watching it because there was something else we were watching on FX (the last season of The Shield, maybe?) that was littered with previews for the beginning of season 2 and Katy Segal looked like she might be interesting. After my first episode (the season 2 opener), I was in love. I got season 1 on DVD and set the DVR. The show has gotten into my head, for reasons I can't explain, like nothing else short of Buffy.

So there you have it. It turned out to be more a history than a defense, but this is what I think of when someone asks me why I waste my time watching TV. For the stories. These are some amazing stories.

What are your favorite shows? What didn't I mention that I should have?

6 Comments

Ha- I went through the delayed Buffy obsession about 2 months before you did. I was so happy when you started blogging about it!

I also loved, unconditionally, Alias (despite it's many flaws). It was just fun, and crazy, and fun again.

For reality TV, my biggest guilty pleasure is Dancing with the Stars.

And, the one that Ben and I watch together regularly, is Castle. Nathan Fillion can do no wrong. The Firefly shoutouts are also funny.

I don't know if you had this problem growing up, but one issue in my household with religiously watching a television show was that there was never anything on that I and my mother and sister could agree on watching, because of our wildly different tastes. During my high school years, though, there were two exceptions to this rule. One was Law and Order. The other was ER. So I tend to associate those shows with my teen years more, although I also was obsessed with The Simpsons and The X-Files. I guess it's the watching-it-with-family association that makes me think of those shows more, and it's not really a critique of the quality of the shows (let's face it, ER kinda went downhill after the fifth or sixth season and they just wouldn't let it die).

I distinctly remember calling you after seeing the Survivor finale, me having seen it in CST and you having not yet seen it in PST.

I like to watch shows with my husband, too. We enjoyed True Blood.

I love TV! I don't care -- high brow, low brow, it's great to unwind at the end of the day by watching a little TV.

I had the exact same experience coming to love Buffy. I don't think I've ever been as obsessed with a television show as with that one.

If you ever have free time to do it, I really recommend the first few seasons of the West Wing. I watched on DVD a little off schedule and madly love the first four seasons. Then I thought the fifth season was really disappointing. I've been told it picks back up later on but I just never got back into it. Anyway, Season 1 may be my favorite season.

I think our only mutual TV interests are Roseanne, lol!

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Bite me, Superwoman 2010

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Have you seen Kelly Ripa's commercials for Electrolux? (If not, you clearly aren't watching enough daytime TV).

Here, catch up:

There's so much wrong here I barely know where to start. Where's her husband? This is ostensibly his house and these are ostensibly his kids, as well. And he doesn't have a fraction of the career she does. Shouldn't she have some help? Why is she writing off her (high paid, high pressure) job with a "but I'd rather entertain at home"? And most of all, good GOD, why is it acceptable to show a woman "doing it all" as if that's what we should all aspire to?

And then there's this gem, in which Ripa plays second fiddle to a single friend who is baking cupcakes for all the "hot guys" in her building. Yes, they are "all after her cupcakes." Really? REALLY?

I'm not the first person to be irritated by these throw back commercials. Kenny Darter from Hate On Me writes, "'The problem that has no name' has been identified, and it's called Kelly Ripa." Lemondrop lists the ads as #10 in their list of the most offensive ads to women. At Shakesville, SKM writes:

It would be comforting to think that Ripa's Electrolux ad is sending up the old '50s- early '60s image of the happy housewife made ever more productive by the modern appliances her husband buys. But there's no twist here, no subversion of the stereotype. Unless you count the fact that Ripa is a well-known full-time "career woman" (one of her other Electrolux ads shows her dashing from work to a home full of guests and glazed, passive children). The only new addition to the old 1960 model is that Ripa is both the happy housewife and the breadwinner.

It's that I keep coming back to. Not only is the "these appliances make my housework invisible and even less important!" trope about sixty years out of date (and it was gag-worthy the first time around), but the ads, and Ripa being who she is, make things even worse, implying that not only should a woman keep a perfect house and wait on everyone in it (can't her kids get their own snacks?), but she should also bring home the bacon and buy her own fancy appliances. And, of course, she should do it all smiling, perfectly made-up, and in size 0 designer jeans.

Clearly, commercials don't reflect reality--they'd never sell anything if they did. The ridiculousness of the ads isn't my gripe. My problem is that what is being shown is not the right fantasy. If the boundaries of what is humanly possible could be stretched to allow the perfect superwoman fantasy that Ripa plays in the commercials to exist, couldn't they also be stretched to allow us to do stuff that actually means something? If there were 40 hours in each of my days, as there would have to be in Ripa's for her to honestly host her talk show, play with her kids, have a dinner party, and provide her husband with family friendly nookie, I sure as hell wouldn't spend them doing laundry and making cookies, no matter how nice my appliances were. If we're going to sell women shit by showing them commercials full of superhuman famous people doing the impossible, I want them in capes, fighting crime, saving the innocent, not miraculously multi-tasking in their stylish houses.

When Kelly Ripa played Hayley Vaughan on All My Children, she started out as a punk rock teenager, then worked as a private investigator, was the CEO of a cosmetics company, opened a bar/restaurant and a salsa club with her husband, and became the host of a TV show. She eventually had a couple of kids as well, I think, but I don't remember ever seeing her do laundry. It's a sad state of things when I prefer the soap opera version.

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basically agreed, 3 things:
1. I'd buy the first commercial as a plea to single moms IF she didn't POINTEDLY say she's a party "co-host."

2. I have only seen the first one on tv and I assumed she wasn't playing herself....do we know she is? Are those her real kids?

3. The appliances actually interest me but are in no way really described. Bummer. KENMORE POWER! :)

You are missing the joke. The theme music is from "Bewitched." They are clearly implying that, to do everything that perfectly, you must have sold your soul to the devil.

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Seeing God in other people

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Thumbnail image for goth god.jpgOn Joan of Arcadia, God appears to Joan in the guise of regular people. The people aren't delusions--everyone else can see them as well. It's unclear (to me, at least) whether they are people who exist when God is not speaking through them, or whether they exist only when God needs them as mouthpieces. Either way, though, every conversation Joan has with God is one with another person. My personal favorite God is Goth God (left), followed by Joan's original and probably most common God, Cute Guy God (right).Thumbnail image for cuteguygod.jpg Some of the God are irritating (Old Lady God and Little Kid God both bug me), some you forget as soon as you see them (the episodes are full of one-off Gods as delivery people, cafeteria workers, substitute teachers, etc.). Often, Joan mistakes people who are not God for God, based on what they say to her.

Maybe I'm dense, but I like a metaphor that hits me upside the head. I'm not sure I believe in God (nor am I sure I don't), but it's difficult not to believe in other people, given that they are overtaking the planet like cockroaches. On the show, God mostly gives Joan assignments, most of which are difficult for her to complete. God gives vague advice, rarely answers questions, and is generally kind of a pain in the ass. The non-God people she's surrounded by--her family and her friends--are usually more helpful to her than God, at least in seeing the results of her wacky actions. Yet she gives them none of the acquiescence she gives her many Gods.

Maybe that's the point. Maybe instead of looking for a higher power in a Church or even inside ourselves, we should look around us. I'm going to try to do a better job of listening and watching and paying attention to what other people are telling me. You never know, there might be God in there.

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I had something kind of like this happen to me after I had my firstborn.

This sounds a little simplistic, but I got this huge instant realization that everyone in this world had, at one time, been a baby, a helpless squalling thing that needed to be lavished with love, and one of the main reasons people were the way they were was because they got that love or they didn't, and much of what they did was determined by whether they had gotten that love or not.

When I'm trying to remember to be compassionate, I remind myself of the baby inside of everyone -- that and the fact that everyone is dying are the two main posts of helping me feel compassion when it might otherwise be hard.

I do want to add that when I think of the helpless, unloved person inside a criminal, I can feel compassion for that part of him, but there's still anger and vengeance and demand for justice for what he did. I don't want to sound like a bleeding heart here.

This is quite possibly the most woo-woo thing I've ever put on the Internet.

I guess the other thing is I'm looking less for God in other people and more for humanity and what I might have in common with that person (sometimes all it is is humanity, really, but that's all it needs to be).

Krupskaya- i like the sentiment

i think to often we ignore what we as humans can do because of what certain cruel humans do...

I feel like god or spirits have historically been manifestations of our own wishes, fears etc.

If we lived in nature god was of nature, when we lived in a time when harshness was abound, you have the old testament and a vengeful god talking of sacrifice...

When feudalism, the king and his nobel court appeared... you had god, the trinity and his court of angels

Now that you have a more rational and individualistic society, you have more personal and individual conceptions of god... or spiritualities that have more to do with being good than worship.

not to turn this into my own soap box but i think we need to start believing in humanities ability to solve its problem, and participate in solutions... and not wait for a savior or heaven to come along.

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What I'm Watching: Sons of Anarchy

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FX's Sons of Anarchy is not a show I would have picked out to watch from the description. From the website:

FX's original series, Sons of Anarchy, is an adrenalized drama with darkly comedic undertones that explores a notorious outlaw motorcycle club's (MC) desire to protect its livelihood while ensuring that their simple, sheltered town of Charming, California remains exactly that, Charming. The MC must confront threats from drug dealers, corporate developers, and overzealous law officers. Behind the MC's familial lifestyle and legally thriving automotive shop is a ruthless and illegally thriving arms business. The seduction of money, power, and blood.

Jackson 'Jax' Teller (Charlie Hunnam) is the MC's vice-president, whose loyalty to the club is tested by his growing apprehension for its lawlessness; Gemma Teller Morrow (Katey Sagal) is Jax's force-of-nature mother; and Clarence 'Clay' Morrow (Ron Perlman) is Jax's stepfather and MC president. The triangle of Mother, Son, and Stepfather will ultimately reveal the dark secrets in this family's past and the lengths they will go to protect their sins.

Outlaw motorcycle clubs are really not a big area of interest for me. And Ron Perlman pisses me off when he's not painted red. Wouldn't have given it a second look.

But, a couple of weeks ago, M. and I were watching a movie on FX (OK, so it was Ghost Rider--embarrassing to admit that, but there it is) and every single commercial break featured an ad for the Sons of Anarchy Season Two premiere. So we gave it a shot. I was hooked by the 15th minute. Now we're keeping up with this season as the episodes air while simultaneously catching up on the first season via Netflix. And I'm doing what I always do with shows I really like--thinking up alternate plot lines and characters in my head while I'm trying to go to sleep at night.

It's a good show. First of all, Katey Segal (remember her from Married...With Children?) is fantastic. Her character, Gemma, is a sort of Lady Macbeth matriarch, with that great vicious/conniving/caring combination, and she plays the hell out of it. Plus, she's admirably tough (I'm thinking about reviewing SOA for Heroine Content because of her, depending on what ends up happening this season). She's that rarest of TV gems--a well-written and well-acted female character. When I learned that the role was written specifically for Segal, by her husband, who produces the show, I was not at all surprised.

Ron Perlman's character, Clay, is also really interesting. I am still not a big fan of Perlman (I just can't see anything but Hellboy when I look at him), but I keep imagining the same character played by Ian McShane and that helps me appreciate the character more. He's a ruthless guy, but also one who is dedicated to his family--both Gemma and the club. And the underlying plot device of him dealing with the onset of age (he has arthritis and has increasing trouble with his hands as the show progresses) is a good one.

Mostly, though, as far as characters go, I'm watching the show for Jax. Jax is amazing. He's a motorcycle gang Hamlet (you knew you recognized this storyline from somewhere, right?), but with less whining and more ass-kicking. I know I should be over it by now, but that whole poet-barbarian thing still definitely awakens something in me. And Charlie Hunnam is just about perfect (which I never would have expected from his roles in Cold Mountain and Children of Men).

The motorcycle gang aspect of the show is really not important, at least not to me. It's about loyalty and family and growing up and all that jazz, and the backdrop to that really doesn't make that much difference. Though there is overlap between the world portrayed in SOA and the one portrayed in another FX show I used to like, The Shield, the two don't really relate in my mind. Sons of Anarchy reminds me more of two other shows--The Sopranos and Deadwood. Though the backdrops are obviously very different, it has the same kind of intense character development and the same almost-melodramatic Shakespearean undertones. I'm very excited to see what comes next.

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I just started watching this too! I also would not have thought it would be up my alley. Katy Seagal is good, but she's pretty good in everything (she's Leila on Futurama, too).

Perhaps because of where I am in the series, I really don't think of Gemma as a character to be looked up to by women. She's kind of the traditional meddling manipulative bitch.

I knew you'd be a Jax fan! I mean he's like a poor man's Kurt Cobain.

I agree that it's the same as Sopranos/Deadwood, and I thought the same thing. But I don't like either of those shows, so I dunno why I like this one. But second season has Henry Rollins as an Aryan, in possibly the most ridiculous typecasting of all time. I am conflicted--I love Hank but he's always wearing a swastika. Creepy.

I find the gun trading parts boring too, but I do like the double crossing/club history/family part.

I am also in the same boat; found out I liked this series even though I never would have thought so. Even went out and bought the season 1 DVD set to catch up. You're welcome to borrow it if you want.

Have you gotten to the S1 plotline about Tara and her stalker ex-boyfriend? It was resolved in a very . . .interesting . . . way. I would love to hear your opinion about it when you get to that point.

this show is one of the best show i have ever seen

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TVland

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So being home by myself, especially being home by myself and not having to work, I'm watching a lot of TV. A lot. In fact, I have been watching a steady stream of TV all damn day long. I know that should embarrass me, but it doesn't. It has been quite a while since I've watched much TV at all, and this level of vegging is really relaxing. And it's not educational programming, either, folks.

So, since I know you're dying to know, this is my daily line-up:
10-11AM: Jon & Kate Plus Eight re-runs (TLC)
11AM-noon: What Not To Wear re-run (TLC)
Noon-3PM: Wife Swap re-runs (Lifetime)
3-4PM: General Hospital (ABC)
4-5PM: Little People, Big World re-runs (TLC)
5-7PM: Bones re-runs (TNT)

Don't you wish I had a Neilson box?

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Romantic portrayal of the working...man

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Last night, an advertisement came on the TV for some new logging show. This is, by my count, the third logging show in the last few years (preceded by Ax Men and Heli-Loggers), but there may be more. There are also, of course, the fishing shows (Deadliest Catch, Off the Hook, The Catch). Mark loves these shows. So, apparently, do a lot of people.

So what's the appeal? Well, at first blush, I'd say it's a danger thing--the shows purport to show the real world of dangerous occupations. But then I think about other programs, like Mike Rowe's long-standing and quite popular Dirty Jobs, which isn't about dangerous jobs, just about "dirty" ones.

