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Posts Tagged ‘television’

A true child of the ’80’s am I, raised on the wisdom of sitcoms and television dramas. I admit especially to being a M*A*S*H-aholic. Back in its heyday, my big brother watched it (he being the older, wiser, and more worldly of the two of us) and I admit now to an obsessive need to view the marathons on TVLand and Hallmark Channel every chance I get. Many an important life lesson was learned from that show (along with The Golden Girls) and even now I find that the TV shows of my childhood are still shaping my values.

The episode I was watching earlier tonight was the pen pal letters episode – Hawkeye’s friend back home gets her elementary school students in Crabapple Cove, Maine to write letters to the personnel of the 4077th. In the midst of writing back to the children and amongst the amusing and mundane anecdotes that the staff chooses to tell the kids about, there are several poignant moments in which the staff is forced to reexamine their role in the war – and in life. One of the students writes a letter that Hawkeye must answer in which the student says he hates the doctors because they fixed up his brother and sent him back into combat in which he was subsequently killed. As Hawkeye is pondering how to answer this child, a child is brought in from a local orphanage who has a severe brain injury – and the priest who runs the orphanage prays “Dear God, I thank you for providing….to have them here in this place at this time is truly a sign of Your providence.”  All of a sudden, Hawkeye knows what to write to the poor young student back home, full of so much anger: “I understand your feelings. Sometimes I hate myself for being here. But once in a while, in the midst of this insanity, a very small event can make my being here seem almost bearable.”

I had seen this episode at least 5 times before and yet this was the first time that this whole exchange made me stop and go hmmmm….

I am a woman of strong faith. I have stated over and over and over again that I am sure God has a plan for me, that the struggles and pain that I have suffered for the last 10 years have not been in vain. I constantly recite the AA mantra “Let go and let God.” Despite my faith, I admit that I have often questioned why God has put me in this situation, given me this kind of pain.

Now, thanks to a television show (geez, welcome to religion in America), I have a whole new way of looking at things. Because of God’s plan, I was put here at this moment in time in this particular geographical location for a purpose. Divine providence has brought me to this moment in my life with my own special brand of emotional baggage for a purpose. And, much like Hawkeye, I don’t quite know yet what that purpose is – but I have a strong faith that my small event is coming, that event which will make it all clear.  I have only to wait and to trust in the Lord and to believe that my time is coming. I will let you know when that time comes. In the meantime, I can only hope that I will become Margaret “Hot Lips” Houlihan when I grow up. But that’s a topic for another day.

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Someone recently told me that all women watch “The Golden Girls” which got me thinking about the gender differences in television viewing. Why are some shows considered manly and some not? Why can’t a guy watch or enjoy programming targeted at women? And, more important, why are shows like “Sex and the City” and “The Golden Girls”  so wildly popular with women. And here is the theory that I have come up with: we as women can relate to and identify with those characters. We all have circles of friends that have the same characteristics and dynamics as those two sets of women. And we ourselves can see our own personalities in those 8 women.

“The Golden Girls” was a groundbreaker for the many female-based shows to follow. It didn’t show women in the ‘traditional’ roles of mothers, teachers, nurses, waitresses, etc. – these were retirees, grandmothers, single women enjoying their lives. It didn’t portray the female stereotypes of the empty-headed, meek and submissive woman waiting for a man to tell her what to do – it showed women who were strong, smart, outspoken, and independent. It didn’t focus only on the domestic issues that Mrs. Cleaver and Mrs. Brady battled. It didn’t shy away from real womens’ issues  – instead, we watched REAL women talk about sex, jealousy, getting old, getting dumped, and getting fat, along with many other important issues. This truly was the first sitcom about a group of women acting like actual women.

Women of my generation grew up with the “Girls” and found their way through their 20’s with “Sex.” We sat in those restaurants with Carrie and the girls and in the kitchen with Blanche and company – and laughed at their various escapades, cringed at the bad date stories, and pondered the great meanings of our relationships. The lessons we learned from Blanche, Sophia and company when we were young helped us to cope with a new world that looked like Carrie Bradshaw’s column.

Ask any woman and she will have to admit that her group of girlfriends, including herself, has all the elements of both of these sets of women. We all know the tramp (Blanche and Samantha), the naive one (Rose and Charlotte), the intellectual (Carrie and Dorothy) and the wise woman (Miranda and Sophia). BUT we also identify with those same characters, finding those characteristics in ourselves. No one woman falls so neatly into any category – we all have elements of ALL of those women. I think that’s why these shows are so popular – every woman in the world can identify with and relate to ALL of these types of women. And we have all experienced some of the same issues. We have all struggled with being women in a world designed for men. We all have sat around eating really fattening food and swapping stories about our love lives. We all have struggled with careers, the biological clocks, frustrating family members, awkward social situations, and unrealistic gender roles.

So in pondering this theory, I asked myself which character I most relate to. I’m too smart to be Rose, too jaded to be Charlotte, too kind to be Miranda, too reserved to be Sophia, too self-conscious to be Blanche. I’m not nearly  adventurous,  attractive, or sexually experienced as Blanche or Samantha. I’m too pragmatic (and pessimistic) to be Rose or Charlotte. I haven’t got the brains or personality needed to be Sophia or Miranda. I do come from a small town (Rose) and have a relatively idealized view of the world around me (Charlotte). I am a career woman (Miranda) who doesn’t have a need to be a mother (Samantha) and can speak my mind freely (Sophia).

Of these various women, though, I guess I most closely identify with Dorothy and Carrie. I have lived with a disappointing end to my marriage (Dorothy) and am seriously skeptical about men (Carrie). I love to write (Carrie) and to teach (Dorothy). I tend to be very cautious in my relationships and am hesitant to trust. I love my family dearly (Dorothy) but am content to be the lone wolf (Carrie). I consider myself too smart to fall into trouble but somehow end up there anyway. I desperately want to find a happy relationship (Carrie) but accept that I will have to play the hand dealt to me (Dorothy).

So, ladies, I invite you to think about your own lives – who do you want to be? What characteristics do you possess and who influenced you most growing up? Are you a Rose or a Samantha? A Miranda or a Blanche? Go on, let your inner “Golden Girl” out and take some time for “Sex” – and don’t forget to share those moments with your girlfriends!

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