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The hazy lens of memory.

Recently, I bought myself a copy of the first season of One Day At A Time. I realize that folks on my friends list who are younger than me (or who grew up in places other than the US) may not be familiar with the show, so I'll give you a little background:

One Day At A Time was a sitcom in the mid-70s (when I was a kid) about a divorced mother and her two teenage daughters. Ann Romano (Bonnie Franklin) is a 34 year old divorcee and feminist. She has a line in one of the early episodes where she says something along the lines of "I spent the first seventeen years of my life with my father making the decisions, and the next seventeen years with my husband making the decisions -- now I want to make the decisions."

So you can see why I would've dug this show, right?

But here's the thing: sitting, watching it (likely for the first time in 20 years) last night, I was struck by some really terrible stuff too.

Schneider. Everyone remembers Dwayne F. Schneider, right? He's the building superintendent -- sort of a secondary father figure. He comes in with that pass key and offers advice -- good-intentioned but generally inept advice.

Or at least that's how I thought of him when I was a kid. Watching the show last night, Schneider really creeped me out. He has this pass key, which he uses often, and always unannounced. In one episode he just wanders into the teenage girls' bedroom. In another episode, he's clanging around in the kitchen at 2:00 am, searching for a can of soup.

And then there's the sexual harassment. As a kid, I always thought of it as goofy harmless flirting. Watching it now, he comes off as a total stalker. Offering improvements to the apartment in exchange for sex. Reading her mail. Taking flowers that someone else sent to her and trying to pass them off as being from him (after reading and then removing the card). Ack.

And I find myself blaming the victim, too. Why, oh why, Ms. Romano, don't you chain the door when you're inside? True, he could still force his way in, but at least it would offer some protection. Better yet -- why don't you call the cops (or at least threaten to)? Or change your locks? Or move?

Ultimately, it's a mixed bag for me. On the one hand, we have made some progress, because I can't conceive of Schneider's behavior being acceptable today. For better or worse, phrases like "stalking," "PFA" and "restraining order" have permanently etched themselves into our lexicon. But on the downside, I can't imagine a TV show nowadays featuring a mother who insists on being called "Ms.," having an open and honest relationship with her teenage daughters, and teaching them to rely on their minds and not their bodies.


( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
Dec. 25th, 2007 05:44 pm (UTC)
A mixed bag indeed
A lot of shows that were on 30 years ago would not have floated today. Hell, Norman Lear would have been crucified had "All in the Family", "The Jeffersons", "Maude" or "Good Times" been even proposed today. Shows like that would be flamed by American viewers. We would all be up the network's asses for that kind of humor.

It amazes me how easily offended we've become. In "One Day at a Time", Bonnie Franklin's character either shrugged off Schneider's advances or shot him down with a retort of her own. Now, we're upset, offended and want to sue. After the eighties and nineties we became such a litigious society.

You and I both (amongst other reading your journal) grew up with Jesus being rammed down our throats this time of year as we grew up. I don't recall giving two shits if someone wished me a Merry Christmas. Now, it gets under my skin faster than nails on a blackboard.

You even made plans for a "Traditional Jewish Christmas" (we're doing the same at Silk Pagoda down the street from us). I'm sure there are Christians who take offense to Our use of Their Holiday. For some of them, it may bring in to mind the old joke about the Jewish child who goes into the department store with his dad on Christmas day to look at their empty shelves.

Back to "One Day at a Time" and shows from the Seventies. If it weren't for shows like that, a lot of issues would be in the forefront. They brought sexism, racism and homosexuality/homophobia (Billy Crystal - "SOAP") into our living rooms in a forum we could laugh at. We learned to see "isms" for their stupidity and outgrew them. They helped changed the way America thinks.
Dec. 25th, 2007 07:22 pm (UTC)
Re: A mixed bag indeed
I think the Christians should be offended by the rampant commercialism of Christmas, which would even make the suits of Stan Freberg's "Green Chri$tma$" blanch. The irony is that the religious Christians would be going against their own conservative copatriots if they decry commercialism....so they attack those mysterious secularists who wish people "Happy Holidays" as they sell more Chinese crap to people.

None of the classic 70s shows would fly today - there's too much nuance and characters not drawn in black and white. You have Archie Bunker, a bigot who still loves his family. George Jefferson, a successful black businessman who's a preening martinet, but is always shot down by others. Maude would be crucified by Bill O'Reilly - even 30 years later, abortion is still a no-no, even in movies pitched to the hip crowd ("Knocked Up" and "Juno"). And MASH - why there's something there to offend everyone - Henry Blake being a drunken womanizer, Hawkeye being anti-war and a drunken womanizer, Trapper being a drunken womanizer, Frank Burns being a pro-war caricature who wets his pants at the first sign of danger...
Dec. 25th, 2007 08:18 pm (UTC)
Re: A mixed bag indeed
It amazes me how easily offended we've become. In "One Day at a Time", Bonnie Franklin's character either shrugged off Schneider's advances or shot him down with a retort of her own. Now, we're upset, offended and want to sue. After the eighties and nineties we became such a litigious society.