It seems to be an idolization and romanticizing of physical labor. I imagine the audience, relaxing on their couches after they come home from their desk jobs, watching actual physical work on their screens, and feeling on one hand lucky not to have to do it themselves, and on the other hand jealous to not be part of the comradeship and the culture portrayed. Feeling, maybe, like something has been lost. Whether this rose-colored nostalgia is a good thing or not is really questionable, but that's not the issue I'm after here.

Me being me, I also have to notice that all of these romantic brute laborers are men. I've yet to see a reality show about women's work, be it blue collar or pink. Nobody comes home from the office and feels nostalgic while watching waitresses do their day-to-day thing, or catches up with their favorite personalities among the women on the assembly line. It's a long-standing complaint that women are rarely shown working in fictional shows, but the same is true in this new spate of reality programming. If anything, it's worse.

We really have no cultural idolization of the working woman. When we get all gooey and nostalgic about the working man, in the back of our minds isn't his wife at home, minding the hearth and the kids? Why, if we're using this financial crisis and the associated flagellation as an excuse to idolize previous hard-working generations and the few people in our own generation who still work like that, are women exempt?

I grew up in a culture in which hard physical work was valued for both genders. My stepfather is a timber faller, so he falls right into the current work-worshipping, but my mother works just as hard. I remember a summer she spent spending 1/2 days waiting tables and 1/2 days doing summer cleaning at the school--that was absolutely hard physical labor, for which she was paid remarkably little. My grandmother, until she was in her 60s, worked at a tree farm, planting and cultivating trees, every day. And the women I knew worked just as hard in their homes as outside them, not just keeping house and raising kids, but tending huge gardens, tending livestock. Taking care of their families in a way that is just as nostalgic to most now as the occupations portrayed on those shows.

My grandmother used to say that a man works 'til the day is done, but a woman's work is never done. Why, then, can't someone highlight the labor of women? Would anyone watch that show?

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My Mark loves those shows too (even the logging ones). He actually does hard, dangerous physical labor himself, 6 days a week.

I think it's the element of danger and action that really appeals in these shows.

Because women as a whole tend to be smaller and not as physically strong as men as a whole, I don't think that people find the physical labor that women do to be all that unbelievable. Too many people could watch the show and say, "Hell, I could do that" (whether or not it's true--and it often isn't). There's not as much interest in the fact that some 5'3" woman is doing something that's totally amazing for her size, when so many 6'0" men could do the same thing with less effort. I just think that having "ordinary" abilities (if not supplemented with humor or some other reason to watch) isn't as compelling for people.

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TLC Families

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I will admit it. I am a huge, huge sucker for TLC "family" shows. I've written before about the Duggars, but it's not just them. I've not watched a ton of the Gosslins (Jon & Kate Plus Eight), but I did spend most of one day watching a marathon of their second season. And I stop on that channel when they are on now. More than the others, though, I love, love, love the Roloffs (Little People, Big World).

Obviously, these are popular shows, so I'm not alone in watching them. The thing is, unlike much of the rest of the American viewing audience, I've never really been into reality television. I stopped watching Survivor after the first season (and I didn't like it all that much then), and never watched any of the similar shows. I recently saw my very first episode of American Idol (and I don't see myself watching another one). I just don't like those shows.

So what makes these family shows on TLC different? Why, when reality television has been irritating me for like ten years, can I not get enough of them?

I think it has a lot to do with the way TLC makes television versus the way the networks who have run the majority of the more popular reality shows do it. The TLC shows don't have a contest aspect. The folks featured are families, they aren't competitors. And that underlying feeling you have when watching shows like American Idol, that you are watching someone else's humiliation for entertainment, isn't there. Instead, you are watching people who, more or less, seem to be average.

Of course, they aren't average. If they were, they wouldn't be on TV. The Duggars have 18 kids. The Gosslins have eight, and six of them were born at the same time. And the Roloffs are little people, as is one of their four children. I think, actually, this is one of the reasons I like LPBW even more than the other shows--other than being little people, which isn't really the point of the show most of the time, the Roloffs are pretty normal. Partially they seem normal to me because they live near where I'm from, but it's something beyond that, as well. They aren't well-dressed, they have bad skin, they don't speak all that well--they fuck up and they talk about it and they fight and they laugh and they just seem like a really nice family to me.

The three TLC families have quite a bit in common: though the difference between 18 and 4 is pretty large, they all have lots of kids; all three shows center around families and family life; etc. Another thing they all have in common, though, that is a bit (though only a bit...) less obvious is that all three families are Christian.

Obviously, the Duggars are Christian. Their fundamentalist Christianity is the force that shapes their lives, and nothing about their show ever gets far from that. The Gosslins and the Roloffs are less overt, but both shows feature the families going to church, both sets of parents mention God when they are interviewed, the Roloff kids go to Christian private school, etc. I wonder if that's not part of what I find so fascinating about these shows--the image they present of serious Christians, and the spectrum they represent (it's a long way from upstanding patriarch Jim Bob Duggar to hairbrained schemer Matt Roloff).

Sometimes, the TLC family shows take me back to the first reality show I remember watching--MTV's Real World. Not the later season, in which strange contests and challenged and plots were imposed, but the original New York season, where it was just divergent people living together and trying to get along. I loved that show, and I loved it mostly because it was about people I could both recognize as real and recognize as not a damn thing like me. The same is true of all of the TLC families. Whether I like them as the characters of theirselves they are playing or not, I can recognize them. And maybe that's part of what makes good TV, from family-friendly reality TV to sci-fi to cop dramas--being to recognize something familiar in characters who are living lives completely different that ours?

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I call BS on you not liking Survivor. I DISTINCTLY recall having watched it and talking to you on Pacific time waiting for it to be on.

I also love LPBW, but not the other shows so much. I think Jon & Kate Plus 8 is far too much about logistics and isn't that interesting. I'll watch Vagina Clown Car(as I refer to the Duggars' show) if it's on but it makes me want to throw things.

I didn't realize the Roloffs were that Christian. I guess they seem like normal day to day people who happen to believe in Jesus rather than VCC, where it's like an insane cult.

Re: Christianity on these shows, it really BUGS me that they don't talk about the Duggars' religion. I mean it's clear they are religious, but they never say "Jesus" or "God." It's creepily normalizing of their wackjob religion. I think it's supposed to make it more relateable. But I HATE that. Their oddball religious beliefs is what put them in this situation and I want to know more about it. I bet they couldn't sell an overtly religious show on TLC though.

this was first season! i knew the ending and you didnt want me to tell you!

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Back to my Duggar-bashing ways

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A long time ago, I wrote this post about my first experience watching a show about the Duggars. Many commenters were aghast at my judgments, others agreed with me. Since then, the Duggars have gotten much more popular and though I've entered discussions about them in other places, I've not posted about them again here.

Until now.

Last night, I watched "A Very Duggar Wedding," in which the eldest Duggar child, Josh, who is, I think, 20, got married. It was one of the most depressing and horrifying things I've seen lately.

Josh married a girl named Anna, who clearly came from folks of the same fundamentalist religious beliefs, or at least similar ones, to those the Duggars hold. Like Josh's sisters, his wife has long hair and longer skirts and is now expected to be under his leadership and control in her life as a baby-making machine.

Think I'm being facetious? I'm not. Josh and Anna not only didn't have sex before marriage, they "preserved their purity" by never kissing until they were on the alter. They were never alone unchaperoned. Josh made a phone call to Anna's father, asking him for her daughter's hand, before he ever mentioned the idea to her. Thus began their "courtship." See, according to their rules, dating is a no-go. You have to have a proposal of marriage before you "get to know each other" (and the getting to know seems pretty surface). Why? Because, as Jim Bob tells us happened to Michelle before she got with him, previous relationships leave you with "baggage."

When Josh and Anna said their vows, things got much, much worse. Love honor and obey wouldn't cut it here, Anna actually vowed to follow Josh as her priest and ruler, then they both vowed to have as many children as God saw fit. In an interview before the ceremony took place, Anna's father mused that he was thrilled that this ceremony was happening, in which Anna would be transferred from his authority to Josh's, as God intended. Could it be an clearer that Anna was property?

I know I'll get at least one comment here telling me that I am being insensitive to other people's religious beliefs. You know what? I am. I am not sensitive to these beliefs, and I have no problem with that. If you believe that women should naturally be under male authority, then no, I have no respect for your beliefs. If you believe that a woman should continue to have baby after baby, regardless of how she feels about it, then I have no respect for your beliefs.

The thing that turned my stomach the most, though, was the clear parallel between one generation and the next. Josh and Anna are clearly setting out to be Jim Bob and Michelle 2.0. I roll my eyes when Mark tells me that the Duggars and families like them are "building an army for Jesus," but honestly, it does seem that way. In one segment, Josh and three or four of his sisters go out to dinner, and they discuss what it will be like and how they'll see each other when they are all grown up and married and have kids. One sister points out that even if the only have 5 kids each (a relatively small number in their world, and one that probably wouldn't come about if they all devote themselves to birth control via God), they'll still have too many people to fit into a room. If we take the math to it's illogical conclusion, we see that the 18 current Duggar children, if they had 18 each, would make 324 more baby fundamentalist. If those had 18 each, that's 5,832 more. We're nearly army proportions in only three generations!

That, folks, is a lot of long dresses and matching polo shirts and bad hair.

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"I am not sensitive to these beliefs, and I have no problem with that. If you believe that women should naturally be under male authority, then no, I have no respect for your beliefs. "

THANK YOU. I was criticized yesterday for something similar, and you've managed to articulate what I couldn't at the time.

There's a point at which "respect" and "tolerance" can actually be harmful.

While I agree that they are totally messed up, from the engagement show I saw, Anna seems really into it. I don't think she is saying she wants to have 3 trillion children against her will. She's making a choice there too...it's not "regardless of how she feels about it."

What I also don't get about them is that YOU CAN keep track of your cycle and pretty effectively not get pregnant. Why is that not okay?

The Duggars and other evangelicals are pretty open about the army for Jesus thing. I think the way the show deals with their religion is weird. Clearly the show doesn't want to talk about it all the way. And do they ever go to a church? They must, right? What religion are they exactly? It's unclear.

I agree with you and think the males involved and of the same mind are assholes!

omg thank you. I cannot stand those people! Ahhh crazy, brainwashed, freaks! (I am maybe less sensitive lol). Not to be gross, but does she even notice when she gives birth anymore? :x

Yes, totally with you. Especially in that I'm tired of being told that I should respect these beliefs. It's a slightly raw topic in light of Rick Warren's participation in Obama's inauguration. Even aside from his totally offensive beliefs about gay people, this is a person who thinks that women can be subservient to their husbands. That's not a belief that we should respect or try to encompass in any coalition. It's just not. It's a belief that should be confronted and stamped out and taken seriously as bigotry, and it kills me that it's not.

I don't watch the show so I'm not really familiar with any of it but wow! This can't be for real.

I am with you on this one, Grace. I am not anyone's property. There is a huge problem with the "full quiver" idea - the Earth does not have enough room for everyone to have 18 babies. Not enough room for even 5 or 6.

If the Duggars drove 6 Hummers they would not be on TV. But the size of their family has the same environmental impact as 6 Hummers, or clubbing 1000 baby seals, or whatever. Sometimes, we have to make sacrifices, even *gasp* use birth control, for the greater good.

That family has even been in the news here in Holland when they had their 18th baby. I was reading another blog this weekend where the writer also explained how, according to her beliefs, her husband is the one who gets final word in everything and she is subservient to him (is that the correct word?) because he is the one with the final responsibility to God. I was pretty shocked when I read that, first of all because it goes against everything I feel a relationship should be, and second because I didn't expect that from her. Apparently it's quite common among certain religious groups. And as far as not getting pregnant, I believe even charting is considered birth control and thus "forbidden".
Totally NOT my cup of tea, all of that stuff.

Christine
PS: lol at your description of long skirts and bad hair.

I have a morbid fascination with them, also. Although they're pretty extreme, there was a point in time where their beliefs were not so completely inaccessible to me; as a result, the religion part isn't what bothers me most. What makes my blood boil is mostly thinking of all the things that I do to lessen my impact on the environment, and how this family is single-handedly (or 40-handedly) undoing all of my efforts and those of several others. And their negative impact will only exponentially increase with every generation...

But I'm fascinated by other things, too. I want to see what their children up being like as adults. Don't get me wrong--I don't wish unhappiness on them. But I want some assurance that growing up as a Dugger is damaging somehow, because I want to be able to conclusively say that what they're doing is wrong.

Wow. What a great blog. Grace, thanks for articulating everything I feel about these kind of people. I was raised in a church that was quite fundamental, although nothing like these lemmings -- thank God -- so I understand it more than I wish I did. It is scary when people this extreme produce so many children to brainwash and carry on the legacy. Even scarier -- and sadder -- is the notion of "creating an 'army' for Jesus -- as if Jesus WANTS armies and wars created in his peaceful honor. Creating an "army for Christ" makes about as much sense as creating an army for Ghandi or Mother Teresa.

Sandy, I love your comment about their impact on the environment as this is a particularly insulting area for me as well. I recently went vegan as I am horrified at the hell perpetrated on innocent animals so families like the Duggars can have Christian BBQs with them, while at the same time practicing MURDER while simultaneously claiming to be "pro-life." I could go on and on about the hypocrisy of these people but I won't because I can't stand the way I feel when I let myself get started but suffice to say, they all make me want to puke.

Sure, the leader of the family can afford to feed them, clothe them, etc., but the fact remains, our earth would implode on itself if everyone else on the planet lived in this selfish, gluttonous way.

I'm glad this blog is here because it at least gives me some peace of mind knowing that I am not crazy, nor alone, in my feelings about the growing trend in our country to glamorize self-seeking, irresponsible religious fundamentalism as if it is some kind of heroic way to live.

Tina -- (single, thankfully child free, vegan, adoptive dog mother in California)

I agree completly. what their doin is totally worng and might even be considered Child neglect.I mean thnink about it. 18 now 19 going on 20 kids. they all dont get to share equal time with mommy and daddy. All the attention goes to the babies like the now youngest Josie. and all though they are very fourtunete that she got alot better what about baby 20 will it be as lucky. the women is 43 years old and she says her days as a mommy are coming to an end they havent ended at all because she still has 20 other kids that need her attention and does she give it to them. amybe for like 5 seconds then its off to do wifely duties for the husband. An the fact that their youngest is the same age as their grandchild SICK!

