Monday, August 11, 2008

Mad World

Did you ever watch that show MASH? The show that arguably has the worst theme song music ever? It was that theme song that aptly kept me away from the show for years. Until I was about 18. I had a boyfriend in high school that was refreshingly different. One day at his house I asked him to change the channel when I heard those appaling horns announcing the beginning of another episode. I probably said something like, "Ugh, I hate this show. It's so lame." He responded by saying something to the effect of: "Oh, really? I actually like it a lot. Just the way that they're appalled by war, the way they see it affect these men's lives and bodies, they're faced with the ramifications every day..."

Basically, this blew my mind. I didn't know that the show with the awful intro-music could possibly have heart. So I started watching it, and sure enough, amidst the roll-eyes jokes and sarcastic banter, there were moments where the doctors would just look around them and the reality of it all would hit. Then you'd realize that all of the stupid jokes were just their way of trying to push the reality of where they were away from them. I watched avidly for a couple of years after that.

So one day in college, I was watching MASH in my apartment, when a roommate walked by during the intro song. And she said something like, "Ugh, I hate this show. It's so lame." And I smiled and thought I'd try the little trick on her. So I got up on my soap box and gave her the little spiel about war and the show...
A couple of weeks later she told me, "Breanne, after what you told me, I totally got into this show!" She watched it for awhile after that, too.

Have you ever had this happen? You have your idea of how things are, what your opinion is on something, and then suddenly one day you hear someone else's point of view and you realize they could be right, and it changes everything.

I had this happen again recently. Since Michael started working graveyards, sometimes I go up to my mom's house in the evenings and knock on the door and ask if she wants a little company. One night a couple of weeks ago she was watching a marathon of Mad Men. This drama on AMC just got nominated for 16 emmies. She said, "Oh, won't you pleease watch this show with me?" My mom then started talking about all of the reasons that she loves the show. The characters, all of the relationships between them, so-and-so's mysterious past, etc. But the big kicker was the setting. The show is set in 1960, about a Madison-avenue advertising company. The big appeal for my mom is the nostalgia-- she says that the show is so true to how life was back then, the clothes, the sets, how they treat women...

Wait, what? How they treat women? Nostalgic? So I started watching, with mom narrating on the sidelines. A new character walks onto the screen and she goes, "Oh, and this is so-and-so. He slept with that girl in the last scene but he's married and he doesn't talk to her now..." I'm missing dialogue now, but she's on a roll and we're on a new scene with all the men chatting in an office, "This is how the guys would act back then! Just this boy's club and the women were just stupid children. This show is just so nostalgic - this is my teens, my early 20's. This is what the world was like!" And as I'm watching it, something weird happened, because it started to become nostalgic for me, too. I got some weird connection to the 60's through my mom being there.

So the next night was the season premier of the 2nd season, and sure enough I was up there watching it with her. One scene of the show revolves around everyone watching Jackie Kennedy give a tour of the whitehouse on television, and mom's narrating again, "This was such a huge thing. The whitehouse had been neglected for years, but when she moved in she decided to restore and conservate everything. Kennedy's camelot..."

Now I'm hooked. I bought the first episode of the first season online last night and watched it until 1:30 am. Now the drama is starting to reel me in; the acting, the relationships, meanings. And the whole women's-treatment thing is starting to come more into focus. I was appalled by some things that the women (I know, actors in a fabricated environment) didn't even batt an eyelash at. Example: one woman uncovers a typewriter and says, "Don't be intimidated by all of this technology. The man who invented it made it simple enough for even a woman to use." Another woman standing up for herself is told, "I won't have a woman talk to me that way." I wanted to write my mom and email after watching it and say, "Really? Is that really how they treated women? It seems like a whole different universe. I can't believe it's so different."

I saw my mom online today and got to ask her in person:

Me: was it really like this???

Roberta: Absolutely. When we were married, I tried to get a job at BYU while your Dad was taking classes. This was 1969. Every department I went to would find out I was married, then basically tell me that married women shouldn't work, and that I should start a family! Like 6 jobs. I finally got a job off campus.

Me: oh my gosh
look how far you've come

Roberta: Yes, during these years we have had the womens movement, Gloria Steinem (who is my hero), the freedom movement. We have come a long way, but there is so much more to do.

Me: mom, I think watching this show is painting a picture of what [the world was like during the early years of your marriage]

Roberta: For me too! That is why I am so fascinated with it. It kind of verifies for me that I was right in doing what I did, changing the way I did.

Me: yeah, I'm glad that you did
I just can't believe you ever had to deal with that kind of world
when those people at BYU turned you down, did you realize then that that was sort of out-of-whack?

Roberta: I have to think, how are our Heavenly Parents? What is a true, strong, equal man woman relationship?
No, at BYU, I thought I was out of whack for asking for a job, but we needed it!

Me: so you didn't even know

Roberta: No, a frog in cold water that finally gets warm, then hot, doesn't sense it. I finally got so depressed and sick, and started back to college, taking a womens discussion group, and hearing the women in that group discuss these things helped me see myself. I would say about an amazing woman - hey, she shouldn't take that, she is a great person,and it slowly began to dawn on my that I WAS WORTH IT TOO.

Me: nice
it's just so foreign to me that the culture accepted these attitudes about women.
like culture shock

Roberta: Each decade has gotten better. It was worse before I got married, both of our parents marriages were worse.
Maybe this is a big purpose of life, that each of us free ourselves from ghosts of the past that say do things that don't work.. Maybe we are called to learn how to make relationships wonderful, freeing, empowering, and to grow like Heavenly Father wants us to.

Roberta: I am so proud of my girls marriages. That was my biggest fear, that you would repeat my mistake. Turns out you all decided NOT to make that mistake

Me: which mistake?

Roberta: Thinking you are worth any less than your man

Me: oh yeah, no
I pretty much think I am hot snot

Roberta: Oh ya, maybe my girls swung a tad too far the other way!!!!!

Back to my blogging:
I understand that this is not everyone's experience of the 60's. But this is what my mother experienced, which makes it real for me. She told me once, "We stand on the shoulders of our parents." Meaning, we get better with each generation.
Thank goodness. I hope the trend continues.


Jacque said...

I just have to say that I was interested in that show and have talked to mom about it, but I had to go home when it came on. I've heard a lot of mom's stories over the years and was pretty sure what it was about, too. But I never said I wouldn't watch it with her . . . just to clarify. There's an old article from Good Housekeeping back in the 50s or 60s that says what you should do when your husband gets home from work. It said things like put on fresh makeup, give him the newspaper, keep the kids quiet--he's had a long day, and serve a nice warm wholesome meal. I guess when that didn't work and husbands cheated anyway, it was time to try something else!

Ryan said...

I'm so glad things aren't that way. I've learned so much from Lauren not putting up with any of my crap. I was telling my brother that one of the best things about being married to Lauren is that I learn that I can't be babied. If something hard or difficult is going on and I want to crawl back into bed, she doesn't enable that behavior. She says to get up and stop being a baby. I see men who are such ninnies because their wives enable their chauvinism, too. Breanne, you're awesome.