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.