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Ode to Jewel

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jewelAs fits my trend of being at least a couple of years behind in all things pop culture, I am just now finishing up watching Deadwood. I hated the series at first (making fun of it when Mark watched it by coming into the room and yelling "COCKSUCKER!" at inopportune moments), but it grew on me, and frankly, now I think it's brilliant. The writing is great, the acting is phenomenal, and the show it just plain gripping. Also, surprisingly given the context, it treats its female characters better than most of the HBO shows I've watched (I'm looking at you, The Sopranos and The Wire!).

One of the things that really blows my mind about Deadwood, though, is Jewel. Jewel is the cook/maid at the Gem saloon, one of the central Deadwood locations. She is in the employee of Ian McShane's Al Swearengen, the show's most notorious character. Jewel is played by Geri Jewell, and actress/comedian with cerebral palsy.

According to an interview with Salon, Deadwood creator David Milch met Geri Jewell in a pharmacy while he was developing the show and offered her a part. He says he "thought it would be an interesting thing to have a character who was handicapped or whatever the goddamned expression is supposed to be. See how a person who was physically challenged would function in an atmosphere like this." This unsentimental attitude toward Jewel's character, and towards her handicap, permeates her appearances on the show. Al regularly yells at Jewel to "stop dragging that fucking leg!" She's referred to as "The Gimp" and "The Cripple" with regularity. There is no room, in a camp like Deadwood, for pity or special allowances.

There is no room for pity or special allowances in Jewel's treatment of herself, either. Jewel insists that she be taken seriously as a woman, not just as a character with a disability. In the same Salon article, Geri Jewell said "It's very fulfilling for me, having never been taken seriously as an actress. It's a wonderful opportunity to show what I can do besides having cerebral palsy." This gets at the heart of what is so wonderful about Jewel's character. Even when the story line centers on her mobility (as it does in episode 1.11, "Jewel's Boot Is Made For Walking"), it is Jewel's character, her stubbornness, independence, and fearlessness, that makes the story work. When Al asks Jewel why she has been visiting the doctor, she replies smartly, "I'm knocked up." In her delivery of the line, you see Geri Jewell the comedian, but you also see her Deadwood character's insistence that her prickly employer see her not as "The Gimp", but as a woman (and the only woman he spends any time around who is not a prostitute).

Thematically, Deadwood is, in part, about breaking new ground, and the spine and ruthlessness that is sometimes necessary to do so. The show takes place in a gold mining camp, and much of the political drama centers on the battle between the camp's pioneer settlers and the looming government and big business forces. Jewel's character adds a layer to this theme. Deadwood is filled with unconventional women, each breaking ground in her own way (former madam and lesbian Joanie, alcoholic and grieving gunslinger Jane, hard-edged prostitute-cum-accountant Trixie, steely cold widow Alma) and Jewel easily takes her place among them, a woman with a disability insisting on being taken seriously in her own right, outside of her relationship with her employer or her medical needs. Both the first and second seasons of the show end with Jewel dancing, insistent at the end of the first season that the camp's doctor, who has just fitted her with a brace that helps her walk without dragging her leg so much, come and dance with her. "Come on doc," she cajoles, "I'll teach you how!" Jewel insists on humor, on joy, and on being accepted in her hard world as just who she is. What more can you possibly ask of a character than that?

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Thanks for this blog. I feel exactly the same as you about Deadwood. To begin with I was thinking "purlease! Can you actually manage to squeeze in another cocksucker, cunt or pussy, but once I'd become acclimatised I've really enjoyed it. I love the way the show doesn't patronise the viewer. The pace is fast and there's none of that rubbish, whereby they show fifteen minutes worth of he previous show. I hate it when programmes do that do they think the viewers are amnesiac goldfish?
Anyway I love the character of jewel and it was great to get some more info on her. I think she's a brilliant actress and I'd love to see her in something else.
Like you I'm behind on this one and I've only just come to the end if season 1. Can't wait to start season 2. Just glad it's been snowing here so I have an excuse to stay home and watch it back to back. Al swearengen is the most compelling villain I've ever come across.

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What do Vern Yip and Beanie Babies have in common?

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Back when I used to watch Trading Spaces, Vern Yip was always my favorite designer. I liked his simple, non-silly designs, and he seemed like the closest thing the show's designers had to a real person. So, when I saw that he had another show, Deserving Design, I was all over it. Now that I've watched the show, I love it even more. The premise is simple--Vern goes into the home of "deserving" regular folks and redesigns two rooms--one that they know is going to be done, one that they don't. "Deserving," here, means people who have given of themselves in some way. The most recent episode I saw featured a family who had fostered 62 children, some of them very high needs, and adopted 6 of them (all of whom had to have been under 12). Vern's makeovers focus on what the families actually need and how they actually use their space (and he uses tons of photographs, which I think is great), which is fantastic. What really gets me about the show, though, are the families themselves. The things they give to their communities and the sacrifices they make are inspiring.

So I was thinking about that. And about how, not so long ago, I was more focused on how I could help other people (my monthly giving, among other things). Lately, though, my focus has gone inward in a way I'm not proud of. And while I was thinking, I was, like I often am, thrifiting. At the south bins. Where I came upon an entire table of new with tags Beanie Buddies. Clearly these are no longer collector's items, I said to myself, but couldn't you have donated them to a homeless shelter or something? Kids can still play with them if they don't get destroyed here! And then it occurred to me that I could make that happen.

And so I came, inspired by Vern Yip, to purchase 40 Beanie Buddies. I had no idea how cute these things were! A couple of them (the octopus, the ladybug, the moose...) might have to live at my house and become gently loved dog toys. The rest, though, can go to a local DV shelter, or be saved for Christmas-time toy drives. What toddler is going to care of his/her lovey is still in style?

It's nice to wake up and remember why I'm here.

2 Comments

So this is weird--my sister's dad sponsored a kid at christmas and the charity it was through said NO stuffed animals. Which I thought was weird....

good for you! You know those toys will be loved and loved well.

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Hear ye hear ye!

The 21st installment of the Carnival of Feminist Science Fiction and Fantasy Fans will be hosted by my other blog baby, Heroine Content. Co-parent Skye and I are super anxious to see what you've all got to add to the carnival, so please send in submissions ASAP. This carnival's specific topic suggestion is "Who Do You Love?" but anything blogged between February 7 and April 28 is game, as long as it is a feminist perspective on fantasy and/or science fiction.

Submissions should be sent to me or Skye before April 28. The carnival will be posted May 1.

For more general info on the Carnival, please go here.

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Self-promotion

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I wrote what I think is probably my best Heroine Content piece yet this week, and it hasn't garnered a single comment. Which makes me sad. So I'm linking to it here in hopes someone will go and read it?

Firefly and Serenity.

1 Comments

i saw serenity last weekend (but haven't seen firefly yet), so will definitely go check your review out.

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Active watching: TV as text (Undead TV)

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undead tvA bit back, I wrote this entry sticking up for TV. I argued that TV is a morally-neutral medium like any other, and it is how you interact with it, what you choose to watch and how actively you watch it, that makes watching it better or worse than any other use of your leisure time. I have been thinking more about that since I wrote it, and last night I came across something in a book that I thought spoke to my point very well.

In Undead TV: Essays on Buffy the Vampire Slayer there is an essay by Mary Celeste Kearney (a faculty member right here at UT!) about Sarah Michelle Gellar as a teen "cross-over" star and what that means in the late 90s, when the teen market demographic is huge and when a star's presence is not limited to television or movies, but television and movies and the Internet (and music and video games and...). In the essay, Kearney mentions that when the WB started showing Dawson's Creek, they also opened up an online space where viewers were encouraged to go after each episode and fill out private or public diaries about how they felt about the episode, their thoughts, etc. Folks, in my liberal arts education, we called that a reading journal. You know, to encourage active reading? Sure, 90% of those Dawson diaries were probably full of comments like "Dawson iz so hawt! OMG!" but just the fact that kids were logging on and writing anything is a start. After all, do you really think there is nobody who was hooked on Pride & Prejudice because they had Darcy-lust? Come on.

The Dawson diaries are just one example of how the Internet can and has encouraged active participation with television texts. Show based chat rooms, of which there are a surprisingly huge number, are another way people watch shows and then think and write about them (active participation). So are sites like Television Without Pity--reviewing something requires interaction with it. And fan fiction..rewriting the text, using its characters to write new stories, filling in the blanks you don't see--what is that if not active participation?

As I think back, I realize that I was expressly taught, early on, to be an "active" reader. Even before I could read myself, my mom read to me, and she didn't just read to me, or even just read to me and then discuss it with me. She'd read me a chapter (I remember the Little House books as the most clear example of this), then tell me to go act it out, or to act out the part that didn't happen in the book. Sometimes she prompted ("how would this have gone if Laura had made a different decision?") and sometimes by the time the chapter ended I had my own ideas. This became my favorite part of the whole exercise. Later, when I grew out of my sun bonnet phase, I was less likely to act out the parts left out of books and more likely to write them out. There wasn't really a name for it then, at least not one that I knew. Now I'd call it fan fiction. And I'd give it credit for my being able to string words into sentences and sentences into paragraphs. How was this childhood interaction with books any different than what is happening all over the Internet around TV shows?

2 Comments

Not that I've ever read any, but why is it that "fanfic" is so roundly abused?


I mean, I know it's nerdy - supremely nerdy - but it seems like the people who hate fanfic are already kind of nerdy and shouldn't be throwing stones.

Are you defending fanfic, and if so, am I allowed to laugh at you?

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TV shows that are worth watching

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So inevitably, when I go on that rant about how great TV is, someone asks me what I mean about quality television. No, I'm not talking about Discovery and the History channel (though you can find quality shows on both of those networks). I mean that there is quality fiction on television. Television literature. It's even on the networks occasionally. And so, yet another list. These are only shows I have personally experienced as "television literature" at some point--I'm sure there are others.

1. Buffy the Vampire Slayer (duh)
2. Joan of Arcadia
3. The Wire
4. Gilmore Girls
5. M*A*S*H
6. My So-Called Life
7. Roseanne
8. The Shield
9. The Sopranos
10. The West Wing

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I own the whole season/series of "My So-Called Life." I think it is one of the most interesting portrayals of high school life for girls AND it was so far ahead of its time. Which, in my humble opinion, is why it was discontinued...

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TV and me

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So I was just reading this entry by Emilin at Name That Mama, and of course, it got me to thinking. The tangent it sends me on to isn't really all that connected to the original issue Em was talking about, which has to do with her family's decision not to expose their daughter to television, but that's where I started thinking about it.

So I grew up more or less without TV. My parents weren't/aren't "against" TV, but we didn't have any capacity for television reception where we lived for most of my "developing" years. My folks have digital satellite now, which I think they got when I was about halfway through high school, but between three and fifteen, say, there wasn't much TV at my house, and what there was was viewed through a pretty thick static reception haze. We got "one channel and not well." I did have exposure through friends and family and stuff, and we watched videos fairly regularly.

I received a small TV as a gift before I went to college. I was one of the few (only?) people in my dorm with a television, and it was a bit looked down upon among the Reedie intellectual snobs (unless they wanted to watch The Simpsons, that is). But I watched quite a bit of television in college. I recorded General Hospital every day for years. I marathoned Roseanne reruns. I rented movies. I could make an argument (and it would probably have validity) that I numbed myself with TV in college, but mostly it was used for brainless entertainment purposes. I worked hard in college, read for hours a day, and thought so hard my brain hurt. TV was a reprieve.

Since college I haven't ever lived without a TV, and for the last several years Mark and I have willingly paid through the nose for extended cable programming. We watch a lot of TV at my house. Mark watches more than I do, for sure, and is much more likely to just "watch whatever is on," but I am, without a doubt, a TV-watching person.

There is still a fair amount of anti-TV sentiment around me. Of my close friends, I'd say probably half live in TV-free or nearly TV-free households. Many, though by no means all, of my parent friends are choosing to raise their children without TV, as discussed in Em's post. I have been privy to many, many discussions about about the evil influence of television.

And, bottom line, I don't buy it (surprise!). Television is a medium. It's an empty vessel, with it's own strengths and weaknesses as a vessel. It's morally neutral. It is not inherently better or worse than film, or radio, or (and I feel the flames at my toes already when I type this) books. It serves a difference (and, to my mind, complimentary in many ways) purpose, but to think it is somehow inherently sub-par is ludicrous.

First, there is good TV and bad TV, just like there are good and bad examples of any other form of media. Yes, I absolutely agree that most of what shows on the modern American television set is crap. However, I also think what is played on most modern American radio, shown in most most modern American movie theaters, and shelves in most modern American bookstores is crap. And the argument that it is somehow better, more involved, more active, to read a bad book than it is to watch bad TV just doesn't work for me. Which brings me to point two.

Clearly, from my posts about Buffy and other shows, I see TV as an active medium with which you can interact. You can, as is argued in this great book, "read" television the same way you do with a book, not just passively watching it, but thinking about it, analyzing it, connecting it to other stories in your mind, rewriting it in your head, imagining about it. Rhonda Wilcox (the book's author, if you didn't click on the link) makes an argument not only for the importance of her subject (Buffy) and its legitimacy as a text worthy of literary analysis, but of the legitimacy of television as literature in general. Certainly not all television, but good television, she argues (and I agree) can engage and stimulate you the same way good books can.

If this is true, if the importance is not what the vessel is (book, radio, film, TV, etc.) but what you put in it, then how can it possibly make sense to restrict the medium?

What do you think? Those out there who are pro- OR anti-TV, I wanna hear from you!

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This is a really interesting post. I am planning to raise my kids on little TV for a bunch of reasons. I look forward to sharing certain shows/movies with them though. I also wouldn't really think twice about them watching with a friend (occasionally). I currently don't have a television, but have been marathoning tv shows via the internet. And not necessarily good shows either: The office, Sex and the City, and Project Runway. The cream of the crop, those. ;) I also watch a lot of movies (I

So that's the background. Truth is, I love watching TV. And I agree that there are some things that are worthwhile watching.

That said, I do think that there are some VERY negative things about TV, even aside from the nastiness that is ON the television. My experience is that television is addictive. Once I start watching, I find it very hard to stop, regardless of whether or not I'm enjoying it. The same is true of video games and of the internet. And I've observed similar behaviors in the children that I've lived with...even when they are not enjoying their screen time, they often don't go do something else.

When I think about how much I could have gotten done (not just work wise, but pleasure/hobby wise) in the time that I spend watching TV, I'm pretty dismayed and embarrassed. I do feel good that I generally craft while I watch, but sometimes I fall out of that habit, which makes me feel disappointed in myself.

I think that also, it has been shown that your brain activity when you are watching television is lower than when you are sleeping. I'm not totally sure...but I wouldn't be surprised. In general, I like to do activities that improve my mind...and tv watching has not proven to be one of them. Sure, sometimes you "read" TV. But a lot of the time I don't. That's why I like it! It's easy to veg out. I'm just not sure that I want to be spending as much time vegged out as I sometimes do.

