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Category Archives: TV

Random Monday

by SweetMidlife

Hi! Lynne here!

So, this weekend was a normal one, I suppose, filled with Target runs and Trader Joe’s trips, and time with my favorite dudes (my husband and our son). Lots of random thoughts popped into my head as the days went by, thoughts inspired by the stuff I did and saw, and I couldn’t come up with a through-line to make it a related blog post but what these things have in common are their randomness. So, in no order of importance, are…

Random thoughts from my weekend

Beauty salons are great places for people-listening. If you are getting your eyebrows done, like I was, your eyes are closed, so you can’t really see who is talking. But you hear all kinds of great stuff, like tips on where to buy hair weave for your nieces’ upcoming wedding, some dude’s cruise stories, and that same dude’s wife’s triumph over a heart attack. You feel close to people in snippets.

Don’t feel embarrassed if the lady waxing your brows ask if she can tweeze your chin hairs. Be glad she saw them, and rock on with your naked chin.

The lady giving out samples of Starburst Jelly beans at the Target has the easiest job ever. Because people are gonna eat jellybeans and take the coupon. Because jellybeans.

Oh my.

Oh my.

People on”Family Feud” are very sure of their answers.

Why don’t the people on “Family Feud” ever think “They ask goofy people questions in these surveys, sop I am going to say the goofiest thing ever”? Because then they would win.

If you were on “Full House”, you need to get a show on “Hallmark Movies and Mysteries” channel. Both DJ and Aunt Becky have series on there. Where you at, Kimmy Gibbler?

Watching old episodes of “Murder She Wrote” are fun, because Angela Lansbury is awesome.

Jessica Fletcher did not take kindly to threats, even from people half her age.

I would still leave if I saw Jessica Fletcher checking into my hotel. Because I want to live.

When you watch “Murder She Wrote” you always see actors who were famous for other things, or going to be famous soon. Like Walter White/Malcolm in the Middle’s Dad was totally a murderous kid TV executive, and T-Bag from “Prison Break” was a nice dude adopting a kid on the same episode.

Sometimes your husband will watch 3 hours of “Murder She Wrote” with you, but then make you watch “Mountain Monsters”, where they almost catch a chupacabra every week. But he only makes you watch it for 5 minutes. He is a better person.

Trader Joe’s is crowded on a Saturday morning, but it is still so chill.

If you take your just-potty-trained son on a family walk, you should take him to the bathroom before you leave. Otherwise, halfway through he will scream “Pee”, and you run back home. But we burned calories. But we’re sorry, son. Forgive us.

You can never go here too many times.

You can never go here too many times.

Fried dough is fun to make at home. But make a small batch. Because you don’t need that hanging around.

Babies are fun.

You ever go to a liquor store and see a guy sitting by himself at the Lotto counter, looking at all of his tickets? You ever want to know his story? I do.

I’m glad I didn’t cut my dreadlocks shorter a few weeks ago because I found cool styles to wear them in long.

Watching your kid watch a movie is a delight, especially when he screams at the people in it to “Stop it!!” and to “Turn It Off!!”

For the sake of other people, we will keep him out of movie theaters for awhile. Unless you want to scream along. That works.

Mondays can be hard, but they are better when your son is “helping” your husband get ready for work. Because even if he isn’t helpful, they still get to have some time. And everyone is smiling.

The End.

Did your weekend inspire random yet thoughtful thoughts? Share them below!

 


Being schooled by Half Pint: Five lessons from “Little House”

by SweetMidlife

“So that’s why we’re so messed up!”

I was sitting at the very nice bar of a very nice restaurant enjoying a cocktail and some cheesy spaghetti squash concoction from heaven on high and having a conversation with a new friend that swerved from the book I was reading, to childhood entertainment, to perhaps how watching too much “Little House on the Prairie” warped an entire generation. We nearly fell off our stools cracking up about how stark a reality NBC’s version of Walnut Grove was – “Bad things happened to those people every week and people just dropped dead!” my conversation partner said. “That just makes you nervous as a kid.

He ain’t wrong. About five years ago I went on a brief “Little House” binge and it blew my mind how much messed up stuff happened to the Ingalls and company, and it blew it even further when certain episodes triggered 40 year-old memories of experiencing them as a kid, and wanting to hide behind the nubby soft pilling of our family room couch and cry. That started me thinking of how many other lessons Gen-X learned at the hands of Laura and Mary, Pa and that sneaky Nellie. Some of them were terrifying, But all good.