See, I'm not sure that I agree with that. I mean, if it were just flirting, then OK, yes, I would agree. But imagine it as a real-life scenario. Imagine that I was living in an apartment building, and the super of my building would just let himself into my apartment, without warning, whenever he felt like it, and would cross other boundaries, like opening and reading my mail. I'm sorry, but I seriously doubt that you would advise me to "[shrug] off [his] advances" or "[shoot] him down with a retort of [my] own" -- you'd tell me to call the fucking cops (and maybe buy a rottweiler in the meantime).

Edited at 2007-12-25 08:19 pm (UTC)
Dec. 25th, 2007 09:19 pm (UTC)
Re: A mixed bag indeed
True, I most certainly would. Opening someone else's mail is a federal offense. Bear in mind also, that her first boyfriend, David was her lawyer. He should have said something to her about it.

Despite the comedic setting, "One Day at a Time" (and other seventies shows) brought these issues to our attention. Situations like those shown on the show most likely really did happen, only the women being subjected to these situations didn't fight back, didn't have a witty retort, they probably lived in fear.

TV notwithstanding, we have become so easily offended. I remember sharing off color jokes with friends of varying ethnicities, such as telling my African American friends to smile at night, so we could see them, and thinking nothing of it. Now, even a wrong look can get you fired from a job, or worse.
Dec. 25th, 2007 06:18 pm (UTC)
I loved that show as a kid too. I never noticed that about Schneider either, but I haven't watched any episodes since I was like a young teen.
Dec. 26th, 2007 03:06 am (UTC)
It is strange how time gives us a different perspective on things.

I know I have been accused of being too serious.. taking say.. Environmental issues too seriously.

Feminism is something I struggle with... Trying to find out what is seriously wrong and sexist vs what is really honestly harmless "fun".

I don't mean to belittle it. As I read your description.. I can totally see how those actions would be totally absurd today. I mean, think about 3's company! Geeesh.. Wow.. I mean.. how would feminists view that show today? They would shoot it down. Granted.. both these shows were just after the 60's and the 70's were when modern Feminism was really taking hold.. They were trying to find their skin.... I don't relate to certain things. I was incredibly lucky that I had a mother who was a doctor.. (when there were not many women doctors) She raised me by myself. I went to an All girls hs... those things shaped me and how I view the world .I didn't grow up threatened by men. I didn't grow up to mistrust men. I didn't grow up to fight against men. I didn't feel oppressed by men at all! I wasn't fearful of them.. until someone told me I should be...

I am not belittling women who have been brought up in dangerous horrible situations.. I am just relating my issues.

I think the show was obviously harmless.. I don't think that women were neccessarily conscious of HIM being a stalker.. rather I think they were focused on HER being an independant mother raising two strong daughters. That was the focus. Schneider was written as a comedy relief. She obviously didn't feel threatened... That to me demonstrates her strength as a character. She wasn't a victim. She was strong. I remember All in the Family tackled the issue of rape... that was scary. THat was in a sitcom! I am glad that Norman Lear pushed the envelope...

I don't know.. I know I am really serious... I think when we process through difficult issues we get serious. WE feel so afraid and the weight of the issue presses down on us.. that we can't lighten up. It is SO IMPORTANT NOW..

I hope we can evolve past that. Where none of us live in fear or are threatened by any one trying to harm us or oppress us. WHere we can laugh at baudy jokes again. (laughter helps us deal with processing difficult emotions).

I love South Park for the very reason that it pushes EVERYONE's buttons.. in a really forceful way. No one is excempt. It may be crude.. sexist, disgusting... racist.. whatever.. but it forces us to see the absurdity of most issues.. NOt that the issues are not important .. but to help us be a bit more rational and have a balanced perspective.


Dec. 26th, 2007 03:08 am (UTC)
Upon re-reading something I wrote.

I didn't mean to say OBVIOUSLY harmless.... It was the times in which it was written.. he was written more than likely as a sidekick comedy relief figure. Yeah.. creepy now in context of what we are aware of in the world..

Dec. 26th, 2007 05:05 pm (UTC)
One of the recurring bits in "Three's Company" is an anachronism from the 70s or earlier - the bit where Jack has to pretend to be gay to live with the two women. Now? Meh...the Ropers are getting their money for the apartment...
( 8 comments — Leave a comment )

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