I don't have a tv, by laziness, and I guess a bit of choice. However I watch more television programming than I ever have. On the web.

Things people deprive their kids of most often come back to haunt them. Many of the tv addicted people I know are that way because their parents wouldn't let them watch tv.

That said, I think commercials for kids are evil. Keeping kids away from those is a great idea.

My parents got me my own tv so I could play video games on it, but they would often tell me to "Stop reading and come out of your room and be social." By which they meant, come out and watch tv.

I brought that tv, which I got at 12 or so, to college, and it still worked when I left it with a friend in Portland when I was like, 24. Good investment.

I think that you made a really great point about TV having the potential to be just as active a medium as reading a book. And another excellent point in stating that TV is essentially just as neutral a medium, too.

I do think that many networks expect that they'll have they'll have a passive viewership and don't create TV shows that are as engaging as reading a book would be. Even at that, some TV shows are meant to be escapism and are enjoyable as such.

As a teeanger, I watch two TV shows, and one of them is pure escapism, and I enjoy them both for what they are.

But when I was in 1st grade, I voluntarily gave up all TV and movies for three years. My parents didn't necessarily condone this, even, and I would never force a situation like this on my kids.
All the same, at that age, I was a lot more susceptible to advertising and much more impressionable in general.
In retrospect, I can't tell you why I did it, but I'm glad that I did. Having books replace TV during those crucial years was a hugely enriching and valuable experience.

I've been thinking about this some more. Even though I agree with your assertion that tv can be watched actively, I really can't imagine actually doing so. When I'm in the mood for active mental engagement, I don't watch television (or movies, or video games).

Is it your experience that some people do watch tv in an active manner? If so, have you found that they are generally people who watch a lot of tv, or very little?

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List 17b: Songs from TV

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That last list got me thinking about great songs featured on TV shows I love. Here's a list of a few. Do you know what shows they are/were from? Put guesses in the comments. Shouldn't be too hard to guess--there aren't/haven't been all that many shows I like.

1. "Way Down in the Hole" by Steve Earle (originally Tom Waits) Theme song from The Wire, last season's version (Kelly Cat)
2. "L.A. Song" by Christian Kane
3. "Goodbye to You" by Michelle Branch Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Tabula Rosa episode (Amanda)
4. "Keep Me in Your Heart" by Warron Zevon
5. "Woke Up This Morning" by A3 Theme song from The Sopranos (Melinda)
6. "Out Of This World" by Bush
7. "I Wanna Be Sedated" by The Ramones My So-Called Life (Kasia)
8. "Hallelujah" by Jeff Buckley (originally Leonard Cohen) The West Wing, the episode when Simon dies (Frog)
9. "Teardrop" by Massive Attack Theme song from House, M.D. (Melinda)
10. "Have a Little Faith in Me" by John Haitt

6 Comments

5. is the sopranos, and 9. is house, md...not that i was ever addicted to it, nooooo.

1) The Wire (Steve Earle fan here)
10) Not taking credit for it since I didn't know, but googled it because I liked John Hiatt in the 80's and 90's. I can imagine Mandy Moore singing that song. But on *that* show?

Goodbye to You was on Buffy, wasn't it?

#8 was on The West Wing.

Rayanne and Jordan Catalano sang The Ramone's "I Wanna Be Sedated" in a My So-Called Life episode.

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What I learned from Clinton and Stacy

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It may or may not be a surprise to readers of WINOW to learn that I am a fan of TLC's What Not to Wear. I have a love-hate relationship with the show--while on one hand I think they give quite a bit of good advice and I like that they are focused on looking the best you can without changing your body, on the other hand it's pretty clear that they are narrow-minded, shallow, and have no concept of trying to dress oneself on an actual budget. Still, I can't help but watch it, and I'll confess that I really have taken some of the advice they give on the show and worked it in to my own wardrobe.

Some examples:

Trouser jeans. I never would have considered trouser jeans before Clinton and Stacy, and honestly, they're a godsend. I feel way more professional at work in them than in "regular" jeans, they look great, and they are just as comfortable as their more casual alternative. I've got two pairs, this one from New York and Company and this one from Nine West, and both are wardrobe regulars.

Layers. I am a product of my generation. To me, "layers" is when you put a hoodie on over your t-shirt, which is in turn on over your thermal. But I'm trying to get out of that mindset, at least some of the time, and think a bit more about layering when I'm dressing for work or something nicer. I've picked up a few super cute cardigans to aid me in this effort (given my climate, a cardigan is often all you need for a top layer) and am realizing that a hint of camisole shown under a sweater or scoop neck shirt is nice.

Trench coat.
It may have taken me nearly 30 years, but I've finally come around to the position that no, not all trench coats make you look like Inspector Gadget. I bought a classic, tan, unbelted London Fog trench in a waterproof fabric last year and I wear it all the time. Unlike my jean jacket, it makes me appear to be a grown up.

Colored shoes.
It's hard for me to buy shoes, and I tend to want the ones I do buy to go with everything. To that end, I've traditionally purchased any and all shoes in black. Slowly, however, I'm working towards my color in my shoes, most recently these adorable "sunglow" flats by Red Wing. And, surprise! They work with just as many outfits as a "neutral" would.

All that being said, there are some tips from Clinton and Stacy that I am never, ever going to take. Pointy heels aren't ever going to be a party of my daily wardrobe. I see what they mean, and even agree, about how jackets pull things together, especially on larger women, but I still can't make them work for me. And it will be a sad sad day if I ever stop going to the grocery store in my pajama pants.

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That's interesting--I have only seen a few episodes, but in every episode I saw Stacy was like "oh it's a good thing you aren't a big fatty anymore!" I got a very negative impression of her. Also I feel like that show is more "How to dress like me!" more than "How to look good and appropriate, as well as in your own style." Honestly looking at Stacy makes me inordinately angry.

If someone on that show has any personal style, they remove it right away. They don't take into account people's real lives - they put 3rd grade teachers into stiletto heels and all dry clean fabrics, for instance.

And Stacy is such a f-ing beeetch. I hate her. The British version is quite nice, though.

I really like the jeans, but how high-waisted are they? Not that I'm trying to show off my ass at work, but I find that anything that hits at my waist makes me look two feet tall, in addition to being pretty uncomfortable.

Well, I have a really long torso, so things tend to be low-waisted on me even if they weren't intended that way. That being said, I think both pairs of the jeans I have are supposed to be of the "just below the waist" style. I don't think being high-waisted is part of the style of them or anything.

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A primer on Marys with three names

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Hollywood is full of women named Mary who have three names. These women often confuse me. Perhaps they confuse you as well. In case they do, I present a handy primer.

Mary Stuart Masterson1. Mary Stuart Masterson is a blonde actress, best known for playing Idgie in Fried Green Tomatoes and Joon in Benny & Joon. She is not Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, with whom I confuse her due their names.

mary elizabeth mastrantonio2. Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio is an actress with dark curly hair. She is best known for playing Maid Marian in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (she was also in Scarface, for the more cinematically pure-hearted). She is neither Mary Stuart Masterson nor Mary Steenburgen, who also has dark curly hair but does not have three names, and played the mom on Joan of Arcadia.

Mary-Louise Parker3. Mary-Louise Parker is a dark-haired actress who plays Nancy on Weeds and previously was Amy on The West Wing. She is none of the Mary's above, nor is she Lauren Graham, who played Lorelai on The Gilmore Girls and is not a Mary, but does resemble Mary-Louise Parker. She's also not Julia Louie-Dreyfus, who played Elaine on Seinfeld and looks nothing like her, but as a Louie in her name.

mary kate olsen4. Mary-Kate Olsen is one of the Olsen twins. Clearly, she is not her sister, Ashley Olsen. She is the Olsen twin who had the anorexia issues a few years back, who sometimes does not have blonde hair. She is also the Olsen twin who did a guest appearance on Weeds.

Mary Tyler Moore5. Mary Tyler Moore is the iconic star of The Mary Tyler Moore Show in the 1970s. Yep, the one who threw her hat up in the air. I don't get her mixed up with anybody.

Mary Kay Place6. Mary Kay Place is the actress who plays Adaleen on Big Love. She's been around a long time, and was on Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman in the 70s. I don't mix her up with any of the other Marys, but do sometimes get her confused with Debra Jo Rupp, who played Kitty on That 70's Show.

Mary Beth Evans7. Mary Beth Evans is a long time soap opera actress. She's played Kayla on Days of Our Lives since 1986 and has simultaneously been on As The World Turns, Port Charles, and General Hospital. She is sort of the epitome of soap actress (besides Her Highness Susan Lucci, of course).

There are, of course, countless other three-named Marys. However, these are the best-known ones, and the ones I am mostly likely to confuse. I hope this has been edifying.

3 Comments

Edifying? It's fucking genius is what it is.

I have always gotten Mary Stuart Masterson and Mary Louise Parker confused, since I first knew them both from Fried Green Tomatoes. Then I have to remember that Masterson is the one who played the adorably butch drummer in the under-rated 80s flick "Some Kind of Wonderful"... anyway, good primer on the 3 named Marys!

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Westminster Wrap-Up

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The second night was just as exciting as the first!

westminster_golden.jpgThe first group of the night was the Sporting dogs. So a very long parade of spaniels. I was very fond of the Golden Retriever, but he didn't place. The other dogs that stood out to me were the Brittany, James, who took first, and the Irish Setter, Fonzie, who took fourth.westminster_setter.jpg

westminster_pbgv.jpgThe next group were the hounds, my second favorite. Again, I called the winner, the PBGV, Fairchild. I also really liked the look of the Deerhound, Margot, who took third.margot.jpg I've seen her show before and she's a gorgeous dog. I didn't expect either of them to place (and they didn't), but the Wolfhound and the Bloodhound were also really nice looking dogs who showed well, given their breeds.

bouvier.jpgThe final group was the herding dogs, and I couldn't make a prediction for this group, because our cable went out for a few minutes right in the middle of it. I did note, however, when viewing the first few dogs, that the Bouviers, Indy, looked particularly good. And he won!

t2.james.ap.jpgAnd then best in show. At first, I insisted that the spaniel would take it. Then I saw how well the PBGV was showing and changed my call. Apparently I should have stuck with my original thought, because the spaniel won. And it wasn't a ridiculous choice--he showed beautifully. Still, I would have loved to see the scruffy hound dog take it. Maybe next time. At least it wasn't Bill Cosby's Dandie Denmont.

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Westminster, Day 1

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As you may or may not know (depending on whether you are a dog dork like me), last night was the first night of the annual Westminster Kennel Club dog show. Even though I am (some would say nastily) against purebred registered dogs, I love watching dog shows, and this is one of the biggies. So Mark and I plopped ourselves in front of the TV for multiple hours last night and watched the dogs, making predictions, naming our favorites, and making fun of the truly funny-looking breeds.

Here's how the first night went:

maceywestminster.jpgThe Working Group was the first in the ring. This is both Mark's and my favorite group (unsurprisingly, given the dogs we live with). From the minute she entered the ring, my money was on the Akita to win. A 3-year old female, called Macey, she's one of the best looking Akitas I've ever seen, and I've seen quite a number of them (my aunt bred and raised them for years). Her coat is phenomenal and her movement is beautiful. How surprised was I when the judge agreed with me!?

westminster_dane.jpgI didn't much agree with the other top-ranked Working dogs--the Malamute that took second looked a little shaggy to me, the Kuvasz at fourth was bleary-eyed. The Newfoundland at third, who was sired by Josh, the Newfie who won Westminster in 2004, was beautiful, but I would have put him at fourth. My picks for second and third would have been the phenomenal, regal Great Dane, Ch M&M's Kevlar's Guardian Angel (I didn't catch his shortened name) and theCharzard.jpggorgeous Bernese Mountain Dog, Charzard. I was also disappointed by the Anatolian, Maggie, who got more attention than this breed (one of my favorites) ever gets. She had a great line and a strong gait, but I just can't reconcile myself to the bland beige coloring when Ata's markings are so striking.

harry_westminster.jpgNext came the long, long Terrier group. My Lord there are a lot of terriers! I had read enough before the show to know that the Dandie Dinmont co-owned by Bill Cosby, Harry, was a shoo-in. And he didn't disappoint as a show dog. Lots of personality for such a strange looking little thing.

staffie_westminster.jpgThe second and third placements, the Smooth Fox Terrier and the Sealyham, didn't do much for me, but I was very excited to see the Staffordshire Bull Terrier take fourth.

irish_terrier_westminster.jpgMy picks for second and third again didn't place, they were the Irish Terrier, Lily, and the Parson Russell, Duke.

The next group was Toys, and frankly, I didn't watch it. There are big dog people and small dog people, and I am the former and just can't get too excited about toy dogs. For the sake of inclusivity, though, I'll tell you that the toy poodle, Vikki, took the group. She was followed by the Pekingese in second, the Pug in third, and the Brussels Griffon in fourth.

remy_westminster.jpgThe last group of the night was the overly broad Non-Sporting group. This was a really hard one to pick winners for, but I ended up with two of the top four on my list. The winning dog was the standard poodle, Remy. I can't tell one poodle from another, so I didn't pick her. Irock_westminster.jpghad my eye on the either dog that took second, the bulldog, Rock, or the one who took third, the Dalmatian, Boomer.boomer_westminster.jpg I was also totally surprised by the Shar-Pei taking fourth--my pick was the American Eskimo Dog, Juneau.

All in all, the first night was a good time. Of the four top contenders, I still like the Akita, but I'm afraid it's going to be the Dandie Denmont. Tonight will tell!

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Best of 2006

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Here is a list of some of my favorite things in 2006.

Top 5 Books
5. I Like You: Hospitality Under the Influence by Amy Sedaris
4. My Life in France by Julia Child
3. The Class Castle: A Memoir by Jeanette Walls
2. The Mercy of Thin Air by Ronlyn Domingue
1. Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

Top 5 Movies
5. Wordplay
4. The Science of Sleep
3. V for Vendetta
2. Little Miss Sunshine
1. Kinky Boots

Top 2 TV
2. House, Season 3
1. The Wire, Season 4

Top 5 CDs
5. The Be Good Tanyas, Hello Love
4. The Little Willies, The Little Willies
3. Bruce Springsteen, We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions
2. The Dixie Chicks, Taking the Long Way
1. Roseanne Cash, Black Cadillac

What'd I miss?

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I just blogged about Wordplay and Kinky Boots. I really kinda hated Kinky Boots, though...