Lesson #1: Death is everywhere. Over there. Over there. And even over there. Like I said, “Little House” was my first lesson in the law of the prairie. And that lesson was that the prairie – all of nature, really – wanted your butt dead. If growing up in Baltimore could be scary, Walnut Grove was the most gangsta schiznit you could imagine. Parents died in tragic wagon accidents. Little friends drowned. People got kidnapped. And don’t even get my started on Merlin Olsen’s wife and Mary’s baby dying in the fire at the blind school. I saw that happening as a kid, and remember feeling so panicked, like I could stop it if I could just get to the baby. That’s a bad thing to do to a kid. The show did not hide from the risks that these pioneers were taking with their family’s lives, because they were attempting to make settlements out of wilderness (Wilderness where there were already people living, of course. This story makes me not want to re-read the novels, because hello, racism!) And sometimes, wilderness was not feeling you.

Lesson #2: Hard work is a character builder. I have so many memories of scenes of people just doing laborious chores in the hot sun – including sweaty-cute Charles “Pa Little Joe” Ingalls – like putting up houses, throwing around hay bales, and making everyone sitting at home watching on the moving picture box seem like big fat fatties. Every time you saw people, they were working, whether they were doctoring, or teaching or preaching or cooking for all the various children and orphans that showed up. And it was instructive – my “Little House” play time as a kid, dressed in the Laura-like aprons and bonnets our Grandma Chuckles made us – usually included working at the General Store or in the one-roomed school house. It’s a good lesson.

Lesson #3: It takes a village. As a adult, I understood that the reason the Ingalls kept taking in kids was the Cousin Oliver effect – that when your kid stars get older, you just got newer, cuter kids. But in my youth, it made an effect on me because adoption, formal or otherwise, was just part of my family’s life. If someone’s parents were sick, they went to stay with someone else. If a friend was down on their luck, you invited them to stay or at least to dinner. That’s the way the Ingalls worked, and the way my family worked, too.

Lesson #4: You do not have to put up with bullies. Nellie Oleson was the WORST. (Watching as an adult, I can also say she was hilarious, in a wrong way) And she was always pinching people, threatening folks and generally being a bisnatch. And Laura, while vexed, did not back down, even though she was just a little half-pint. I wish I’d been more like her as a kid, honestly. Laura. Not Nellie. Nellie was wrong.

Lesson #5: No matter how many toys you have, sometimes there’s nothing more fun than launching yourself down a hill and smelling the flowers. Just watch your head, Carrie.


Why I’ll miss Julia the most on “Parenthood”

by SweetMidlife

Leslie here!

As you know if you read this blog at all, both of us are die-hard fans of NBC’s one-episode-from-the-end family drama “Parenthood,” which is not to say that we are always fans of the show’s creative choices or of its characters. But that’s what family is – you don’t always like ’em but you do always love ’em.

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So I cried through last night’s episode, the last one until the series finale (the real finale, and not that fake NBC “the last episode before the last episode before the fall finale” crap they do in previews), because this show makes everybody cry. And I realized something weird – the character whose story I was most interested in seeing the conclusion of was Julia (Erika Christensen), the youngest Braverman daughter and, at least initially, the most financially successful besides oldest brother Adam (Peter Krause).

And that’s funny because when the show debuted, not only was Julia the least-focused on, character-wise, but probably the Braverman kid that got the least attention, perhaps because she seemed to have it all figured out and wasn’t as much drama as overgrown man-child Crosby (Dax Shepard) and perpetual screw-up Sarah (Lauren Graham). And with her sweet supportive husband and cute, if hideously bratty daughter, high-powered lawyer Julia was the one you didn’t have to worry about. So the show didn’t and neither did I – other than her pretty husband, I never paid her much mind.

When the show started, the character I most identified with was Adam’s wife Kristina (Monica Potter), who’d grown up in an unhappy family and wasn’t always appreciative of the way the Bravermans barged in, physically and emotionally, into each other’s business. (I’m from a big family who’s in and out of each other’s business, even across state lines, and I get it. We’re exhausting.) What a difference six season makes. When “Parenthood” debuted, I’d been married for less than a month. Now, right before my fifth anniversary, I realize that I relate much more to the nuances of marriage as seen through the eyes of Julia and Joel (Sam Jaeger) than to Kristina, a dedicated mother who’s become, to me, increasingly sour and self-righteous.

