Sunday, 22 July 2012

We Are What We Watch!

Now that I live 1300 miles from home, I appreciate my family more than I ever did when they were just next door. Thank goodness for mobile phones! These days at least I can stay in touch. What wonderful sisters I have!! They are funny, talented and fun to be with. I really do miss them now that I live so far away.

 I've been thinking a lot about them, what makes us what we are and how our environment forms us. We are all so different even though we are clearly cut from the same genetic cloth.

Ours was the first big television generation and it shows. I can spend hours talking to my sisters about old Star Trek, Dark Shadows or Gilligan's Island episodes and when all else fails we exchange unforgettable quotes from favorite Saturday afternoon mvies like The Ghost and Mr Chicken (which must have played on afternoon tv about once every three months while we were growing up.) Gentle reader, you are probably poo-pooing this idea, but to quote our favorite film, "You don't seem to realize the cosmic importance of this!"

When I think about my elegant corporate attorney sister (dubbed the Drycleaning Aunt - DCA) I think about what we used to love to watch on TV. Back then T.V. seemed magical. It was a mystery that you could beam stories across the air waves and we treasured our moments in front of the tiny, snowy screen. There is no doubt in my mind that we were highly influenced by those early television shows and Elegant, Corporate Sister will always remind me of ...

I love Lucy. It's not that this sister has blue eyes or red hair. (They were black and white in those days anyway.)  She had Lucy's beautiful curly locks and her wide-eyed interest in the world.

This picture (above) reminds me SO much of DCA and this sister grew up to resemble Lucy in so many ways.  She takes part in bridge night with her friends, she loves to travel and she is definitely a Friend of the Friendless. Of course she also adores chocolate in a preternatural way.

She (incorrectly) thinks that she sings like Lucy, when she has a wonderful voice! More importantly, DCA wanted to work and did not want a husband to tell her what she could or could not do, so she married a wonderful man, who respects her choices and supports her in every way. (In this sense she learned from Lucy's negative example.) These are all defining characteristics. DCA grew up, strong, independent, funny and glamorous.

As we aged of course our television models changed and we were influenced by other shows. We matured and my sister became much more like...

Murphy Brown. Both Ms. Brown and my sister are professional, incisive, hold strong opinions and have become important and respected persons. They rant about the idiots and injustices of the world and speak truth to authority. They are inspirational.

My Other Sister reminds me of many of the heroines we watched on early television comedies. It was hard to choose just one probable role model. At first I thought of comparing her to...

Ann Marie. I suspect not too many people remember this quirky little show with Marlo Thomas playing an amazingly perspicacious but still oblivious and sunny young woman with a huge personality. So I am passing over That Girl, as much as I adore her, to settle on a character that truly reminds me of "Other Sister."When you think of her warmth, her great sense of humor and perfect style you think of..

Laura Petrie. The Pimster (as we sometimes call her) is svelte, beautiful and extremely talented. She doesn't dance like Laura; her talent lies in taking wonderful, crazy photographs and writing and she is a wonderful mother, who can find the humor in any situation. She was always the Belle of the ball, though and others find her adorable.

This picture (below) reminds me of her.

To me it describes her attitude towards life - one of humor, amazement, even bemused incredulity.

As we grew older the role models changed and so we looked to other shows to help us in our evolutions. In thinking back to what we watched, I immediately peceived my sister in terms of The Bionic Woman.  Pimstress has had to have some major operations to improve her health. She has had an organ transplant and is almost constantly on the run. I don't know how she does it, but she is the most active person I know - scheduled from morning until night! She is like Superwoman. I can just hear her saying: "That's right, karate... made my whole body a weapon." Still, Jaime Sommers lacks the humor and warmth characteristic of my sister. I feel there is someone else that better characterizes her.

That character is one that has matured, but still has verve and panache and a desire to learn and explore. It seems obvious that she would remind me of...

Mary Richards. Maybe Pimster would not approve of this choice, but she reminds me of Mary because she bravely moved to a whole new state to become a writer. I can just see her trying to toss one of her wide-brimmed hats up into the California air and twirling around while the beads of sweat go flying off into the environs. Pimster was so committed to finding herself and her vocation! To quote Luther, "When you work with words, words are your work." (Atta boy, Luther!) The Piminatress strove for independence then as she does now, and learned to maneuver a strange and difficult world all on her own while retaining modesty and kindness.  On a daily basis she shows that a woman can make it on her own and have a wonderful fulfilling life without a man. The roots and talents of Laura Petrie are still there along with the compassion and independence of Mary from The Mary Tyler Moore Show.
Ah yes, and the third sister ? (I guess that would be me.) What character from those early t.v. days influenced my growth and values? So many of the very earliest shows did not give women much of a chance to develop in other than domestic ways and honestly I have to admit that I am not terribly domestic. What women out there were not Mom's to kids like Beaver, Mary and Jeff or Little Ritchie? At first it was hard not to think of...

Jeannie. Her irremedial desire to please and her inability to do anything right certainly resonate with me, and I just have to wonder whether my interests in middle eastern dance didn't originate somehow with her and Major Nelson. Nonetheless, after much contemplation, the character I finally settled on was...


Samantha from Bewitched. I never particularly loved this character, but I watched the show (ir)religiously and I have to admit there are quite a few similarities between the witchy one and myself. I can not change things magically the way Samantha could (but most of the time she couldn't quite get it right anyway and that is definitely one of the things I can identify with most!) I love my husband, but no matter how I try, I just can't manage being the obedient wife and I somehow end up in situations that he probably wouldn't approve of ... and (...ahem...) he may not always hear about. I mean well, I really do! I'm just different and it is hard to adjust to living in the regular world. I hate meddling neighbors and although in some ways I may resemble Endora more than Samantha, there is no doubt that the sense of not quite fitting in has formed and informed my personality.

 As I age, I think of other characters that might have influenced what I have become. I adored Linda Kelsey's character in Lou Grant. Her naive idealism and desire to fight for principles really appeals to me, but probably doesn't represent my more mature self.

Or it might be appropriate to think that a young witch would grow into an older one (although no one is really "older" on television!!)


But aside from a similar taste in style, the Evil Queen is probably not that much of a match. I think that there is another character that fits me better.

And of course there is always

Lilith Stern. How can anyone not adore her matter-of-factness and intellectual strength? With the years, I get more cynical and less willing to suffer nonsense. Yup, that's me telling the world, "Why don't you run up an alley and holler fish?!"  She's really to recent however to have been a major influence.

Back when my sisters and I watched tv together, none of the older crones got to have their own show. (Come to think of it, they still don't and it is certainly high time!!) Nancy Marchand was great in Lou Grant, but she didn't get much air time.  I love Martha Rodgers (Castle's Mom) for her ease with her age and her creative spark, but she wasn't around back then to influence me in my formative years.

I think, the person from that time period that fits me best is probably...

Charles Kingston from The Paper Chase. I think, like Professor Kingston, I am demanding and no nonsense in my approach to the world. I recognize, that it is time to leave it to the younger to make the world a better place, but of course trying to help them find a way to do so is an important job too. Of course these days such attitudes are not respected. Students want to study with Mr Rogers, not Mr. Chips.

In short, I think those shows have influenced us in our beliefs about what is good and bad and have played an important role in what we have become. They have left an indelible mark upon us and our personalities, a mark which will probably never fade or be removed, even if we use Bon Ami! Like Luther in The Ghost and Mr. Chicken, we may not choose our circumstances, we may have our detractors and supporters, but we carry on the best we can, we hold onto our values and with a little luck and humor, we may actually be able to figure it all out in the end. Atta boy, Luther!

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