Popular entertainment may be derpier than it seemed, when looked upon from the future.
So, I have a confession to make: when I first came to the States, I spent a lot of time watching sitcoms. Mostly because they provide a counterfeit of everyday life in the US and I was curious about that (and didn’t fully — though I suspected — realize it wasn’t a good counterfeit.) Partly because they’re brain candy I could get Dan to sit in front of in the evening, and we could cuddle. Look, this was our first five years of marriage. After that we gave up TV for lent and lent lasted 15 years. (The truth is I was usually reading while “watching” so not much has changed.)
One of our regular ones was family ties, even though the politics annoyed me, even back then (both sets because the “conservative” son was a caricature. As are all of these.) In fact part of the fun was heckling the screen, and now I think back, it was probably the beginning of Dan’s political conversion. (Not that he was ever left, but you could say when I married him he was a RINO, mostly through not paying a lot of attention to politics.)
Anyway, I always knew the show was bizarrely political and frankly delusional, but now, when we find ourselves with one of the tv services with an entire channel devoted to family ties, we sometimes have it on in the background while Dan is reading, and I’m doing something or other on the computer in the evening. Mostly honestly, so we can go “wow, we wore that stuff, didn’t we? Oh, remember when no one had cell phones?” That type of thing.
We don’t pay close attention, because when we do I tend to start screaming, and Dan remembers all too clearly the 2012 presidential campaign and the shoe that almost broke the TV. (Not that I’d get that worked up over an old sitcom, though I wish they’d have a WKRP in Cincinnati channel.)
However here’s the thing: I remember Family Ties as being political particularly around the elections, but I didn’t remember HOW political it was, nor how ridiculously clumsy.
We’re used to thinking of message writing now as being over the top, and the writing employed in those not very good, assuming the conclusion, instead of having the reader live the message.
After the episode we watched (me with dropped mouth and occasional cackles not at the points the writers’ expected) yesterday, I wonder if it was always that bad, and we just didn’t notice because everything was that bad. We were receiving all our fiction all our tv and all our movies from one side, so shows like Family Ties, which assume that every decent caring person is of course a leftist loon seemed middle of the road.
In other words, I wonder if entertainment has gotten that much worse and more politicized (other than the fact that the left has dived full throttle into clown world, but even that I’m not sure is new) or if we’re noticing more because we in fact have other alternatives.
(Kind of like cancel culture was always around. Even back in the eighties I knew that whispers of my being “right wing” would mean I’d never work in writing. (Okay, whichever company Jim Baen worked at at the time excepted, but not too strongly, because the distributors were still left.) I think a lot of other people, including in places you wouldn’t think of, had the same secret knowledge. You just couldn’t talk about it aloud, because no one believed you. Or everyone pretended not to. Now the masks are off. And therefore, to the unaware, things seem much worse, but its being public actually makes it better.)
So, yesterday it was the Equal Rights Amendment episode probably done as the deadline for ratification was closing.
I had a very vague memory of what it was — look it up. I couldn’t find a source that really explained why it was a bad idea, other than the fact that women already have equal rights under the law (And frankly I could write why it’s a bad idea, but we’ll just get lost in the weeds) — and quickly looked it up, and then my jaw dropped as I watched the craziness and incompetent story telling.
The conceit is that Alex — conservative son — is trying to date the hot high school feminist (even in the eighties, this was very much a fiction. At least when it came to activism.) So he pretends to be a supporter of ERA which she’s pushing for.
After myriad farcical developments, they go to a political action meeting. In which things that concern the feminists of today terribly, like the fact that women “don’t have equal pay” (a complete lie) are brought up. (One painfully huge canard is that a college educated woman back then made less than a blue collar guy. Uh uh. I’ll give you a secretary made less than say an undersea welder, but that’s a highly specialized profession requiring training and visual acuity, not your average blue collar profession.) I was highly amused at hearing the injustice that women aren’t paid by domestic labor brought up. This amuses me because old communists are still stuck on it. This is because communists don’t understand economics and never will. Women are paid for domestic labor when they do it for pay and for other people to whom it is a value to have the women do it. When they do it in their own houses, and for their own families, they’re paid too in a way. It’s a savings not to pay someone else to do it. It’s also a savings (in health, mental and physical, if nothing else) not to live in filth and refuse. If women — and I suppose men — are going to be paid for improving their own surroundings, who is going to do it? who has enough of an interest in it to pay for it? The government? So, what you’re proposing is that the government confiscate money from taxpayers, regardless of gender, and then give it back to taxpayers in return for performing every day tasks adults do anyway. How would this be administered? “Honey, the sink inspector is here! He’ll give you a shiny dollar if the sink is clean!” The entire thing is farcical.