Julia, however, has become more intriguing because she’s had to find out who she was as a wife, a mother, a professional, a woman and even in the order of her original family. When the show begins, she’s the breadwinner, and Joel, who was in contracting and had seen his work affected by the economy, is happy to be the primary at-home parent. And it works perfectly, so the two don’t see how deciding to add another child to their family would be anything less than perfect – perfect-er! But life happens, as we know it does, and they can’t get pregnant again. Then the young woman who was to let them adopt her baby changes her mind. So they adopt Victor, an older child who’d been in foster care and who made them work for his affection because he was afraid of being rejected again.

Wow.  Suddenly Julia’s life felt real to me, more real than the nth iteration of Sarah screwing up relationships at will and Adam and Kristina’s various personal and professional conflicts. The always stable attorney quits her job, so that she can be around to provide the stability that both her kids need, at the same time that Joel’s career starts picking up again. But this causes issues that the always-solid rock of the family never predicted. She hadn’t considered how much of her identity was wrapped up in her job, how much her confidence rested on it. Meanwhile, her sacrifice at work doesn’t magically make things easier at home, and as Joel’s star rises, Julia flounders. She’s threatened by Joel’s success, horrified a little to realize how selfish that felt, and envious that he got to have an escape, one he’d not had for years.

Then came the convoluted conflict that TV shows have to have, the writerly script things thrown in just because someone in a meeting thought there needed to be some drama: Julia begins flirting with a fellow parent at their kids’ school, a dad who, like her, is a displaced professional, as Joel’s very attractive lady boss begins showing some interest in him. Because she’s always the one in control, Julia refuses to admit there’s an issue until an ill-fated kiss between her and the school dad, which throws Joel into an anger spiral that almost immediately results in him shutting her out and moving out.

That part felt stupid and rushed, but it went to the heart of the problem in many relationships of any type – people not talking to each other and assuming they’d all work out because they always had. By the time Joel realizes he’s screwed up and wants to sort it out, the divorce papers are being signed. Julia’s dating a college friend who is now her boss at her new law firm, the kids are adjusting to the split as best they can, and she pleads with him to just sign the papers already…about three seconds before they wind up in bed together. And from there, the two start a semi-secret reconciliation, which was cemented in last night’s episode when Joel moves back in. Daughter Sidney is thrilled but Victor, who knows a thing or two about chaos, isn’t convinced. How do they know, he asks, that they won’t wind up fighting and miserable again?

They don’t. And this is where I realized how much I love Julia and how I will miss her the most, because she and Joel have the most real conversation about marriage I’ve seen on TV in some time, maybe ever. Joel realizes that Julia’s still in close contact with her now-ex, still her boss, and that this makes him uncomfortable. They both realize that they hadn’t considered a lot of stuff, and that there’s a lot to talk about. Joel doesn’t want to fight about it, because he, like the kids, is afraid of the fragile truce fracturing. Julia, on the other hand is “afraid not to fight,” because she doesn’t want the problems that exploded the first time to be repeated. So they sit in their car, away from the kids, and hash it out. It’s not pleasant. But it’s part of making it work. And I believe it will.

I have told this story before, but it bears recapping – the best advice I’ve ever gotten about marriage was from a former college Christian fellowship staffer when I was a freshman, who told us that she’d learned in her first year as a wife that “love is not a feeling. Love is a commitment.” Marriage is work. Marriage is details and conflict and compromise and just talking about stuff you’d rather just put a Band-aid on before moving on to brunch, because it never, hopefully, ends. “Parenthood” is the story of several marriages, but somehow Julia and Joel’s, the one that briefly ended, is the one that seems the most real, the story that is the most about these two people and the choices they make to do the work. Julia used to be the one I ignored because she seemed so figured out, but it’s her conflicts that made her real. Bravo.


The impending end of “Parenthood,” grief and “appropriateness”

by SweetMidlife

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This is Leslie, and both my sister and I are dreading the end of our frustrating, exhilarating and ultimately emotionally binding stint as quasi-members of talky-talky fictional Bay area family the Bravermans, of NBC’s “Parenthood” (or as my husband calls it, ‘I just hate those people.’)

I don’t hate the Bravermans, a multi-generational, sometimes too-close band of brothers, sisters, parents, cousins, nieces, uncles, aunts, nephews, aunt’s boyfriends, niece’s rage-happy boyfriends and whatnot. I love them. And I include all of those relationships to point out the complicated and very realistic way in which the scripted family is connected, and how the actions and affections of someone you didn’t even consider yourself all that close to can impact your life, particularly if, like the Bravermans, you’re all up under each other all the time and don’t seem to have enough friends you aren’t related to.

