Many years ago I was doing a community building workshop for Toyota at a conference they held for their female employees. There were thousands of women there. One of the keynote speakers was Carrie Fisher. I thought her speech was fantastic. A bit wacky, a lot funny, and very touching, she talked about her life, including how odd it had been to become a Pez dispenser at age 19.
I didn’t expect to meet her close up and personal, but as I was leaving the hotel the next day I stood outside waiting for the taxi the doorman had called for me. Lo and behold, there was Carrie, sitting on a low brick wall, waiting for her limo to arrive. We were the only two people out there. She immediately struck up a conversation, so I sat down beside her to chat.
She asked what I’d been doing there and when she found out I have a degree in counseling, she wanted to know if I thought her family life was odd. She candidly revealed that she’d had a complicated relationship with her mother. Now that she was a mother herself, she appreciated what her mom had gone through to raise her, especially most often as a single mom. Her own mother, the incomparable Debbie Reynolds, had been off making movies a lot when Carrie was young and, being such a huge talent, was a hard act to follow. However, at this point in her life, Carrie appreciated her mom and said she was the best grandmother in the world. She was so grateful they lived next door to each other. When Carrie went off the deep end, which she confessed to doing pretty regularly, her mother was always there to take care of her granddaughter, Carrie’s daughter.
Carrie wanted to know if I thought that was weird. She thought maybe it was, but hadn’t quite figured it out yet. I told her I thought it was perfectly normal to do what’s best for one’s child. She smiled broadly when I said “perfectly normal.”
Her limo came and seeing that we were both going to the airport and that we’d just had such a spontaneously intimate conversation, I felt certain she’d invite me to ride with her. Instead, she got in, waved, and rode off.
Ah, that was Carrie Fisher. Candid. Funny. Real. Alive. Unapologetic. It was a privilege to have met her. I’ve never forgotten our talk, or that beautiful smile.
After a week of ruminating about the season finale of Outlander, one of my favorite television shows, I want to write about some of life’s harsh realities, those that we often want to ignore. That episode of the same-sex rape of Jamie Fraser, our hero in the story, by his nemesis the evil “Black Jack” Randall was so prolonged and so authentic viewers were drawn into experiencing Jamie’s pain.
I know I felt it.
I trust that this was Diana Gabaldon’s purpose in creating such a devastating scene: to make us not only think, but feel. To awaken in us a fervid desire to right the injustices of the world. To insist that human beings be treated with care rather than callousness.
Considering the feedback on social media since, most viewers were simultaneously appalled at the brutality of the deed and enthralled by the authenticity of the acting by Sam Heughan, who plays Jamie, and Tobias Menzies, Black Jack. Outlander on Facebook assures us that Tobias is a nice guy and lots of fun. That’s impossible for me to imagine right now, but speaks to the skill of his performance. And Sam allowing himself to be so vulnerable, so beaten, “broken” as he said, took unimaginable dedication to his craft.
So think about this: Jamie is a strong man. He is a leader. He supports his wife’s strength. He believes in the inexplicable. He is smart. He is highly skilled. He has people who love him and who help him in his emotional as well as physical recovery.
Now imagine a child: Not yet grown. Doing whatever adults tell him to do. Not understanding gender roles. Believing only what he is told to believe. Not yet educated. And with no skills for survival on his own.
Imagine that child being raped, as Jamie was, by a Black Jack.
It happens every day. If our strong, independent Jamie could be broken, that child doesn’t stand a chance.
The child sex slave trade is, sadly, alive and well in this world. And it’s not fiction. There are no television crews, no warm trailers, no escapes. It’s the only world the child knows.
And it’s wrong. Outlander shows us how wrong it is when it happens to an adult. It’s even more so with a helpless child. Outlander made us sit up, grit our teeth, and pay attention. It slapped us in the face with the knowledge that we can’t sit by and idly watch a rendering of rape. We must act, in our own neighborhoods, in our towns, in our country, and in our world to stop it. No one – man, boy, woman, girl – deserves to be treated so inhumanly.
Thus my long-held believe that child sex abusers should be sent to prison for life, with no possibility for parole. I have no problem with the death penalty, either.
Let’s hope that’s just what comes Black Jack Randall’s way. Let’s hope for justice for Jamie. And then let’s go out and work for justice for all.
It happened so quickly. There was no forethought; no plan. Before I knew it, I’d fallen into the depths of television depravity, indiscriminately taking in whatever show happened to appear at the end of my clicker. I became a dissolute, slovenly woman: a TV slut. There I sat for three days, watching hour after hour of numbing information float before my eyes.
It all started with my eyes, actually. After minor eye surgery and being ordered to “rest,” with no reading or computer work possible, and no exertion, I couldn’t think of anything else to do. (Never mind audio books or Rosetta Stone.) So I sat and stared at the tube across the room.
I now know how to lasso an alligator, should the occasion ever arise. I know today’s top value on every shopping channel. (I can’t wait to get the gold cream that’s going to make my aging skin young again.) I was devastated when Annie let her viper mother Judith talk her out of her favorite wedding gown on Say Yes to the Dress. I have been informed of every alleged affair of any man or woman who has ever lived in the White House. I have been convinced that aliens live amongst us. I fell in love with Adam on Bonanza all over again. And I cried when Long Island Medium Theresa delivered a message to a young woman from her departed fiance to go on with her life.
There were lots of snacks and popcorn involved. I’m sure if I’d had some bon-bons, whatever they are, I’d have eaten those, too.
Not all TV is bad. In fact, some is excellent. I loved some of the new shows I discovered. But the key is in being discerning, which I was not, and using that boob tube wisely. We want to be selective rather than slutty; we want to use the medium as an instrument for improving our lives. We want to do that for ourselves and certainly for our children.
I didn’t exactly grow up watching TV. When I was a kid we played outdoors. I thought it was the law or something, but children certainly were not allowed to sit around inside the house. Nor did we want to. There were so many adventures outside! There was the old depot and train tracks across the street, the abandoned house at the end of the road, bike trails through the woods, and Doc Rea’s veterinary barn half a block away. It was always fun to pop in there to see if he had a horse or goat that needed petting. We could walk the two blocks to town where the creek paralleled main street. Springtime was good for wading and letting tadpoles tickle our ankles.
Ah, that is indeed a long-gone era. When I was seven we got our first television set and, as far as I knew, it belonged to my Dad. We kids weren’t allowed to touch it. There weren’t enough seats in the living room anyway, so mom and dad each had their chair, which we did not deign to sit in, and the rest of us sprawled around on the floor, watching what our parents watched. Bonanza. The Loretta Young Show. Gillette Friday Night Fights. Being selective in our watching came without question, which left us lots of time to do other things. The rules relaxed as we got older, but habitual watching didn’t stick with any of us.
So that’s why I was surprised recently when I so quickly fell into mindless watching. What kind of television watcher are you? Selective? Or slutty? I had to work my way out. You can, too. Oh yes, it’s tempting to just stay there on that couch, glaring. It’s so much easier than… life. But, hey, in the end what do you want your tombstone to say? She knew how to sit and stare at a tube. Maybe you’d like something more meaningful than that. I know I would.
Comments are welcome.
#TelevisionWatching #BoobTube #Outlander #Vikings #Bonanza #TVSlut