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Friday, February 20, 2015

50 Shades of We Should Want More

First I meant to post something about Valentine’s Day, how much I love it, how much I just love the idea of a day devoted to love. All kinds of love, not just romantic love. Anyway, I didn’t do it even though lots of thoughts on love kept wafting through my head.

Then I wanted to write something about “50 Shades of Grey,” going so far as to go see it by myself last week. I was really taking one for the team on that one. I did write, with my wonderful writing partner, a humorous take on the movie in our column, "The Fix-it Sisters," but I wanted to write something more. I’ve started and stalled a few different posts and gotten nowhere. Somehow I can’t stop thinking about both of these things - love and “50 Shades.” and how they don’t have a whole lot to do with each other.

When I think about love, romantic love, I think about all the ways it's supposed to make you feel good. That it’s this wonderful safe place to be. “Love means never having to say you’re sorry” was a ridiculous line from “Love Story,” I think it’s saying you’re sorry as often as needed, and that loving someone means treating them with respect and kindness. Safe.

I am all for consenting adults doing whatever they want to do together in the privacy of their bedrooms, or Red Rooms as it were, but I think what Christian and Anastasia were engaged in was not love. And that’s okay if that’s what they want. The not-so-great part is when young men and women think THAT’S what love looks like. It’s not. What Christian Grey is into is what someone who has some really deep emotional problems they haven’t dealt with looks like.

In my mind loving someone doesn’t involve wanting to see them in pain or humiliating them in any way. And the fact that despite the controlling, the stalking, the hitting, Anastasia thinks she loves Christian is concerning. That’s not love. That’s something else altogether, but it’s not love.

When the “50 Shades” phenomenon swept the globe a few years ago I was mostly envious of the author for creating something that did so well that everyone at her publishing house got a huge bonus. As a writer I wanted that too. I didn’t read the books, but got the gist, and it didn’t hold much interest for me. I thought it was just about domination and submission, which lots of women obviously found very titillating. What surprised me when I saw the film was just how controlling outside the bedroom Christian was, to the point of spanking Ana when he disapproved of her behavior, punishing her like a child.

I get the whole psychology of women have to be in control at work, with their families etc etc, and so when they get in the bedroom it’s kind of nice to have someone take over and be a bit...forceful. But there’s a big leap from there to kneeling by the door waiting for him to come in, and him spanking you for behaving in a way he deemed inappropriate. That’s shaming and abusive. That’s not love.
Over the course of the week I’ve come up with some Love Rules inspired my my trip to the shady side of “50 Shades.”. I’m sure I will think of many more, and you may have some too. Feel free to add in the comments. In the meantime, here are a few.

  1. Love isn’t controlling. If someone loves you they want you to have friends, do things that interest you, and have a life separate from them. It isn’t adorable if they don’t.
  2. Love is not wanting to harm or humiliate someone. Enough said.
  3. Love is letting someone be themselves. I don’t want to be someone’s project, and I don’t want to be in the people changing business myself.

“50 Shades” is being sold as a love story to women in particular, but it’s not about love, it’s about sex and shouldn’t be confused with love. There’s nothing wrong with movies that are about sex, but that’s a whole other animal. The books were essentially softcore porn peddled to mothers and wives who craved something to jump start their relationships that might have become a bit dull. That’s great, a lot of people probably had a lot of hot sex because of them. But young women flocking to see the movie shouldn't think being a submissive is the basis of a great relationship, and the men they date should really not think their partners want to be tied up and hit.

If Christian Grey wasn’t a billionaire who couldn’t buy Ana a car, new Macbook and take her in a fancy glider, he’d just be a weird creep. Money somehow sanitizes scary behavior. It shouldn’t.

People will most likely posit that Christian Grey is just a fantasy, but I can’t help but wonder, if as women, we couldn’t do better. Better by men, and so much better for ourselves.

Friday, January 30, 2015

A Farewell to "Parenthood"

I will announce right up front that there are spoilers here if you haven't watched the last episode!