Those sometimes painful but unbreakable ties, as in life, sometimes exhibit themselves in times of stress, as in last Thursday’s episode, when the Bravermans are gathered in what Lynne and I can tell you is the unhappiest place on earth – a hospital waiting room at some Godforsaken hour waiting to hear if your father’s going to live or not. And in that moment of overwhelming fear and dread – their father Zeek (Craig T. Nelson) has probably just had a heart attack – any other emotion that manages to edge its way into the room is welcome, at least for a couple of seconds before the clouds come crashing down when the doors swing open.

So as they’re sitting there, trying not to cry, sister Julia (Erika Christiansen) walks in obviously dressed in the outfit she was wearing the night before (She’s…reacquainting herself with her ex-husband. Without her pants.)  Her sisters and niece rib her about it, which to me seemed not only completely natural – these people are all up in each other’s business, after all, so of course they’d comment – but healthy, because it’s normal to not want to talk about your father possibly dying several hundred feet away.

So normal did it seem that the moment sort of went over my head, until I read the recap on EW.com, which I read faithfully. The writer, Michelle Newman, liked the episode but was bothered by the mid-tragedy jocularity – ” I get that it’s a natural instinct in times like this to try to deflect the enormity of the situation, but the gossipy nature of their conversation seemed inappropriate, no matter how much I wanted to know all the deets,” she writes.

I read that passage over three or four times, and then called my sister and paraphrased it for her. And as good a writer as Newman is, this made us wonder if she’s ever been in that waiting room, if she’s ever lost someone. If she has, and she grieves differently, no judgement. I hope that her method got her through, and that she is doing well. But we wholeheartedly disagree, like, a lot, that appropriateness has anything whatsoever to do with that moment. Not in the thick of things.

Look: An unscheduled walk of shame to focus on is a gift in this situation. Lynne and I are part of the sad Parental Loss club, but since childhood have been going to funerals, sitting vigil in waiting rooms and at bedsides, and, as of the death of my mother-in-law almost five years ago, sitting shiva.

And while I believe that it’s inappropriate to start stuff with your family in a moment of weakness, like, unrelated stuff that could wait, life continues even as Death prepares to ring the doorbell (Lord, I wish you could yell “We aren’t here!” and turn the porch light off until it goes dejectedly back to its car and goes away.) Babies will pee in the pew at the funeral. The florist will mistakenly but beautifully decorate the wreath from your cousin Chick and family “Chicken Family,” and everyone you are related to will laugh so hard that it’s painful, even as the rest of the mourners look at you like you crazy. Your father will miss Gladys Knight’s performance on “Dancing With The Stars” because he’s on his way to dialysis, and even though he needs the dialysis to live, he will grumble about it, because he was only watching this stupid show for Gladys.

Every single one of those things has happened in the past 30 years to us and I can tell you this – You do not stop loving, eating, peeing, laughing or being human in the middle of tragedy. Humanity is a gift in these cases, in those rooms. Humanity keeps you sane, or as sane as you can be kept, because you’re trying to scratch your brain out of your skull trying to keep it from chanting “He’s gonna die. He’s gonna die. Hey, Hoda’s hair looks nice! He’s gonna die.”

The Bravermans are not perfect. I do not understand some of their romantic or parenting choices, or entirely where their money comes from, or how moving from a giant rambling house with land in the expensive Bay area to an expensive big Victorian in a nice neighborhood in San Francisco is considered downsizing. I think, again, that they’d all benefit from having friends they aren’t sleeping with whose last names are not and have never been “Braverman.”

But I understand their passionate devotion, how they have never loved anyone more than each other while considering each the burr under their collective saddles. I understand how hard it is to extricate yourself from your family, even if you wanted to, and how sometimes you get all tossed together like an artisanal cranberry and feta salad, bumping against each other, and don’t even realize how good you go together until the spinning stops.

And I know that in those moments, I would not dare tell someone not to crack on their sister’s presumed previous activities, or their hair, or Hoda’s hair, or what’s on the front of the paper, or whatever worms its way into the room. Because I have been in that room, and know this: The pain that might be coming? THAT IS WHAT IS INAPPROPRIATE. It’s evil. It’s the Devil. It’s inevitable, maybe, but it sucks and it just feels wrong. Pain is interrupting your walk of shame, and Gladys Knight, and life, not the other way around. So if being a little tacky gets you through? You get a pass.


