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May 10, 2011


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Whachoo talkin', bout Willis Tower? I don't think you should have turned it off! Unless you don't think she's old enough to grasp satire. And if that's the case, then keep her away from Stephen Colbert, too.

No, she's not old enough to grasp satire. I asked her what she was watching the other day and she said it, "Everybody on the plane ate the fish and they're real sick. It's a pretty scary movie."

The movie? Airplane.

Here's why I freak about stuff like this: I believe every American grownup I know--including me--is partially or totally conflicted, and generally crazed about race.

Scout, so far, isn't.

How did we get that way?

I don't know!

But I have a fantasy that Scout (and at least four other members of her generation) won't be as crazy as us.

I imagine that the way this might happen is, we might let her experience a dozen interracial relationships on her own before she hears the whole impossibly sordid history, and all the rancid language we've invented (however humorously) to deal with it.

To understand Archie Bunker and where he's coming from, you have to understand more than satire. You have to understand a whole world of socio-economic racial context--and a particular period in American history (immediately post-Civil Rights, etc.)

So ixnay, for the oment-may, on the unker-Bay.

You know what They say... Children only absorb what they are ready to.. Same with the sex talk, right? Now, if you were eating meatloaf and watching Meathead every night, I'd be concerned, but I would bet Scout's memory of that moment will be around the glass eye... Whereas if you had turned it off, she would be more likely to remember that.

Easy for me to say, though. Would I put it on for my 8-year-old? No way! :) Why, I wouldn't even let her watch Star Wars until this month...

Not having had slavery, Canadians will never know how balled up Americans are about race, J. Wah.

For instance, Star Wars: You do know, don't you, that the bar scene is all about race.

While we didn't have slavery "per se" here David, we Canadians were not - I am ashamed to say - very much better about our race relations in many areas of the country during that same era. We did have the underground railroad, which is something positive thank goodness [factoid-nobody-probably-cares-about-but-me: the border town where I grew up was a major stop on that Railroad and I'm a teensy bit proud of that even though it was decades before I was even born]

So, I do get your dilemma [especially that part about "your powerful desire to see the famous episode] but I also think you're right about not being seen censoring - kids have barracuda radar about stuff like that, which is way worse than having to try to answer the awkward questions.

P.S. Just because we're Canadian does NOT mean we can't deconstruct popular culture in movies, okay?! YES - we know the bar scene is about race. Jeez!

A seven-year old could be getting something out of the fact that three other people in the scene offset Bunker's imbecilic remarks by overtly confronting and challenging those opinions and/or by expressing unmitigated joy over the arrival of the unexpected guest.

It's not a monologue.

I'm not a parent. So I haven't the foggiest clue as to how to raise kids. But I do remember being one. Having been raised on Bunker, I feel compelled to retroactively defend my parents' choice.

I dealt with Archie Bunker peers in GRADE SCHOOL.

Did "All in the Family" teach me how to deal with ignorance as a tot? No. But growing up in a family in which ignorance was acknowledged was an important context for everything else. And within that context, it was pretty clear that Archie Bunker was a fool.

When I took my black doll babies to school (at around age 7) and was ridiculed by Frances McCully who laughed her ass off and called them my "nigger babies," I didn't think, "She's onto something--just like that Archie Bunker guy." I thought, "Your meanness makes me want to cry."

Playground moments for a kid have not a goddamn thing to do with socio-economics or history.

Hey, Suki, appreciate your perspective.

If you kind of have a feeling that you should have turned it off, then yeah, you should have turned it off. So much of parenting is instinct.

To the point about the validity of the use of racial epithets in the satire of Archie Bunker: Norman Lear was to that time in American history what Mark Twain was to his. There really is no difference in what the two were trying to do by using such crude language to describe black Americans. And just as Twain is largely misunderstood by many readers, Archie Bunker has been misunderstood by many viewers. And just as Twain didn't really write The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn for kids (though it has been labeled a book for adventure loving boys), Norman Lear didn't produce All in the Family for the family hour.

Robert, while I hesitate at your comparison of Norman Lear and Mark Twain, the same way I'd question a comparison of Beethoven and the Rolling Stones, your last sentence is undeniably true.

Old sitcoms, mostly, are so mild now that watching them during the family hour is no worries. Lear's stuff, on the other hand, is actually much more intellectually and emotionally and morally challenging than many sitcoms today.

Bring Mayberry back, Ope!

What are you doing watching TV during dinner???????? That seems crazy to me, even only occasionally. Dinner is a great time to talk to your kids. We keep our TV in the basement so we're never even tempted!

Diane, by the time dinner rolls around, I've been talking to Scout for about two hours, about her Chinese class, her classmate Jasmine, her boyfriend A.J. and her spelling words. Mom's home, exhausted from teaching in the 90-degree heat in an inner city school. Sometimes by dinnertime, we just want to friggin' eat.


I get your point, Fred. I mean DAVID. (I'm Daphne, not Diane!) I don't mean to chastise you. I just think that if TV is making you uncomfortable maybe you should turn it off. There are great audio books you could listen to if you really don't want to talk. These would be so much more engaging than sitcom reruns.

My kids are practically allergic to driving so we always used audio books to survive family car holidays. Many of them are absolutely fantastic. One we loved was A Single Shard by Linda Sue Park. Not sure of the age of your daughter (I don't get the spelling homework + boyfriend mix) but the entire Ramona & Beezus series has been done by Stockard Channing. It's good enough to make any aged person want to heave their TV out the window!

Daphne, my apologies. I'm clearly dapht.

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