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Pain in the House

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house_with_pills.jpgAfter several weeks' hiatus, Mark and I eagerly tuned in to Fox (which I would watch for no other reason) for last night's episode of House. We are both big fans of the show, Mark for the medical stuff (even if it is pretty far from believable) and House's sarcastic wit, and me for the same wit and because I've developed a big fat crush on Hugh Laurie (who hasn't, really?). I realized last night, though, that there is something else I really like about the show.

It deals with pain. And not just the transient pain of patients who have specific, curable or treatable illnesses, but the chronic, never-ending pain House himself is in. The topic of this pain doesn't go away. It peaks and wanes, but it's always there, and not just as a reason for House's drug addiction, but as a topic in and of itself. In last night's episode, when House apologized to Tritter, he explained his behavior with something along the lines of "I am in constant pain. Pain that, on a good day, is just unbearable."

As a society, we don't know how to deal with chronic pain or illness. We have a decent idea of how to wrap our minds around illnesses and pains that are temporary, that can either be fixed or lead to a fairly rapid death, but the idea of chronic pain and illness eludes us. I think this may account for part of our appalling treatment of the disabled, though that's just a guess. We seem to only be able to conceptualize "sick" and "better," and have no idea how to deal with the idea that sometimes functioning in pain or sickness for the rest of one's life is just the way it is.

I am close to two people who are in chronic pain. Though neither of them is a Vicodin addict like House, they both manage their pain pharmaceutically, to a greater or lesser degree. Also unlike House, neither of them has an external manifestation of the pain (House walks with a limp and uses a cane, for those who don't watch the show). Both of them have reached a point with the causes of their pain where they more or less know it's permanent. And I don't necessarily know how each of them feels about it, but I know that from the perspective of someone who loves them, it is infuriating to watch them have to deal not only with the physical and emotional consequences of constantly hurting, but also with living in a society that has no place for that, no idea how to deal with it, and no vocabulary with which to talk about it.

One of the most frustrating things, at least from what I have observed, is having people ask how you are and knowing that their question is much less "how are you coping?" and much more "are you getting better?" People who should know that better isn't really on the table. It begins to seem almost accusatory, as if people are thinking that it must really be your fault you're in pain if you haven't gotten better after this long. As if righteous diseases and disorders have timelines, but chronic ones are somehow unworthy of sympathy.

I know from firsthand experience that there is a lot of guilt surrounding being a chronically sick person, even if your illnesses, like mine, are, in the grand scheme of things, minor. I feel guilty every time I get sick and have to miss work, or miss another commitment, or slow down in any way. I feel like if I just got sick once in awhile, it would be OK, but since I get sick so often, people are inevitably going to blame me for it and begrudge me the down time (and, to be honest, sometimes they do). I would imagine this to be even worse for someone in chronic pain, whose condition exists not annoyingly often, like mine, but constantly. We all know, from whatever experience of pain we've had, that pain limits you. It limits you physically, and it limits you mentally and emotionally. Just being in pain is tiring, a drain on your resources. Not only does House's addiction to pain killers make sense, if one imagines a bad pain they've had and having to carry that pain around constantly forever, but his personality makes sense as well. Pain cuts through the bullshit and leaves you with what's real, and that's not always polite, or pretty.

We should have room in our society to talk about pain, and to accept that people who are in chronic pain have a burden to bear that cannot even be imagined by those of us who go through the majority of our days pain-free. This isn't to say that we should have more sympathy, or that actions should be excuse from people in pain that would not be excused from others, but I think these people deserve to have their pain acknowledged as a circumstance of their lives that must be realized and taken into account. When you know someone is never going to "feel better," it is unbelievably selfish to continue to ask him or her if they do. It's not for them, it's for you, so you can feel like things are progressing the way that they should be, so you don't have to face the fact that sometimes it doesn't get better. Certainly the person who is living with that fact has already faced it.

It's probably part and parcel of the quick-fix society in which we live that we don't know how to respond to each other when something is wrong that is never going to be right. We specialize in correcting problems, not in living with them. But the truth of it is that most of us are not going to be so lucky as to have solutions for everything, long-term. Though we may never have the kind of chronic pain conditions that House has, or that the two people in my life have, we are going to age, and there's likely to be pain with that. There is a lot of room between what we think of as sick and what we think of as well, and a lot of people spend the majority of their lives in that space--it is ridiculous and embarrassing that we as a society want so badly to overlook those people, place blame on them, or try to fit them into categories where they don't belong. House may just be a stupid TV show, but it is one doing something I've not seen much before--placing it's central character directly in that gray zone, between the "healthy" people around him and the "sick" patients he treats. He moves within that zone, but he's not going to get out of it. And that's something we need to see, to accept. Only when we face that pain is not always a transitory state, that there are people for whom it is part of the fabric of daily life, and that those people can and do go on living and living well, will we be able to deal honestly and compassionately with those people, and with the fear of pain in ourselves.

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Damn fine post, Grace. I love House too. Hugh Laurie, by the way, is my boyfriend.

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It's a Girl's World

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girlsworld.jpgI've long been interested in the subject of female aggression, or, put simply, why women and girls are so damn mean to each other. This interest is largely personal, as I've been on the end of a quite a bit of female-to-female bullying, both as a child and as an adult, and I've been on the bully side more often than I'd care to admit as well. It's partially theoretical or academic, though, as the more involved I've become in feminist academic and social circles, the more sure I am that the biggest barricade in the way of real feminist change is, in fact, women's attitudes towards each other.

Which is a fairly controversial statement, really. A lot of feminists do not see it that way, and many are even insulted by the idea, as they think it implies that it's women’s own fault they are oppressed. Which isn't at all what I mean. I believe that the ways in which women abuse each other are highly patriarchally conditioned.

A lot of scholars on the subject of female bullying agree. There are several good books about this, the most famous and easily accessible of which is probably Rachel Simmons' Odd Girl Out: The Hidden Culture of Aggression in Girls (others worth checking out are Phyllis Chesler's groundbreaking Woman's Inhumanity to Woman and Leora Tanenbaum's Catfight: Rivalries Among Women--from Diets to Dating, from the Boardroom to the Delivery Room, which focuses on the competitive aspects of conflicts between girls and women). In her search for an explanation for the way she was treated and the way she treated others as a girl, Simmons interviews girls of various ages, races, classes, and backgrounds, as well as does significant secondary source research. She comes to the conclusion that the best explanation for the passive-aggressive nastiness young girls show each other (behavior including spreading rumors, exclusion, trying to turn others against someone, etc.) is that girls aren't taught any other way to express disagreement. In short, girls don't know how to fight in a healthy way, so they fight in a supremely unhealthy one.

Simmons and her theory make a guest appearance on the most recent piece I saw on this subject, the CBC/National Film Board of Canada Production It's a Girl's World. This short film alternates between interviews with and footage of a clique of 10 year-old girls in Montreal and their families and interviews with the family, friends, and tormentors of 14 year-old Dawn-Marie Wesley, a British Columbia girl who committed suicide after being bullied. Filmmaker Lynn Glazier simultaneously explores the most serious possible consequences of bullying, telling the story of the Wesley case, and the sources of bullying behavior and how it plays out, observing the Montreal girls.

The most interesting part of the film for me was Glazier's footage of the Montreal girls' parents (mostly their mothers, as (tellingly?) only one father seemed to be involved). Their reactions went from taking the situation very seriously to completely avoiding reality and brushing everything off with "they'll outgrow it." Especially interesting were the very different reactions of the parents of the two biggest bullies in the group. One set of parents was very pro-active, talking at length with their daughter about her behavior, keeping her home from activities if she did not socialize nicely, etc. The other mother denied that her daughter would have anything to do with bullying behavior until very late in the game.

The parents of all of the girls in the group got together on several occasions to discuss the issue, at one point bringing Simmons in as an "expert." In what I found to be the film's most telling scene, the girls' parents sit around a table, watching footage of the group of girls having a discussion about bullying with Simmons. In the discussion, the girls display typical behavior--one whispers to another behind her hand, several gang up on another and tell her she should be talking, one belittles another for not speaking up. Then the mothers display very similar behavior, one brushing off another's concerns, a second drilling a clearly upset woman about her parenting tactics, and several sitting quietly, looking as if they wished they were anywhere else.

To me, it was that scene, more than anything else in the film, which really drove the point home. Not only is bullying a dangerous, extremely harmful force in childhood, but we don't necessarily outgrow it. This is bad for us, individually and collectively, and bad for our kids. How can we expect a group of 10 year-olds to learn to disagree constructively and treat each other with respect when their mothers can't do it either? And who polices the mommies? Where does it end?

The same thought entered my mind watching an interview with one Dawn-Marie Wesley's bullies and her grandmother. Both the teenage girl and her grandmother did little but make excuses, saying that Dawn-Marie engaged in the same behavior, it was normal, doing everything but calling her suicide an overreaction to a completely average situation. With an attitude like that coming from the adult in her life (her grandmother), how could the teenage bully ever expect to be any different?

I don't completely agree with Simmons' bullying theories. Or, I agree with them, but think they are only part of a very complicated picture. I can certainly see her argument for girls' passive-aggressive behavior being largely due to not being socially able to be out-and-out aggressive, but even if girls were to be more "masculine" in their behavior towards each other, to bully with fists and punches more than glares and whispered rumors, we'd still have a problem, you know? And I believe a lot of that problem comes from the massive unresolved anger many woman and girls carry around with them. We're right to be angry--we live in a world that systematically devalues us at ever turn. The problem is that we turn that anger on each other, because we're too afraid to band together and turn it on those who really deserve it. The boys. We spend so much energy attacking each other, standing in our own and each other's way, and it's time and energy we could spend attacking them. But keeping us at each other's throats is all part of the plan, isn't it? It's much easier to dominate a population hell-bent on dominating each other.

The answers the film suggested were ultimately unsatisfying, at least to me. While I was glad to see the Montreal girls' parents taking bullying seriously and talking to their children about it, I don't much think it's going to help, even in their specific cases, much less overall. Forcing a girl to apologize for her past behavior, or encouraging her to make other friends if the ones she has are mean to her, don't really address the issue. I never heard any mother tell her daughter she was right to be mad, or offer to help her figure out who she was really mad at. And I'm not surprised. I've spent a good deal of time thinking about this stuff-more than most, probably-and I still can't figure out who to be mad at most of the time. I only pray that if I ever have a daughter, she and I can both learn.

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Way back when you were on the bully side, if someone had asked, who would you have said you were angry at?

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The Duggar Family

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DuggarsLast evening, I was sucked into two hours of programming about the Duggar family. Jim Bob (nope, not kidding) and Michelle Duggar are an Arkansas couple in their late 30s who "decided to let God decide how many children they would have." So far, the count is 16--9 boys and 7 girls, ages 17 through newborn at the time the show was filmed. And they all have names that begin with a J. Seriously. Joshua, Jana, John-David, Jill, Jessa, Jinger, Joseph, Josiah, Joy-Anna, Jedidiah, Jeremiah, Jason, James, Justin, Jackson, and Johannah Faith.

At first, I was watching the show because the logistics of life with 16 children fascinates me. I mean, how do you cook for 18 every day? What about clothes? How much does this whole enterprise cost? And that part of it was interesting. I kept watching, though, because I was both intrigued and aghast and what wasn't being said about the family.

The Duggars are fundamentalist Christians. This was clear from the program, if you were paying any attention (the girls all have long hair and wear long dresses, the children are home schooled, Michelle's speech is interjected with claims that this or that is a miracle, etc.), and any lingering doubts are cleared up by the family's website. However, the two hours of programs I watched never mentioned the family's faith explicitly, either as a reason for their having so many children and living their lives the way that they do (which it is) or in passing.

The Duggars write this on their website:

When we are out together we get questions like... "Is this a school group?", "Are they all yours?", "Are you Catholic or Mormon?", "Don't you know what causes this?" These questions give us many opportunities to share with others the hope that is in us, that children are a gift from God. We did not always view children as a gift. Michelle & I did not have any children for the first 4 years of marriage.

We chose to use the birth control pill. After our first child was born, Michelle started back on the pill, shortly after, she miscarried. We found that sometimes the birth control pill will allow you to conceive, but then cause a miscarriage.

We then realized we had the same heart attitude about children as those willfully choosing abortion (wanting to make our own plans, live our own lives, children could be a bother or interruption).

We searched the scriptures & found that God says, "Lo, children are an heritage of the Lord: & the fruit of the womb is his reward. As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth. Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them" (Psalms 127:3-5).

They make it clear, when left to their own devices, that they have so many children because they believe that's the way God wants it--i.e. they believe birth control is wrong. They also make it clear that they are happy with the publicity their large family attracts, because it gives them the opportunity to prosthletize. Why, then, were the programs about them so devoid of clear references to their religious beliefs?

While watching the Duggars, I couldn't help but think of the DeBolt family. With a total of nineteen children, the majority of whom were adopted, and the majority of whom were also special needs, the logistics of the DeBolt household were even more impressive than the Duggar's. However, in the DeBolts case, their organization was fairly low on the list of things I found to admire about them while I watched their story. In the case of the Duggars, it was just about all I could come up with. Watching the Duggars gave me the creepy feeling of being trapped, as long-suffering Michelle gestated, birthed, fed, and raised one perfect blond Christian soldier after another, all under the watchful eye of her patriarchal politician (yep, that too) husband. Looking at the Duggar's pantry, stocked with more food than the general store in my hometown, I felt disgusted. Watching the construction on their new 7,000 square foot house (where there is still just one boys' bedroom and one girls'' bedroom) felt like watching a Wal-Mart go up.

The DeBolts adopted children from all over the world, many of whom had few other options save institutionalization. They opened their lives to these kids not because they were afraid their God would smite them otherwise, or because they were building an army of people to think just like them, but because they knew they were needed and that they could help. I suspect that there was some underlying Christianity in the DeBolt household as well, but it never forced girls to do girls' work while boys did boys'. Each child in the DeBolt household seemed clear in his or her role, not just as a member of the family, but also as an individual. The Duggar children, however, when asked about whether or not they felt their individuality was stifled, were hard-pressed to come up with something more than "some of us love pickles, some don't" to prove their senses of self.

Once I started poking around on the Internet, I saw that much has been written about the Duggars already. A lot of it is not very flattering, but makes a good point about the inherent selfishness in reproducing the way that the Duggars have, and the flawed Christian logic in their doing so. Much as I dislike the tone of some of these articles, as well as their focus on the kids and Michelle as the problem, rather than putting the blame with Jim Bob, where I'd bet it actually lies, I have to agree. What the Duggars have done isn't an example of Christianity the way I see it, no matter how they may be held up by Focus on the Family and the like as a beacon of hope. If the Duggars were truly in it for the good of the children, and of the world, and felt that they had infinite love and resources to give to kids, they would have done something much more like the DeBolts. If children are indeed the heritage of the Lord, that means all children, not just the ones in your own bloodline.

