Friday, September 28, 2007

Limits

by,
Kathie Shoop

Okay, bear with me while I reference a show that will either warm your heart or make you stick your finger down your throat in that very descriptive way, the 1980's non-verbal sign for gag me with a spoon.

Brace yourself for...

The Waltons.

Yes that show. For the last month or so, my background noise for writing has shifted from the easy to ignore (until they slip a truly great flick into the mix) Lifetime Movie Channel to the Hallmark Channel.

And, as a newcomer to the Waltons scene I've been blown away by some great story lines and even better lines of dialogue. I also realize its shortcomings, but with the turns that modern television takes can we really be critical of the oldies?

Of course I've not written any of the great lines down and I can't call up specific exchanges between Mary Beth and John Boy or John Boy and the rich fellas he meets at college while wearing beanie and bow-tie.

But, two things stand out in my mind from the show. One is a scene with Mrs. Walton as she attempts to garner work while the lumber mill is going in the toilet due to Mr. Walton's illness. She's interviewing at a temp agency and the man rattles off a list of qualifications (three) Mrs. Walton should possess in order to be employable. Of course, the two types of shorthand and number of words a person can type mean nothing to her and she leaves absolutely mortified that she is trained to do zilch in the world other than bear children and care for the home that now is in jeapordy due to the illness!

It was an interesting scene in that Mrs. Walton was deemed unemployable after the man only offered three criteria, as though there was nothing else happening on the planet except for, apparently, women being warehoused and exploited for two very specialized office skills.

It was uncomfortable to watch Mrs. Walton as her mind processed what it meant that she was entirely skilless (not a word???) and incapable of contributing to her family once she wound down the road to the bottom of Walden Mountain.

It was a striking tv moment, really it was, and for that segment of time I felt trapped with Mrs. Walton, with the idea that there were limits to her life and some of them were self-imposed and others laid down by society.

And the whole thing made me think about the limits on me these days, many of them, in many ways, most of the time, happily self-imposed (in other words, life). And I thought of how fortunate many of us are, to sometimes see or experience the limitlessness of opportunity when a little good fortune is sprinkled on top of hard work.

And of course the Walton family wrangled their problem into submission, finding a little luck to go with commitment to saving their business and house. Yeah, that's the sugary part, isn't it? Nothing wrong with a little sweet once in a while...

Well, I ran out of time to share the funny little grave-site anecdote that took place between Grandpa and Grandma, but if you really want to hear it I'll post it in the comments.

8 comments:

Tory said...

I didn't really watch "The Waltons" that much when it was on, but there is something that sticks with you about that show (for better or worse.) Particularly the, "Good night, John Boy."

OK, I'm game. What's the grandma/ grandpa scene?

Gina said...

I never really got into the Waltons, either. The few episodes I watched were way too heart warming. Now I can't think about that show without remembering Carol Burnett's parody as "John Girl."

Martha Reed said...

I only remember one episode where the youngest daughter got a broken doll from a charity for Christmas, she was devastated, I got as angry at the injustice as an 8 year old can get, and my Mom turned off the TV and said: That's enough of that.

Joyce said...

I loved the Waltons. Maybe I'm naive, but I think that show represents family life much better than some of the crap that's on TV now. These people loved each other, and even when Grandma and Grandpa argued (which was a lot), the love was still there. Maybe I'm just an "old coot" like Grandpa.

I can also relate to Mrs. Walton's predicament of trying to find a job. I was a stay at home mom until Andrew was 14 and Josh was 10. I had no degree and no skills other than being a mom. I only got my job because I went to the Citizens Police Academy and they knew who I was when they saw my application.

kathie said...

I had the same luke-warm thoughts about the Waltons until I happened upon it and really saw some funny things happening in it...
Tory, thanks for taking me up on the Gram/Gramps story.
So, Grandma is not speaking to Gramps because he won a sexy, Greek, life-size statue of a woman (a Goddess of some sort) and he falls in love with it, stares at it all day and night and everyone hates it and keeps moving it all over the farm, much to Gramps' dismay. Well, it comes to light that the reason Grandma is especially angered at its presence is because she swears it's an exact representation of the woman, Myzel, Gramps sowed his oats with before he met Grandma...anyway, the argument takes them all the way to the cemetary where he's fencing in their spot and they both stand inside this short picket fence--it makes a rectangle big and long enough for two caskets--and they discuss who will be buried on which side. Grandpa admits that he wants to take the left because he's been uncomfortable on the right side of the bed throughout their entire marriage. Done! Gram says and all is well until she realizes that he is going to use the statue as his head stone and the fighting starts again. Maybe I'm simpler than most, but that scene went so sweetly between warm and fuzzy to funny in a second and I just love that they're discussing these things. Maybe I just can't remember, but when was the last time people discussed their casket placement on TV? Not including that show, Six-feet Under, of course, but it just struck me as so funny...unexplainable maybe???

kathie said...

Gina, I agree with your impression of the show, I thought that too...it still is corny but for some reason it doesn't bother me.
Martha, I can picture your mother snapping off the TV telling herself she knew she shouldn't have let you stay up to watch that damn show! The thing is, it is a corny show, but they discuss some heavy things and the wrong show might have been disturbing to a kid for sure...
Joyce, I agree, Gram and Gramps are the funniest on the show...
Oh, and Tory, I always associated that "Good night John Boy" with the show too, thinking that was the sign-off every week, but it isn't, there's a plethora of ways they say good night. I mean there's forty of them in the house, it would make sense that they would say other things...

Kristine said...

Interseting post, Kathie! I never watched "The Waltons," but I'm always to drawn to TV shows, mostly sitcoms, that depict life in realistic way and tackle difficult issues. Some of the older shows did it the best, IMO. It's also interesting to see how things change and the issues that seemed important during one generation period are so much different now.

lisa curry said...

Kathie, I enjoyed your post about The Waltons. Interestingly, I once read or heard about a poll of Baby Boomers asking if you had to choose a TV family to be part of, which would you choose? I can't remember all the choices, but I think they included the Brady Bunch and maybe the Leave It to Beaver Cleavers in addition to the Waltons plus a couple others, and the Waltons won by a landslide. Which is interesting when you consider that all the other TV families lived in relative prosperity, whereas the Waltons lived in poverty during the Depression. And I think that says something about how the Waltons' family interrelationships spoke to people on a whole different level than most other family TV shows of that era. Good night, Mary Ellen. :-)