Five lines from ’90s Westerns I’ve said to toddlers

by SweetMidlife

1) “I’m your huckleberry!” (“Tombstone): Uttered during standoffs where the toddler is looking for a fight, and although you weigh more than him and can just snatch him up and put him to bed, you make eye contact and explain that you’re up to the challenge. And can also just snatch him up and put him to bed.

2) “You called down the thunder and now you’ve got it!” (“Tombstone”): Actually said by me, yesterday, to the wriggling little spider monkey in my arms who found out what happens when you test the “I swear if you throw that remote one more time, you’re going to nap time” rule. (I don’t bluff. Go and tell the other toddlers.)

3) “Tell them the law’s coming. Tell them I’m coming! And HELL’S COMING WITH ME!” (“Tombstone”) : I did not actually say that to a toddler. I said it to my husband after the “You called down the thunder” incident, because it’s the next line in the speech and I felt like a baller.

4) “You call yourself the scourge of New Mexico? By God, I am New Mexico!” (‘Young Guns 2″) This was a thwarted attempt to get said toddler to stop throwing my pot lids around. He thought it was hilarious. Was not taken seriously. Burned by a toddler. Not a good look.

5) “You killed the boys, Patsy!” (“Young Guns 2): OK, so the stuffed turtle and bear weren’t dead. But he did throw them off the couch, and then looked at me like “Why are my friends on the floor???” Umm, cause you rude?


The twins and Dolly wish you a “Hard Candy Christmas”

by SweetMidlife

Merry Christmas! This is Leslie, and behalf on Lynne, our family, humanity, the 1984 Duran Duran fanckub, people who love cheese and Grumpy Cat, we would like to wish you a happy holiday. And we’d like to do it with the help of Miss Dolly, and some sad hookers.

You see, Miss Mona and the former employees of the Chicken Ranch in 1982’s “The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas” are parting ways, because…well, it’s a long story. And even though they are not a traditional or even legal family (or involved in legal, family things) they are very unhappy to have to leave each other. But Miss Mona, who is Dolly, tells them that sometimes they have to get through things even if it’s hardscrabble, like a Christmas so thread-bare that you only get hard candy for Christmas. You’ll be fine and dandy.

So whether today finds you flush or flushed, hardy or hapless, go hug someone you love. Or call them. You won’t let sorrow bring you way down. Tell ’em Dolly.


Amy Poehler and the myth of being nice

by SweetMidlife

yes please

This is Leslie, and I would like to talk to you about a four-letter word, one I have been sometimes proud to be called, and, at other times, wanted to slap people about the face in a vigorous fashion should it be tossed in my direction.

Nice.

I do not mean the, well, nice definition of nice, which is cordial, courteous and personable. I mean the kind of “nice” that really means “pushover” or “selfless to the point of martyrdom” or “always willing to acquiesce to the requests of others, no matter how last-minute, unreasonable or inconvenient, for fear of people thinking you’re not nice.”

This kind of nice – and if you’re human, and almost certainly if you are a woman, you may have had thrust upon you – is almost a dare, a velvet cudgel that in the most sweetly inescapable way says (always smiling) “Can you do me a favor?” or “I know this is last minute but” or “I hope I’m not putting you out but” and then proceeds to put you out, all the while making it almost impossible for you to say ‘no’ at risk of the asker and other people not liking you anymore.

Amy Poehler has no use for such idiocy, and that attitude is all over the refreshingly blunt “Yes Please,” a combination memoir/life manual where she covers everything from her discovery of improv comedy to her “comedy wife” Tina Fey to the joys of faking inappropriate behavior with Justin Timberlake. But a recurring theme of the book, which I’m almost done listening to on Audible.com, is that you don’t owe anybody your dignity, and if a request is intrusive, unreasonable, presumptive or just something you don’t want to do, you get to say “No” and move on. And screw ’em if that’s not OK.

Poehler is probably most famous for playing  Pawnee, Indiana’s sincere-to-a-fault, people-pleasing public servant Leslie Knope on NBC’s “Parks and Recreation,” and she’s clear that she’s just acting – “I’m not that nice,” she writes candidly. And she’s not talking about being purposely rude as a mission statement, but about not allowing other’s expectations to color her life, in a way that a lot of us – especially, I think, women – have been raised to believe trumps all, even our own plans. You’ve been there, every time you’re asked to be on a church committee you know you don’t have time for, or that sweet last-minute request for bake sale items when you’ve gotta make dinner, or that “quick” favor of an errand that’s really not that quick. And you want to say “No.”

But you’re so nice.