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You say, "What the Duggars have done isn't an example of Christianity *the way I see it*..." (emphasis mine). With all due respect, who has given you the authority to sit in judgment over them? To be a Christian means to follow Christ...but nowhere in Scripture does it say it's according to your (or anyone else's) viewpoint. We're all left to puzzle out Scripture and live it (or not) according to our consciences. While I can never imagine having 17 children (natural OR adopted), I think the Duggar's should be commended for raising a family who seem to genuinely love and support each other. So what if the kids are home-schooled? At least they're getting a decent education and don't have to worry about the very real threat of knives and guns within the public school system. I'd say that's more than a fair exchange. Who cares if the kids wear long dresses and shirts buttoned to the throat? I'd take that any day over the ubiquitous belly-baring tops, g-string revealing pants, and thug-wear of today's teens. Finally, the kids are well-mannered, respectful and helpful. What parent wouldn't be thrilled at such success within their own families? Where's the "flaw" in this? Would our current society be so damaged!

The Duggars searched God's Word and His will concerning their lives. They came to a conclusion that not many these days would. They chose according to their consciences, which is their RIGHT. Before we throw stones at them for choosing what you or I wouldn't, let's take a step back and afford them a measure of grace that we expect and demand from others on our own behalf, but all too often don't extend. If the greatest sins these people have committed is staying together in marriage and raising a gaggle of good kids, well then I'm doomed.

I have a personal friend who is related to this family. They are using the system and it is not fair. TLC paid for the house that was built on the show and for the road trip that they all took. They receive state aid, benefits, and charity. If they cannot afford to pay for their kids why should they have 17 of them? I dont want to pay for a family that is selfishly having more kids than they can afford.

I'm not all that interested in getting into this debate (if you look at the dateline you'll see this is an old post, but I'm sure it came up on some sort of search, since the Duggars just had another baby). I pretty much said my piece in my original post. There are few things I really don't want to argue about, but God's will is sure as hell one of them.

Actually, any sort of notion that what the Duggars are doing as being non-Christian is the most ridiculous notion in the world. There is no one single example of how Christianity could/should show itself. And to denounce the Duggars for not adopting as opposed to having those children is asinine and completely incorrect. The ability to have that many children is a blessing- if it's welcomed, and it is something by the Duggars that is fully embraced. Those two factors combined fully support their Christian ideals and actions. Adopting children who either a. are in need of homes b. have special needs and need homes is just another form of Christianity. And as for Grace- I realize I'm coming into this post more than half a year after the last one, but it's very narrow minded to put up such a sensitive subject as to whether or not a person is truly Christian and then reject debate on it. Fair enough if you no longer wish to discuss it for the sake of the effort put forth, but at the same time anyone making platitudes against your opinion should also be embraced, if nothing else. That's quite the (unfair) judgment you placed on the Duggars. And you have seen nothing to the contrary to give case to your pity for Michelle and her 'patriarchal politician husband'. Perhaps most of the happiness is due to the fact that they are on television, but I am sure there is a huge element of truth to it. The genuine happiness in that family is one of the reasons why their story is so extraordinary. I think you, as well as others should recognize it as one of many facets of God's influence on the people of the earth and refrain from judgement because it truly is remarkable.

As a Catholic/Christian I'll say it: THESE PEOPLE ARE SELFISH!!!

This is disgusting. Their attitude is smug to say the least. Having kid after kid like this isin't doing God's will, it's publicity hunting, plain and simple. Even if mom and dad are monetarily rich, they cannot possibly be giving these kids the loving attention and care they need. How would you feel competing with 17 other siblings for attention?

I cannot think for even a second that these people have though through the long term consequences of their actions. Families of four are stretched and strained enough as is in modern society, how can a family of 18 possibly get these kids what they need to become citizens of the world. Their is no justification for what they are doing, and it is setting a horrible example.

When I their first program I admired them. I thought how wonderful to be so organized with such a large family. Then when the show was on again I realized how so much responsibility is heaped on the older children. These parents are very selfish. They just keep making babies and handing them off to the other children. Will these children ever realize their full potention, especially the girls? Childhood is very short and their childhood is being snatched away from very early. It think it is shameful.

Geezus.
I just wonder what the grand total will end up being! I do know this: statistically speaking, these folks are in for some problems. At least 2 of the kids will have drug addiction issues, 2 or 3 girls will get pregnant or end up in an abusive relationship, and 2 or 3 of the boys will be in trouble with the law. Not to mention the psychologcial issues likely to develop in some of these kids. Mark my words!!!

I am utterly in shock from these people. The world is overpopulated enough. We don't need MORE people being brought into this world when the planet and its current citizens are already in trouble. Usually the amount of children one has isn't anyone's business, but it becomes the world's business when they greedily hog resources with their sheer numbers.

I don't care how "well-behaved" these children are; they're brainwashed. It's like they're part of a small army. The children have no sense of individuality, and the parents only taught them to help each other because they couldn't possibly pay attention to all those children themselves. They will grow up never having a sense of what being a kid is. Having responsibilities is one thing, but living as a servant is another.

I am appalled at how selfish these people are. So shame on all of you people who think it's not in our right to judge them. They're screwing everyone else over with their close-minded interpretation of their religion.

I really feel that the Duggar family is an inspiration to me and should be to anyone else who witnesses their family and life. Although I may not desire to have as many children as they do, I would love for my family to have the same values and morals as theirs does. The people on this blog who are bashing what the Duggars are doing must really be unhappy with their lives because you do not even know their real lives to judge them so harshly like that. To say that the Duggars are being selfish by having so many children that are using resources and causing more waste, and how they should not have had those children because the world is already overpopulated, I feel is not accurate at all. For one, the Duggar family is using less resources than the modern-day family of 4. Currently our economy is in a total wreck due to the overspending and over consuming (and the total greed of this society) that the people of this world have done for many many years now that it is ridiculous. This family makes most of their clothes and what they cannot make they purchase at the the thrift stores. They even make their own soap from scratch. Hence, saving money. For two, as for overpopulating the world, this family is doing what God intended for all of us to do, and that is to procreate and populate the earth the right way. The right way is by being a loving-married couple and having God at the center of your life--not by getting knocked-up at age 14 and having 10 kids by the time you are 20 and being on welfare the rest of your life. I am not saying that people cannot make mistakes and end up pregnant and rely on welfare until they are able to get up on their feet again, but the key words are 'rely on welfare until they are able to get on their feet again', which most teenagers do not do. Would we rather have teenagers having baby after baby and having the government take care of the baby(ies), or would we rather have more loving, caring families, such as the Duggars, who want to have children and who are able to care for them and who are still married after 20 some odd years eventhough the divorce rate in this country with just one or two kids is 60% or more?!!! I would rather our society look more like the Duggar family. If our society looked more like their family, I don't believe we would have children without families, drug and alcohol addicted families, divorced parents, single-parent families, teenage mothers and parents, materialism, and greed and consumerism,as we do in this world today.

Duggers = Selfish, egocentric, Ignorant and unevolved. Not only is it horific, and in my opinion child abuse to have so many children, but a scourge upon the earth which as humans we are destroying by our unabashed disregard for the fragility of this beautiful planet which was a gift. We are here to be guardians and caretakers of the earth and everyday we corrupt it more by our unconcious and arrogant attitude of self entitlement. The Duggers supreme disregard for anyone's future but their own, is so offensive they should be in jail for what they cause by contributing so abominably to overpopulating this world..

I say shame on them, Like the judge told OJ, they are the epitiome of ignorance and arogance combined...and in my eyes no better than anyone who commits murder for they are murdering our planet.

What I am amazed with on this page is people actually calling this family selfish. I think they actually represent the antithesis of selfishness. Michelle Duggar devotes most of her days homeschooling her children which is a huge, selfless, task in itself. They invest so much time into their children, which is more than you could say for the majority of families in America. Michelle seems so giving and loving to me. I find her to be quite an inspiration. Its rare to see mothers like that in todays society. I think its selfish when both parents work full time(away from their kids) and rack up a bunch of credit card debt trying to selfishly buy expensive "stuff" they dont really need. The Duggars try to live within their means. They but things at thrift shops, not the Gap. I think they are a wonderful family. God bless them

Lovely piece, just wonderfully well thought and written.
Bravo!

They appear to be very loving parents. Howerver, if they needed no help why are the older kids "parenting" the younger kids? Take that responsibility away from the Duggars and there's no way they could do this between the two of the. Unfortunately, the older kids didn't ask to become parents.

Why is everyone so concerned about how this family lives? If you opened up your doors to a television show what would everyone say about you? Stop being so judgemental and just appreciate that this family obviously loves their children and want them to grow up to have a heart for God which by the way is what the bible tells us to do.
As far as the way they dress it also tells us in the bible that women should dress like ladies and dress in modest apparel. 1 Timothy 2:9 Don't be so judgemental towards them when all they are doing is raising their children the way God has in his word told us to.

I don't know about most of you, but the God I know is an awesome God. He is more likely to approve of what the Duggars are doing and how they are doing it, than he is to approve of those of you that are laughing and criticizing His preferred way of life for His Children.

God is the one that gave us all our senses of humor :-)
So I bet he's laughing at them, too!

I can't WAIT to see how f-d up these kids are later in life. Hopefully TLC will still be taking the same interest in them then as it does now so we can all watch :-)

As for laughing and criticizing, hell yes, we are LAUGHING! That's why they call television "entertainment" :-) This three-ring circus is funny as hell. As for God "approving" of us laughing, I bet He's laughing too. After all, He did create us in His own likeness, didn't He? Heeeee-heeeee!!

Wow. The ones who judge truly are incredibly ignorant. Its not a surprise that people will be so wrong about this family. I just saw an episode with baby 18s arrival. one of the older girls said she is fearfully and wonderfully made. Genuinely happy.. who could fake that. i observed one of the sisters making a lot of faces.. everyone has things they don't like.. but how do people think they could compare this family to the rest of the world and say the world is better?!? my goodness.. Someone mentioned their clothes.. that is one of the most shallow and absurd comment i have read so far. Talk about closed minded and materialistic. As for brain washing.. the world needs their brains to be washed! A good deep cleansing! Very few take consideration of the love in the family. just bc its not usual does not mean its phony. Its ridiculous the amount of criticism and judgement people place on this family instead of stepping back and realizing this is really not something to get so heated up over. All the sour individuals may be many.. just as so many are unhappy like that. I know i can't understand 18 children in one family.. but oh please people. You really want to wait for those kids to turn out messed up? you're sick. As for the ppl who are right on in your thoughts.. lets pray for this Dugger family. Of course they will face adversity in this wretched world. ...remembering that even in a small family ppl fall into all kinds of stuff.. such s resentment of being the middle child. Not to forget to mention divorce and how that messes up even "successful" people. God knows all i want to say and he knows everyone's heart. i feel bad for those who mock Him.

My concern is that the Duggar children never get the love & care that a newborn receives. Before they are walking, there is another one on the way, so the previous baby gets handed to one of the siblings. I think Mr. & Mrs. Duggar need to get seperate beds or get another hobby.

If they like to reproduce so much - give them up for adoption - there are so many women out there that can not conceive that truly wants a baby. What a blessing that would be.

My concern is that the Duggar children never receive the love and attention that a new baby receives. How can they, when there is another one on the way before the previous one is even walking. I think Mr. & Mrs. Duggar need to get seperate beds or get another hobby.

it doesn't matter how many children the duggers have, it's their household not mine.I'm just curious what michelle does for morning sickness. she has to have the ultimate remedy!!!! Ok michelle hand it over because im on my last leg with the bubble gut.

You are so wrong to judge the character of people by the clothes they wear and the cut of their hair! That is nothing short of shallow, self-centered behavior. I came from a big family and true love expands to fill the need. I helped care for younger siblings and today we are all in our 60's and 70's and remain as close and loving as ever. My mother never took me to dance class and ball practice, but if I fell and skinned my knee she was the first person to extend a hand and help me up.When you meet someone new, look at the love in their handshake before you check out the bushy quality of their eyebrows. I'm just so disappointed in some of the comments I have read at this site. I think this family is a warm and loving group and I, personally would like to get to know them.

The Duggars seem to be wonderful people. WHy is everyone judging them? We all could do something in our lives better. The Duggars have never said that their life is the way you should live, so why tell them how to live? The kids seem to be very happy. Im sure if TLC had sme dirt on them they wuld show it. Look what TLC has done with Jon and Kate. They they make a killing off their family mess. So if they culd make that kind of money off of the duggars they would, but they cant because there isnt any dirt show. They trust in the Lord and I am finding that it all comes down t that. if you trust the Lord then you like the Duggars if you dont trust the Lord then you dont like the Duggars.

I just met the Duggars in person and want to say that they were gracious and kind, their children were happy and having a blast traveling together, and I witnessed lots of joy, peace and love between them. The children do NOT act brainwashed. They are the opposite--bright eyed with open and curious faces, able to interact with you (i.e. me) without fear (or robotic stares as some would expect in this discussion)in any way. In their new book they state that they have zero debt(including NO mortgage or car payments) and purchase medical/dental insurance for their family. I don't understand where the people who say they are taking welfare are getting their information from. With all the broken families and tragic stories you hear about in this world, why should anyone spend time criticizing a loving family just because they themselves can't imagine (or understand) having that many children? These kids not only receive the love of their parents, but also benefit from the close relationships and love of their siblings. The responsibility of helping a child get dressed, teeth and hair brushed, etc. in the morning does not abuse a teenager! It is my understanding that Michelle is home with all of them and right there whenever a little one needs her. How does a newborn baby put in daycare at age 6 weeks for 8+ hours a day away from his/her mother and practically raised in daycare (almost all of the child's waking hours) by strangers who are paid to do it-- somehow not cause anyone to blink an eye---while a mom having her newborns/children with her all day long surrounded by loving family members results in harsh criticism? Think about it.

Well, I watching it right now and the Michelle and Jim Bob are nowhere in sight and all the girls of the family are running around crazed training to keep the boys in line. It is even saying that you should cover the body, "Men's eyes are a door to their hearts" what utter shit! If it where true then such horrible things would never happen, It' gross how that family is such innocent beliefs makes the women of that family weak and they will not know what to do with themselves! I bet you the girls will all end up in abusive relationships with 'Holy men'. People may think that's wonderful, but it is plain as day that older girls are taking care of the boys who I'm guessing gets away with a lot more then estranged women in that household! I'm only 16 and I experienced the abuse of a so called 'Bible fearin man' if they want that many children then they should really teach'em about the real world! Not about other things that will never effect them, God wont keep'em from getting hit or protect'em when they are fooled and raped!These children are on the road of self hurt and hurt from the world, they will not keep the bible so close when they are out on their own, I'll tell you now they wont. It's a sad thing to watch...