BUT more farcical of all is the fact that the amendment wouldn’t in fact do any of that. The amendment was a bit of a dead letter, guaranteeing women equal treatment under the law. Which, last I checked they’re allowed as citizens of the United States. So at best the amendment was unneeded. At worst it was handing the government another mallet to beat us with by bringing it where it didn’t belong. Which is why it was opposed mostly by women who realized it could be brought to literally erase the privileges of womanhood. What privileges, you ask: well, things like not being drafted. Or getting maternity leave, instead of having to drop the kid on the factory floor. Or having a dedicated bathroom, and dedicated sports teams.
The amendment shouldn’t have endangered those, but we’ve seen what lawyers do to things, and well, equal under the law is equal under the law. You want to be equal, right, comrade? Procrustes never sleeps.
But none of this is ever mentioned in the episode. Instead you get fairytales about women being paid for folding laundry and going grocery shopping.
At the political action meeting, the conservatives who oppose the amendment are of course caricatures, shouting about women going back into the kitchen. Even the supposedly activist speaker against, is this grandmotherly woman who is an obvious strawman to be knocked down, and mutters something about how women shouldn’t want to be equal to men, or some such rot.
So, of course, the unwashed opponents, who want women to just shut up (by that point I was on their side, with respect to the women characters in the episode) start throwing things, and Alex (still intent on the score, as a teen boy should be) defends the feminist speaker.
And then suddenly all the brave feminists are in jail. Not the people who threw things, mind you, but the brave and oh, so leftist speakers.
And I’m sitting there blinking. “They’re in jail for what? For being complete twats? I wish that were a crime.”
Dan was laughing his head off at my commentary. But seriously. What sense does that make, other than leftists cosplaying victimhood. “America is evil and throws women who want to be paid for doing the dishes into jail. Oh, woe!”
This is never explained, of course. It is all dissolved into Alex’s need to come clean, so he’s not deceiving this woman. In the end, he confesses and she leaves and he says he’s lost a “really good woman, committed and smart.” And I’m going “She should be committed. And smart as compared to what sack of rocks.”
This isn’t the first episode that had this effect. (Don’t get me started on when the parents talk about their activist past. Don’t.) It was however the most egregious, both in being about a political theme, and in not bothering to actually tell a story that supported their point, possibly because in their addled Marxist minds, “All right thinking people must agree with us. We just need to encourage them.”
Their story telling was always broken, apparently. It’s part of their broken logic and not understanding how the world works. It’s just more obvious today, because they’re not even pretending, and because we have alternatives.
Oh, as a final funny: when I was looking up the amendment, I came across the fact Virginia ratified it (50 years after the deadline expired!) because well, you know, women need equal rights, to prevent #metoo. Because, apparently, standing up against unwanted and unethical behavior from men requires a constitutional amendment saying you’re equal.
They’re really convinced that “Let it be written, let it be done” is a thing and words are magic, aren’t they.
There will always be bad men. There will always be bad women. Some of their badness will be sexual. Defending yourself against that doesn’t require the federal government. I could defend myself against that type of behavior at 12 by kicking, slapping, punching, and using a very long hat pin that grandma had given me.
I can’t even begin to understand people who want the government to pay them for shining their sink and come tut tut the bully who just tried to feel them up.
Their headlong flight from adult responsibility brought us here. And things are going to get very ugly before they can be brought to a semblance of reality.
But hey, it’s now crystal clear they were always that stupid. We just couldn’t see it, because we had no means of communicating, were isolated and thought we were alone.
In some ways, for all its worries, today is better than yesterday.
May the trend continue.