From not accepting screenplays rudely dropped in her lap while she’s sleeping on a train (“It’s called ‘I Don’t Know Because I Threw It Away'”) to just saying “No” when strangers approach her on the street to ask her a question (“Nobody needs to ask me a question”), Poehler writes of the sometimes painful road to realizing that the older you get, the less it matters what other people think of you. And if people thinking you are “nice” is more important than the stuff you gotta do, you’re a sucker.

Poehler doesn’t exonerate herself from her own idiocy and the importance of being nice, as in a good human being, when it’s about owning your own stuff: In a particularly painful passage she talks of inadvertently mocking a real-life disabled woman in a “Saturday Night Live” sketch that she assumed was fictional, because she was busy getting ready for the show and just never checked with her writers to find out. When she gets an emotionally charged letter from Oscar-winning actor Chris Cooper and his wife Marianne, who directed the movie the sketch mocks, that mentions that the young lady was actually watching the sketch live, she attempts to rationalize her behavior by deciding they’re overreacting, that it wasn’t her fault, and then throws the letter away. It’s not until five years later that she attempts to contact the Coopers through mutual friend and director Spike Jonze, and hears back that they were disappointed it took so long and don’t need an apology at this late date, but offer contact info for the young lady she hurt. (She receives a gracious note from her.)

In that case, Poehler needed to have been “nice,” as in be an adult, and she acknowledges it. She even admits that sometimes in her candor, she lets that “niceness” urge put her in unfair situations, like the “creepy guy” producer who, unable to talk her into re-recording an entire speech that the tech crew messed up, asks her for a hug to make him feel better about being wrong, she submits, even though she doesn’t hug back, because it’s easier than saying “No.”

A great man I know named Pastor Dave Pinckney once told me that it is Godly to say no sometimes, meaning that you can’t be of any use to anybody, heavenly or otherwise, if you’re too overbooked to do your job well. Being “nice” or making people think you are isn’t worth screwing it all up. I’ve been there. Amy Poeher’s been there. And we both know that sometimes, the nicest thing, to yourself, is to say “No, please.”


“Parenthood”‘s Kristina Braverman: Maybe she’s just a bad parent?

by SweetMidlife

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SPOILERS! IF YOU WATCH NBC’S “PARENTHOOD” AND HAVEN’T SEEN LAST NIGHT’S EPISODE YET, DON’T READ THIS IF YOU DON’T WANNA KNOW WHAT HAPPENED.

Leslie here!

I have just a relatively scant eight month’s experience as a parent, versus 43 years being parented. But my folks were awesome, and they imparted to me, by example and by drumming it into my little head, that it was their job to prepare me for the world, because the world was too busy to worry about preparing for me.

“Parenthood”‘s Kristina Braverman really sucks at that.

NBC’s family drama, now finishing its last season, follows the extended Braverman family and their various domestic and romantic situations, and I find most of those situations relatable, which is to say that I want to alternately hug them and pop them upside their stupid heads. Kristina (Monica Potter) triggers my popping reflex more than anyone else, both as the mom of a son with Asperger’s and as the administrator of a new charter school for kids with behavioral issues, including her son.

For the non “Parenthood” devotee, Kristina and her husband Adam (Peter Krause) have made Max so much the focus of their lives that you would be forgiven for assuming that their other two kids were kidnapped by wood sprites and being held for ransom that’s never gonna come because MAX IS HAVING A PROBLEM. And girl, Max is always having a problem, and his parents (and maybe the “Parenthood” writers) might think that his Asperger’s-related traits – he’s incredibly, sometimes uncomfortably literal, doesn’t recognize social cues or other people’s emotions and is detail-oriented to the point of being rigid – are the reason that he’s often a pain in the butt.

Nope! I am not a disability expert and I don’t meant to speak definitively about it, but I love many people with them, and know that disabilities alone don’t make you a jerk! Parents who don’t set boundaries for their kids in the name of protectiveness and letting them be their own special selves make you a jerk! And that’s what’s happened to Max. Adam and Kristina – specifically Kristina – have a good track record of explaining to their extended family (and by extension to the audience) some of the things they might expect from Max. But they’ve done a poor job of explaining to Max that even though it’s not fair and he didn’t ask to have Asperger’s, that he has to try to see things from other people’s perspective, to be responsible to other’s feelings, and that there are social expectations of him that no one who doesn’t love him is gonna think is cute.