God may have given us free will, but he also gave most of us a brain. The Bible is all about understanding what God is trying to say to us to help us all live happy, healthy, spiritual lives. Unfortunately, the Duggars have interpreted the Bible in their own way, ignoring what the rest of the Christian world believes. They are leaving a massive footprint on our planet. If every married couple decided to have a dozen or more children, what shape would our planet be in? Worse than it already is. Has the Duggar family ever thought about what they are doing in the way I just asked. Likely not. It is obvious they are Christians, but the way this family is selfishly using up our resources, is wrong. Unfortunately, the damage is done. Lets hope their children someday see what they have done, and decide NOT to have children of their own. Or, God decides for them, (since that's what they think God does)and none of them are ever able to bear children.

really why are we blasting the duggars for having these children. there are certain ethnic groups here in the USA that have lots of kids and live off the system and I didn't see anyone here blasting this group of people!!! This is a FREE country and they can have 30 kids if they want. I will bet you they will have less problems with their kids that the other group of people whose kids end up in gangs shooting each other.

If they like to reproduce so much - give them up for adoption - there are so many women out there that can not conceive that truly wants a baby. What a blessing that would be.

Jean~
That is probably one of the cruelest things i have ever seen written. do you realize the statistics on abuse of adopted children? It is very high. Adoption is a failed attempt to remedy a bad situation. I know of many adoptive families and all but one is a very bad abusive situation, my own included.

TLC is going to put the scenes that they know will attract viewers. Hence, probably why you see no individual personal time with their children. I have seen a show where Michelle took one of the younger boys out to lunch and such for his birthday. However, they're not going to constantly show you stuff like that because that would eventually become boring to some viewers. Media is all about showing you what you'd be interested in seeing. Therefore, it's best to personally get to know someone before you judge them based on what you see on television or a magazine.

What an arrogant judgmental post.

The Duggers are a joy filled, Christ loving bunch. They got $$from TLC? Good for them.

Seems you could use some of their joy!

I've never heard of the DeBolt family. Thanks! I will look them up.

As for the Duggars, they jumped the shark several babies ago.

This family is brutal. Their kids have no minds of their own, all the guys are the same all the girls are the same. Im not gunna question their faith because it is strong. Im questioning their utopean ideals basically. They live like the perfect, brain washed and sheltered kids sorta thing and its just extremely unrealistic. God asked you too follow him and do his word. Not hop on his back and ride on it through life. These people are way too extreme and one off these kids needs to get a grip and see the real world. That fake, mushy, touchy-feely bullshit they do is creepy as all of their kids favorite song is Jesus loves me and their favorite poem is batter my heart three personed God, for you. I mean one of their kids reads 5 bible chapters a day. I could barely stand reading and church and this kids is reading 5 chapters of the bible. Ithis family is messed up and hopefully one of their kids will figure it out someday.

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Gilmore Girls, Season One

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Gilmore Girls DVD box setI finished the first season of Gilmore Girls over the weekend. My biggest gripe? The last disc only has one episode on it. What kind of crap is that?

Other than that, though, I really liked it. It's not rocket science, but it's a fun show with really positive portrayals of women, which is something sorely lacking in most media, including TV. And it offered welcome levity when Joan of Arcadia was getting me down.

The best parts? Lorelai, in general. Rory, in general. Sookie. Lane. Luke. Definitely Luke.

Bad parts? I'm not much of a fan of Dean, which puts a damper on being excited about his and Rory's relationship. And the whole thing with the town troubador bugs me. But honestly, I mostly find it to be good fun.

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Dean is so weird. The whole first season I am just like "UH Rory is smart and Dean seems allergic to books and moody. I don't get it." Later I did come to like Dean. Early in the show I didn't like Rory much either though. If you haven't read the TelevisionWithoutPity recaps, they are AMAZING.

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Joan of Arcadia, Season 2

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So first, let me just agree with everyone else who watched or wrote about season 2 of Joan of Arcadia--it's not as good as the first season. Not near as good. And parts of it are just plain bad.

But it's still worth watching.

That being said, a run-down on what is good and what is not.

Good:

Judith1. Judith. People disagree about Judith, Joan's friend from Crazy Acres summer camp, who comes into the show in the 2nd episode of the season and leaves in the 9th. Some people found their relationship unconvincing, or didn't think they were invested enough in Judith's character for her stabbing death to have meaning (that would be a spoiler). I diagree. I thought Judith, played by Sprague Grayden (who has a really, really cool name, and is also apparently in Over There and Six Feet Under), was a wonderful addition to the show, and when she died I bawled my eyes out. Besides, given the show's emphasis on questioning the nature of God, senseless death of a close friend was sort of necessary, wasn't it?

Lily2. Lily. Helen's confirmation coach, a former nun, played brilliantly by Constance Zimmer (also seen in Entourage, among other places), brings blessed sarcastic levity to a mostly really depressing season. Plus she's super cute.

Grace3. Grace's Bat Mitzvah. First, I love Grace--she's my favorite character (especially since the anti-Adam took over, but I'll get there). I love that she got more to do this season, and I think putting her and Luke together was great, even if it is a littleweird to see Becky Wahlstrom, who was like 29 when the season was filmed, kissing Michael Welch, who was like 17).

And I love that we got to see more of Grace's family and understand her a bit better. But her Bat Mitzvah was the best. It made me all gooey inside. I love other people's religious ceremonies.

4. More Goth God. Jeffrey Licon's super-brilliant Goth God showed up a good bit in this season, and I'm 100% for that. He's my favorite God.

Now, the bad. There was a lot of bad in season. Annie Pott's insipid Lucy. The dumb lawsuit. The appearance by Haley Duff (WTF?). The very worst thing, however, was the disinegration of Adam Rove.

I love Adam Rove. Chris Marquette blew me away in the first season (and in the second as well, actually, given what he had to work with). And what the writers of JoA did to him in the second season was unforgiveable. First, he gets progressively whinier all season, always very busy, never very stoic. When did that happen? Secondly, the pressuring Joan for sex thing? What? Where did that come from? Their explanation, that he basically turned 17 and his hormones overtook his personality, was just plain stupid. The most amazingly terrible thing, though, was the decision to facilitate a break-up between Joan and Adam by having Adam have sex with Bonnie (Alexis Dziena, from Bringing Rain and Broken Flowers).

Yes. Adam cheating on Joan. Right. Personally, I find seeing God a lot more likely. It's mean, out of character, and just flat stupid. And it ruined the whole season for me. Truly. Even if they did have to break up (which I didn't think they did, but whatever), that was SO not the way to do it.

So yeah. I really wish they'd had a third season, because by the finale of this one I was ready to see where they would go with post-break-up Joan and Adam, as well as with the bizarre Ryan plot twist. But there wasn't. So I'm sad. Fear not, though. There are five seasons of Gilmore Girls I haven't seen yet.

Edited to add: Also, the absolute pain I felt in realizing that when I finished the second season finale of this show there would be no more reminded me of why I shouldn't be allowed to watch TV. I get too involved. It was My So-Called Life all over again.

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I totally agree about what they did to Adam! It was the worst, most unbelievable part of season 2 (although all that stuff with Annie Potts character was pretty terrible, too). It makes me wonder where they would have gone with season 3, if they could have explained more what happened. Because the evolution of the Adam character really did not make any sense. Just thinking about it now I'm getting mad about it all over again. Grace is my favorite character, too, and her bat mitzvah was one of my favorite moments in the second season. Oh, also, I added you to my blogroll. Is that okay with you?

Of course!

It seems that of the cheating done on the show was by Adam and Kevin prior to his accident. The closest that Joan came to cheating was kissing her tutor where as Adam just out of the blue goes the whole way...That is ridiculous. There was no real basis for his cheating. It's as stated by Grace above, there was no real reason for it. Adam was too in love with Joan to do something that inferior. The director/writers on the show seemed like they just wanted to throw the "sex" in there somewhere. The show was good up until they made Adam into a regular horny driven guy and because of that they ruined a show that had the potential of being one of the greatest shows on T.V. They made us fall in love with that pairing and then just for the hell of it decided that they should take it away. They wonder why their audience got smaller?

Hey there. I know this post is so old, but I just finished watching season 2 and had to say that I'm totally agree with you. What they did to Adam was so wrong, even Chris Marquette said so and he wasn't agree on the cheating part. It's just so out of character :(
Anyway... I also get TOO involved, maybe I'll think twice next time I wanna watch a TV show that has been cancelled.

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Rollergirls

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roller derby logoI finally finished watching the season of "Rollergirls" last night. And I loved that show all the way through.

Parts of it were really stupid, and obviously dramatized to a point that docu-drama may have been a better genre for it than reality show. But be that as it may, it was fun to watch (and not just because it's set here!) and it made me feel good about womankind.

In the season finale, one of the skaters (Sister Mary Jane, for those playing along at home) says something about roller derby teaching her to love women again. And you could see that, and I think that's a big part of what got me about the show. The women who created and participate in Lonestar Rollergirls really seem to love each other. They fought a lot, all season, and there was way, way more catty bullshit than I wanted there to be, but at the end of the day, they created something together, fought for it, worked for it, and loved each other. And I don't see much of that, in my real life, in my online life, or even on TV. Groups of women creating things that matter and that last and that are fun and benefit them is something I'd really love to see more of, everywhere.

Maybe it's stupid to get that serious about something like roller derby, but I honestly don't think it is. We are trained to take men's organizations and interests, including and especially their sports, seriously, but not women's. And make no mistake, these women are athletes. I can't even fucking stand up on skates, and I know they're athletes. And general badasses, too. What the group of women involved in TXRD have done, in terms of business, in terms of athletics, and in terms of building a truly woman-run organization, impresses the hell out of me.

And it helps that some of the women featured on the show resonated with me so much. Some (Catalac...) didn't, but that was more a function of reality TV always needing a bad guy than anything else, I think. Others, like Punky Bruiser, Lux, and SMJ, I really wish I knew in real life.

Which is another thing I loved about the show. For the first time since I watched Angela Chase in MSCL in 10th grade, I finally saw some women on TV who reminded me of me and my friends. Only more than Angela, because these are real (or at least mostly real) women, not the figment of a TV writer's imagination. Helps too, I guess, that they are women in my town, women near my age, etc. But it's more than that. These are women who wear the same clothes in multiple episodes, have jobs they really don't like, settle for only barely suitable men, and often throw up their hands at the whole damn thing and just have another drink. Just like the ones I know.

So yeah. "Rollergirls" was good fun to watch, and it gave me a lot of food for thought about women's organizations and the bullshit that they face both from without and from within (I think I blogged about the "Clownsnack" episode a bit back--that was a really good example). I recommend it.

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Hah! You're a total sports fan. Dork.

While I totally enjoyed Roller Girls, the outfits grated on my nerves. They played the overt sexuality card all the time. Sure it was tongue in cheek, but it draws n the male audience as much as if it were Girls Gone Wild. I wish they would take themselves a bit more seriously.

That was one thing that really interested me about the difference between the way the derby plays out here IRL and the show--the show is MUCH more sexualized. At the actual derby, the sexualization is only a part of it, and only something that some of them do. There are other participants that just don't play that part of the game, and it seems to be not only "allowed," but not a second thought given. Which is cool, I think. I mean, if the overt sexualization truly is optional, then it bothers me less, you know? It does, of course, say something about who they chose to show (or who chose to be filmed) on the show though, doesn't it?

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Joan of Arcadia, Season 1

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Joan of Arcadia box set coverAs promised, I am moving my reviews over to this blog, and I'm really going to write some. I swear. Due to my current lazy mindset, however, they are likely to all be for television shows. Oh well, we do what we can.

After watching "Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants" on a plane in October, I got interested in Amber Tamblyn (whom I remembered from "General Hospital") and thus in seeing "Joan of Arcadia." It had been recommended to me before, but I'd never bothered to check it out. So I Netflixed the first DVD, sat on it for several months, then finally watched it.

Wow. It's so good.

The story centers around (duh) Joan (Amber Tamblyn), a sixteen year-old girl who recently moved with her family to a new city, Arcadia (I don't think it specifies where Arcadia is, but something makes me think it's in Michigan).

Joan of Arcadia family pictureJoan's family is comprised of her cop dad and teacher mom (brilliantly played by Joe Mantegna and Mary Steenburgen), dorky younger brother (Michael Welch) and newly paralyzed older brother (Jason Ritter, who is just fantastic). Not long after Joan starts school in Arcadia, God starts talking to her. God appears in the form of any of various humans, and s/he gives Joan tasks to do, most of which end up helping her family or other people around her. It's difficult to give a better explanation for the premise than that, but that really doesn't do it justice.

In the meantime, Joan makes friends with a couple of "social misfits" at her high school, Grace (Becky Wahlstrom, who is hilarious) and Adam (Christopher Marquette, who I now want to marry), whom she eventually dates.

Joan and Adam pictureThe show moves fairly seemlessly between Joan's relationships with the people in her life and her relationship with God. The God thing isn't really all that strange. Rarely is the viewer compelled to question Joan's sanity, or wonder if she is really seeing God. She is, and it's just part of her life.

Which isn't to say that the show isn't tackling big issues, religion and faith being the biggest. It's rare that you see religion come up even peripherally on prime time network television, and I am really impressed that CBS had the backbone to play "Joan of Arcadia" for that reason. There had to have been backlash. And the issues taken up by the show that are not directly religious are no less serious--particularly Kevin's learning to deal with his paralysis.

The only thing that really disappointed me about the first season of the show was the season finale. In this episode, Joan is diagnosed with Lyme's Disease, and the doctor says that she may have been hallucinating for months. Handy way to explain God. There is, however, a second season (which I haven't been able to procure yet, but I will), so hopefully they'll make up for the lousy season finale with a good Season 2 opener.

Getting into this show reminded me that there are occaisonally good things on TV. I haven't really watched any network TV for several years, so this was heartening. I have Netflixed or requested from the library the first season of "The Gilmore Girls" (watched four episodes already, loving it), the first and only season of "My So-Called Life" (nostalgia...), "Wonderfalls," and "Freaks and Geeks." Maybe I should pay more attention to the stuff people recommend.

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The Friday Five

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Because I can think of nothing better to do, I give you the Friday Five. Complete with pictures, even.

Smurfs1) When you were little what was your favorite TV show?

Depends how little we're talking. I'm told I enjoyed The Smurfs as a small child, though I don't remember it. We didn't have a functioning television for quite a bit of my later childhood/preteen years, but I do remember watching The Wonder Years, Life Goes On, and Growing Pains some, probably mostly at other people's houses.