With the end of the NBC series, "Parenthood" after 5 1/2 seasons, we have lost one of the few dramas on TV that isn't about murders, espionage, politics or medical crises. It was a series that was from its inception, about family.

"Parenthood" was about the Braverman family. The matriarch and patriarch, and their four adult offspring and their families. There were no forensics, no trials, no politics, well, except that one time when Kristina ran for office. It was about family and the lives lived within it.

It was that simple, and that complicated. And it was probably one of the most underrated series on television. Choosing to focus on the simple, the everyday, and beautifully so, it sadly fell under the radar for many viewers and critics.

For most of us, this is what life is. The drama is in the relationships, the ups, the downs, our jobs, and our children. Rarely have the nuances of real life been portrayed so well.

"Parenthood" always struggled in the ratings. Something I never understood. The cast was stellar, the writing spot-on and rich, and the characters all thoughtfully developed and multi-dimensional. But somehow it was always on the bubble as to whether it would be renewed or not.

There is I am sure criticism about being a bit of a tearjerker, but I would posit that it wasn't because it was overly dramatic or maudlin. The issues that the Braverman's struggled with were issues so many of us do. Aging parents, cancer, marital strife, substance abuse,  adoption, interracial marriage, a child struggling with Asperger's, financial stresses...these are among the things that many of us face.

This is what life is. It is being handed what feels like so much more than you can handle, and yet somehow you do. You hopefully find the support you need, and you get through. "Parenthood" was one of the very few series on network television that showed what real life looks like.

This was a series that had some of the best writing and direction seen on the small screen. At least on network television. The agility in which the writers kept all of the characters engaged, their story lines ever-evolving, was nothing short of masterful. The direction was always beautiful and unobtrusive.

And the cast. What can you say about this cast? What can't you say? They were brilliant, and their love and appreciation for each other shone through in every scene. Especially in this last season. Craig T. Nelson was masterful at portraying an aging man making choices about his health, and what he wanted his life, and its end to look like. Peter Krause, Lauren Graham, Ray Romano - in a role that showed a depth I never knew he had. Monica Potter, Dax Shepard, Bonnie Bedelia, and all of those talented children and supporting cast. Amazing. I don't know when we'll see a more talented cast assembled.

So let's talk about the tears. There was never an episode that didn't have me reaching for the tissues. And I think that's a good thing. Unlike a Nicholas Sparks' story, these tearful scenes were because the writing was so good, so moving. I never felt manipulated or like I wanted to throw something at the screen, which has been my inclination during an aforementioned Sparks sobfest. I cried because I could relate. No, I don't have a child with Asperger's, but I am a mom, and I know how it feels to love your child and to want everything to be okay for them.

More than anything, for me the appeal was that there were many times I wanted to leap in and be part of the big, messy and far-from-perfect Braverman family. Of course they could be a pain in the neck, and if I were a Braverman (oh, how I love saying that almost out loud) I am sure I would grow weary of them. But most of the time, almost all of the time, I would want to be swept up in a family that shows up. They show up for school events, meals together, and they love each other.

That's what I will miss. In a world of back-stabbing, scandals and procedurals, it was refreshing to spend an hour a week with family. Family that you know no matter what has your back.We are all so far flung, there is no way a regular Friday night dinner would be possible for most of us.

I can think of very few series finales that were as moving and true to the show as this. I admit within the first four minutes I was already crying, and by the end, after Zeek's death, I had soaked my cat's fur as I clung to him.

It might have not broken ratings records.but this show, (ever so loosely based on the movie of the same name) brought to TV by the very talented Jason Katims will I am sure, go down in history as one of the best dramas to grace our screens.

I refuse to say goodbye to the Braverman's. They will forever be in my heart, as well-crafted characters are wont to do. I will be forever grateful for all the hard work and talent that went into producing this show. Thank you for giving me a good reason to cry, a reason to feel, and something to aspire to as a mom, and a writer.