When Max pitched a fit because he couldn’t use a printer that his aunt Sarah had rented on her own dime for an important work project at the exact time he wanted because Sarah needed it, Kristina expected her to apologize for upsetting him because she couldn’t keep to his schedule, rather than saying “Max, I know you’re disappointed and that Aunt Sarah is using the printer when you’d been told you could, but she’s the adult, it’s her rental for work, and you’re gonna have to suck it up and deal.” When they didn’t it was disappointing, because they not only disrespected a relative who didn’t have to let him use her stuff in the first place, but because that doesn’t do that boy any favors.

And last night, when Max found his crush Dylan kissing another boy, he marches into his mother and principal’s office and demands the kid be expelled. That doesn’t happen, but when Max then passes around a flier detailing the other kid’s supposed crimes still insisting on that the kid get kicked out of school, then starting a fight with hin. Kristina’s response should have been to immediately discipline him, call the other kid’s parents and had a talk about, telling him in no uncertain terms that he was wrong and that he can’t lie about other kids because they disappoint him.

But of course she didn’t, leaving Max feeling justified to escalate things by making a creepy kidnapper collage of photos of Dylan, interrupting her lunch to declare his love for her in front of her friends and refusing to stop when she asked until she blew up and told him she was never going to love him and to go the heck away.

You should have seen me – I was literally standing over the TV, just knowing that this – THIS – had to be the moment where Kristina would be forced to be a parent and a daggone administrator by, as clearly as she good, telling Max that what he did to Dylan bordered on harassment, that while owning and relating his feelings is not only important but a few breakthrough for him, that he can’t force someone to feel the same way, and that when they ask him to stop, he must. But noooooo. She hugs him (a breakthrough for the touch-averse Max) and tells him that she’s proud of his candidness, but that he’s not in trouble, at which point I yelled some non-friendly words at the TV because come on. The Bravermans operate on the assumption that Max’s issues compel him to act a certain way, but they never seem to fill in the other piece, that he, like all humans, is responsible for the way that those issues affect other people. Not telling him this is not protection. It’s setting the stage for him to one day get punched in the mouth, or worse.

Max isn’t the only Braverman family kid whose shenanigans don’t get called out nearly enough. Adam’s sister Julia and husband Joel are going through a divorce, and their daughter Sidney, already a screamer-yeller, has gone straight into bullying classmates and losing her crap all over the place. Her reaction to her family crisis is understandable, but her parents’ response is to try to explain to the parents of the girl she terrorized how hard things were for Sidney, who has just given a snotty fake apology and run to the car without accepting any real responsibility for anything.

The victim’s dad, however, wasn’t buying it, telling Julia and Joel that he didn’t really care what Sidney’s problem was, as long as they were spilling over on his kid. This is what I want to see somebody – anybody – say to Adam and Kristina, and to Max, that things being hard for you doesn’t give you the right to take them out on other people, and that if Max proposes to not live in a cave, he’s gonna have to work that out.

I guess this affects me so much because I see all around me, in the newspaper I write for, the TV I watch and in the malls of the world, the philosophy that the world is supposed to conform to everybody’s wishes – that it’s OK for kids not to say “please” or “Thank you” because they’re “shy,” or that it should be alright for kids to bump into you in the mall, or be rude to strangers, because they’re “just kids.” No, they’re not. They’re future adults, and if the people in their lives don’t impress upon them their responsibility to check themselves enough to not cause harm to others, no one is going to like them. Many people are going to want to punch them.

And it won’t be a TV show.


Five Minute Friday: We “belong”, we belong together

by SweetMidlife

Leslie here!

Go.

I write about music, among other entertainment, for a living, so these “Five Minute Friday” prompts often shake off some automatic lyrical connection in my brain (and believe me, there are a lot of ridiculous ’80s songs living there among the cobwebs).

So this week’s, “belong,” immediately made the Pandora in my brain start singing Pat Benatar’s “We Belong,” a now 30-year-old song that featured a children’s choir in white, shot in a gauzy light, as Pat sang about spiritual, physical and emotional connectedness while wearing a white head wrap and gloves with little holes in them. (Holes=spiritual openness.)

At 13, I imagined that was the ultimate love song, about connecting in ways you haven’t even considered, as if the whole rhythm of the earth and sky had prescribed your meeting, as if you existed in accordance with the beating of the clock. That was something I was looking for, I know. It was also very melodramatic, and 13-year-olds bathe in that stuff.

I always wanted to believe that existed, even in college, when a paranoid and sweetly misguided guy in my Christian fellowship group told me that he’d loved the song until he’d really examined the lyrics and decided it was New Agey and demonic and asked you to belong to the thunder.