2) What was your favorite movie?Satisfaction

I tended to get obsessed with things and beg to rent them over and over as a kid. Goonies was a favorite, as was the early Julia Roberts movie Satisfaction. I wanted to be in a girl band. Still do, actually.

Miami Ink3) What is your favorite TV show currently?

I don't watch a lot of TV anymore, but I do really like Miami Ink. I watched Rollergirls when it was on. I'm a bit intrigued by Big Love right now.

4) What is the best movie you have seen so far this year?

Probably Brokeback Mountain. Capote was also excellent.

5) If someone was going to make a movie or TV show about your life, who would play you and why?Laura Prepon

I'd want Laura Prepon from That 70's Show to play me. She's the only actress I can think of who is both tall enough and in the right age cohort, without being terrifyingly skinny or just bugging me. We don't particularly look alike, but something about her reminds me a bit of myself. I've been told Laura Dern would be a good choice, but she's quite a bit older than I am.

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I forgot how hot that Prepon girl is. Dang! I just read the novel upon which "Wild at Heart" was based. The Laura Dern resemblance sprang to mind.

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Art may imitate life, but life imitates TV

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(Title courtesy of Ani.)

I just watched the other day's episode of Rollergirls. And suddenly I understand why I feel so terrible.

The espisode centered around Clownsnack. Clownsnack was a founder of the Lonestar Roller Derby, but she quit last season because her mom was sick. This season, she wanted to come back. Rather than welcoming her back, some of the current roller derby members (in positions of power) put her through the audition and hazing process of a new member, then they told her she didn't make a team. Ultimately, some of the TXRD's other members protest about Clownsnack's treatment and she's granted another audition and gets back on to her team.

The reasoning given for not wanting Clownsnack back by the women who are keeping her out varies, but it basically centers around her expecting special treatment because she's been in the league before, her being "flaky" for having quit (even though her reasons for quitting seemed very good to me), and the league being something different now than the it was when she was involved. Basically, they seemed to argue that they'd outgrown her and that they wanted their league to be something different than the one she was familiar with, so she wasn't welcome.

Ding ding ding.

It is incredibly painful to watch something you put your time and heart into be taken away from you, and that's how this had to feel. To have people for whom you have worked and to whom you have given decide they are beyond you, or they want different things than you do, so you should just go away quietly, please. On the show, Clownsnack and her supporters refuse to let her be shut out, and she ends up back on the team, but I can't help but think it must be a pretty hollow victory. After being humiliated and insulted like that, I don't see how she could go back at all. On the other hand, though, why let something she loves be taken from her just because a vocal minority are big assholes?

That is the question.

The bigger question, though, is why is it so impossible for a group of women to get together and do anything without these types of battles? Why does someone always have to be "out" in order for everyone else to feel secure being "in"? And why is the cruelty with which we perpetuate these crimes against each other necessary?

Honestly, it makes me want to give up. It makes me want to give up on the entire idea of a community of women. It makes me want to give up on believing that we deserve better than the treatment we give each other. It makes me want to give up and hide in my house and never try to be a part of anything again.

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I haven't seen the episode, but look forward to it. It's been my experience that when someone starts a group event, they expect that the group will form to their ideals of how it should be rather than let the group evolve into whatever it evolves into. It because the view of many rather than the view of one and that's when breakdowns occur. So perhaps, in this rollerderby, she anticipated that this group would fulfill a particular vision and didn't take into account that each person's personality would influence the evolution of the league. And I think that applies to all communities - male or female populations. There seems to be some demand for conformity wherever you go, so we all look for the place where we can conform easiest rather than be true to ourselves and enjoy the differences.

No human group exists without heirarchy and power dynamics, and one of the safest ways of feeling better about your position, if you aren't at the top, is to find someone you can push out of the group and keep them there in the most inferior of all positions. Try it sometime. It's totally fucking fun.

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Rollergirls

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I'll admit it, I'm in love.

Let's go back a bit. A few months ago, there was an Austin Real World. It sucked ass. One of the many reasons it sucked so much ass was that the Austin portrayed on it resembled the Austin in which I live in only the most vague terms. Another reason was that everyone on it was lame. Now, there is a new Austin-based reality show, Rollergirls.

And, having watched two episodes so far, I concur that Rollergirls is the bomb.

The show follows the players in Austin's locally grown Lonestar Roller Derby. It touches on their "real" lives (though so far not as much as I'd like), but is mainly focused on their involvement in roller derby and their matches, called "bouts." The show is over-the-top, resembling mockumentary as much as documentary, but it's in good fun and I'm an instant addict. So much so that I've already talked Mark into going to see a real bout in a couple of weeks.

As a feminist, there are lots of criticisms I could make about the show. There is definitely an oversexed element, woman-on-woman violence is par for the course, etc. But I'm not going to make them, because from what I see so far, the good outweighs the bad. The woman involved seem to honestly be having a good time, there is a comraderie in the sport along with the grudges and violence, and the league is player-owned and operated, which rocks. Also, I don't necessarily think women excercising some aggression for once is a bad thing. As for the sexiness part, it doesn't come off as demeaning, at least not to me. In part, this is likely because the women don't fit a narrow beauty stereotype. In part it's because it's not being forced on them from outside, at least not in any way I can see so far. They really honestly do seem to be doing it for themselves. I know that's what they always say, but in this case, I tentatively believe it.

My love for the show may wane as the season progresses--we'll see. For now, though, I am super jazzed about it. And if I could roller skate, I think I'd try out myself.

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I don't have cable, so I haven't seen it yet but I really want to. I loved roller derby as a kid. I went to see the Chicago Rollergirls with Skye. They were very awesome. My favorite is Dayglo Dago although I think depending on the ethnicity a racial slur name would not be cool. Interesting. And for obvious reasons I love Red Menace

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Miami Slice

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Why do you watch those shows? An answer for my critics.

I'll admit it--I love plastic surgery shows. Not that horrifying fictional one, but the real-life ones they have on the Discovery Health channel and stuff. I am enamored with surgery in general, and I am especially amused/horrified/conflicted about surgery for the sake of vanity. Plus the people crack my shit up. So I was mildly excited to see advertisements for the upcoming Miami Slice. Trailing five Miami plastic surgeons through their professional and personal lives for six episodes? What could be a guiltier pleasure?

Well, it is unmitigated awful. I really, really want to believe it's fiction, because the idea that these are real people is simply too disturbing for words. Not one of the plastic surgeons (all men, by the way) seems to have any identifiably good characteristics (except that one of them has a super-cute dog). Every single woman on the show, including one doc's 76 year-old mom, has fake boobs and an over-tightened face. The show is very big into Miami!. All the stars play in Miami!. If you live in Miami!, you have to have a tight face and big fake breasts (and lipo'd ass and an eye tuck and...). Everyone wears a bikini and listens to Latin music in Miami!. And on and on. It goes beyond enough to make you barf and moves right into enough to make you writhe on the ground in spasms of laughter and pain and humiliation at sharing a species with these people.

So why do I keep watching it? Well, for one thing they show some surgery, although it's not in as much detail as the much better programs on Discovery Health (to be fair, they did have an extensive liposuction scene last night). But it's something beyond that, something...sadistic? I find it oddly comforting that by the standards of these folks, I am not only obese, I am also too old, my nose is too long, my chin is too strong, etc. The fact that they have invented a standard for "beauty" that can be met only through invasive surgical means makes me feel all the more satiated about being middle-of-the-road, kinda-cute, a bit chunky, and 100% real. The more plastic breasts and plastic asses and ab implants and Botoxed faces I see waltz across my screen, the more in love I am with my cellulite, my glasses, my breasts that are going to sag, my unplucked eyebrows and belly roll. I don't know if that's a normal reaction, but it's the reaction I have. And that's why I watch these shows--they make me feel like shit about humanity, sometimes, but they also make me feel beautiful. And because I know their business is the opposite, I feel like I'm pulling one over on them.

None of this is to say that my reasons are unobjectionable. I mean, I've written many a rant against reality TV chastising people for this same thing--using the misfortunes of others to make themselves feel better/smarter/sexier/fill-in-your-needed-attribute-here. And I know that's exactly what I am doing. It's a habit I'd really prefer not to have. But at the same time, I feel like I am seeing something here that other people aren't. Watching a rhinoplasty performed makes me really, really happy with my nose. And that's a good thing, right?

All those plastic people
Got their plastic surgery
But we got a big, big beautiful
And we got it for free

-Ani, "Imperfectly"

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so you're fat and ugly and jealous big deal dont whine to everyone about it

I understand you there. Fake implants make fake people. Real women and real men are far better than the clones they try to produce in plastic surgeon. I've seen couple of shows and I still wonder why people do that tothemself. A nose fix, bigger breasts etc. Why do you want to look so blatant, take away all that makes you look more personal. If it was for healthreasons, I would understand, but health is so far away from all that. If you ant to be size 10-12, excercise. But not for other people, just for you. The person above me is one of those who can't understand the real picture. They cry often in their own petty little lives while you live your life the best you can. Keep up the real world and you are always beautiful.

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My So-Called Life

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Last night I had the good fortune to run across an episode of My So-Called Life It was on Noggin, I think? Apparently they play it every Friday night. Anyway, I was thrilled to dig into the couch and reconnect with Angela and Rayanne and Rickie and (of course) Jordan Catalano.

As I was watching the espisode, though, something seemed strange and out of place to me. Almost...dated. At first I thought it was just that I am now a lot older than those characters were supposed to be (Claire Danes, who played Angela on the show, is the same age as I am in real life, so when I was 14 watching the show, she was 14 making it). Then I thought it must just be the age of the show--after all, it is ten years old.

The plot lines of high school dramas don't change all that much, though. Sure, MSCL was made before everyone had IM, so there is a fair amount of talking on the phone, but other than that the drama is pretty much the standard fare--sex, friendships, family, the future. So why did the characters on MSCL seem so archaic?

Then I figured it out. It was because they were covered up.

No, not their emotions. Those were pretty wide open. Their bodies. The difference was their clothes. Angela Chase almost never wore less than three layers, one of them generally being overalls and another nearly always made of flannel. And it wasn't just sexless Angela--the non-virginal characters weren't flaunting their stuff either. Rayanne, the supposed wild one, dressed in tights, boots, a big coat...even Sharon, the one who was actually supposed to be HAVING sex on the show, who had breasts, which much was made of in the first few epsiodes (if I remember correctly), never showed much skin. In fact, she sort of dressed like a kindergarden teacher.

If you compare this to current teen dramas--not just the shitty ones, but even endearing and offbeat ones like Joan of Arcadia, you will get an assault of midriffs, ass cracks, high heels and cleavage. Not to be a huge prude, but Angela looked a whole hell of a lot more comfortable in her overalls than Joan does in her lowriders.

It make me sad to think that there was a time only ten years ago where teenage girls on television weren't expected to be sexpots. Sure, part of it was the impervious nature of grunge culture at that time (thank you, thank you, THANK YOU Kurt Cobain), but I don't think that tells the whole story. After all, baggy "grungy" clothes stayed "in style" and available a lot longer for teenage guys than they did for girls. In fact, if I'm not mistaken, guys are still encouraged to wear baggy jeans and button-downs, even if they are supposed to be a little bit cleaner than Jordan Catalano's ever were. A teenage girl dressed like Angela Chase, though? There would be two names for her--dyke or bag lady.

For the first time, I realize that there was some luck in when I came of age. Sure, I'm part of the first generation who started having sex knowing about AIDS; sure, I graduated from high school into a dismal economy and graduated from college into a much worse one; I'll even admit that Converse All-Stars are not any more attractive than they were the first time around. But at least I had until my 20s before I had to start worrying about low-rise thongs and push-up bras. And at least, for that one sweet year, before Claire Daines got all sexxxeee and started dating Billy Crudup, I had Angela.

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Growing up old

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**Warning: This entry gets a bit triggery.**

I don't know if anyone else is a big TLC head, like I am, but I watched the most amazing and awe-inspiring and depressing program I have seen in forever tonight. It was called Growing up Old. It was about kids with Progeria, which is that disease which makes you age really fast. So these kids were from 6-14 and they looked like very small, very old people. And they had old people health problems (strokes, heart trouble, arthritis, etc.). It was so sad. One little boy was only 6 and already had two major strokes. All of the kids were bald, had vericose veins, swollen joints, wrinkled faces...

It gave me a lot to think about. Aging is one of the most difficult things that any of us go through--can you imagine going through it super fast? And at that age? How could you possibly understand it? I don't understand it, and I'm supposed to be an adult. The idea that my body is deteriorating, that my cells are dying faster than they are being born--that is nearly enough to make me cry. I look for wrinkles and try to pretend I don't have gray hair. How could I possibly have even wrapped my mind around these thoughts at six?

And even if the six year old doesn't understand that he's aging (the older kids most certainly did understand), he does understand that he's really really sick. I can't imagine that, either. Again, it's hard enough as an adult, or even as an elderly person--how can you be anything but permanently angry if you are a sick child? Or, maybe worse yet, if you have a sick child? That was the other thing this program really had me thinking about--how does one parent a child that is aging faster than you are? It kept showing these kids with their parents, and the parents all looked so young. I can't imagine the feeling of watching your child grow to old age in only a few years.

Mark and I were talking during the show, and one thing that came up was how some human disease just seems like a sick joke. This is one example of that. It's like a very vengeful god, who is very familiar with our culture and what hurts us the most, invents ways for death to be not only painful and dehabilitating, but also as horrifying and humiliating as possible. What other explanation can there be for having to watch yourslef grow to old age and die as a child? Isn't the one benefit of early death supposed to be avoiding old age? What other explanation can there be for Alzeimer's, turning people into something they never and torturing their families, often for years, before they finally die? What explanation for cancers that attack the parts of our body that society most expects us to display? What explanation can there possibly be besides a god who hates us and has a very sick sense of humor?

I should so not watch TV.

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Isn't it funny how individual we are(?)- most likely caused by our life experiences. I watched this show last night- a Sep. 2005 eve, a yr after your viewing. I was shocked as well. But my take away feeling was how lucky those families feel to have enjoyed those little lives as they entered and left so quickly. But why so quickly and painful, you ask? My daughter suffered from Leukemia. i learned and now live that it is the quality of life and love and not the length of life that really matters. I know you felt the intense love of those families. Just as the children were aging at several yrs an actual yr, the love they are sharing is probably double and triple the normal family. very intense living- and oh, that we can all experience intense living. My life is fuller and richer due to the Leukemia experience. God was always with me as He is now through all present hardships and all who follow and accept Christ will see their loved ones who have passed on before us. God is Good. I have experienced it and I testify to it. Best wishes- Susan

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