He meant well, but that’s not what Pat was talking about. Actually, if I could go back to college I’d tell Steven (I think that was his name) that the song could actually be very Christian – We believe God created the night, the thunder and all the elements Pat sings about, as well as our desire to connect to Him and to each other. He gave us the desire to want to be with other people, as friends and lovers, in a way that echoes the way that he loves us, that’s so natural that it’s like the sound of the thunder.

I am glad to say I’ve found that with my husband person. Pat would be proud.

Stop.


Not sure how to feel about: “Girlfriend Intervention”‘s black fairy godmothers

by SweetMidlife

I’m afraid this “Lifetime” might be wasting mine.

Leslie here!

Because I write about entertainment, pop culture, and various entertaining goings-on and hooha, I have a lot of interest in news about upcoming movies and TV shows, both for professional reasons, and because I like knowing what on the horizon might be worth interrupting my steady stream of “People You Do NOT Want To Meet In An Alley In Any Lighting Situation For Reals” on Investigation Discovery (this is not a real show, but you know you’d watch it. Heck, I would.)

You know what is a real show, or at least is going to be? “Girlfriend Intervention,” Lifetime’s new “Queer Eye For The Straight Guy”-esque deal that substitutes pulled-together, savvy (and likely sassy) black women for the pulled-together, savvy and sassy gay men. This is how the press release describes it:

“Four wise, poised and stylish African-American women, who, in each episode, help a white sister seeking a complete makeover to restore her confidence and inner glow.”

Umm…not so fast there, Lifetime Television For Co-Dependents. On the one hand, it’s nice to see a network that considers black women the go-to for style and refinement, unlike, oh, pretty much every other network. (As the home of the black “Steel Magnolias” remake and the Fantasia movie, it’s clear Lifetime values black women and the women who like them as an audience, without weave-pulling).

And if “Girlfriend” matches “Queer Eye” in tone, any tough love and joshing at expense of those being intervened upon will be worth it at the affectionate and successful reveal. I like encouraging togetherness among women (I’m looking at you, Bravo’s “Real Housewives of Ethno-Cultural-Class Stereotypes and Public Shaming.”)

But…(and you knew that there was one)…I’m not sure how to feel about so much of it, because the premise deals in some mule-tired stereotypes that I’m not sure are a good look on anyone. Even the title makes my teeth start itching, because it reminds me of white strangers who, upon meeting me, suddenly go “How you doin’ girlfriend?,” in some weird Southern/Brooklyn/imagined black person accent when I swear I just heard them speaking in proper English sentences that ended in consonants before they turned to me. Umm, one day I might be your girlfriend, as in your good pal. But let’s start with “Leslie,” OK?

Here’s the other thing – that “girlfriend” stuff opens to the door to an otherness that’s at the root of every other comedian on “Def Jam” – the “black people be like this and white people be like this” thing. And yes, there are some truths in all stereotypes, whose exceptions don’t become apparent if the only people that you encounter from another groups are the ones you see on TV. And continues a really, really lazy trope seen everywhere from “Ghost” to “The Help” – that black women exist mostly to teach you a lesson, make you grow as a person and heal your aching heart, until your soul glows and they get back into their magic Escalade and go off to save some other white people, like Atlanta Mary Poppins.

Then there’s the weird message that white women are somehow obviously more clueless about body image, style and getting-it-togetherness than black women, because I know some dang fine white women who are actually my personal “Girl, what is wrong with your nails?” patrol. Is that OK? And how come these “Girlfriend” folks aren’t helping black women, or Latinas or Asians or Native Americans? Is it assumed that we don’t need any help? (Because I don’t want to get too personal, but if I go too long between pedicures my husband starts making random references to “getting that talon attended to.”)

I have a lot of friends who are black and white and Latin and biracial and Indian and Sri Lankan-Australian and Jewish and atheist and whatever else you’ve got. We all help each other. Some of us have strengths that fit stereotypes, and some of us defy definition. We do for each other not because of some ethnically-defined mission to meddle or swoop in. We are friends. We are not each other’s staffs or acolytes or fairy godmothers with no lives other than the one in which we’re of service.

I am gonna check out “Girlfriend Intervention” because I kinda have to now, don’t I? And also because it could prove me wrong. I thought “Queer Eye” was going to be full of gross stereotypes, and although it sometimes was, it was also bold, sweet and gave the world Carson Kressley and my food boyfriend Ted Allen.

I just wish it didn’t have to be another show about clueless white people and the magic black people who live to help them. Because as my husband – sisters need help sometimes, too.


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