Monday, September 6, 2010

Not So . . . Prairie

Well, I suppose my mind was playing tricks on me. I remembered the Little House on the Prairie tv series with such fondness. Michael Landon was so. . . good- wholesome even. The entire family exuded goodness and fresh prairie-ness. So many images were burned into my memory: the opening strains of music, the wagon swaying across the prairie, the girls running down the hill. The familiarity and predictability of it was comforting to me. (Don't you just know that Laura will always come out alright and that you can count on Nellie Oleson to be rotten?) In later years of my youth, this same predictability brought boredom and I no longer sat through hour-long episodes with commercials every ten minutes or so. But still. . . there were years of my life, I think, that I would rush to the tv set in great anticipation of this, my tv show. (I really only remember this and MacGuyver as weekly tv highlights.)

So this is becoming a strange post on tv viewing. We don't have a tv. We haven't had a tv for more than 4 years and before that, we only had our small tv/vcr combo for watching movies (or HGTV when we had free cable and I was home nursing my first babies.) There are reasons why we don't have a tv, and B and I both feel good about this decision for our family. . . but that could be another post another time.

Yet, we do occasionally watch movies. The kids count on Friday as either movie or game night. In search of something appropriate (and not too long!) for the family, I chose Little House on the Prairie at the library this week. We put it in on Friday and I was shocked!

Some things were exactly as I remembered, and I relished sharing the time-worn gems with my children. Loved their delight over Mr. Edward's singing and their curiosity over the customs and times. I was distressed, however, by the terrible representation of marriage by both the Olesons and even Pa and Ma Ingalls. Mrs. Oleson is appallingly disrespectful to her husband (didn't we always know he was kind and good? That's why I always liked him.) and he is a weak representation of father and husband. It sits poorly to see a man railroaded by his wife and walked over by his children. And yet! This is what I spent hours upon hours watching!

The behavior of the children shocked both me and our children, who sat with mouths agape at one of Nellie's temper tantrums. We were surprised at Laura and Mary's poor choices, too (including lying and cheating). This was one episode.

This wasn't what I had in mind. What appeared good in my memory is now, with age and a more sensitive conscience, less than excellent and praiseworthy. While it led to good conversation with the bigger boys, it was simply a poor example to the younger children. I don't intend to bring any more Little House home from the library (at least for a good long while!).


Anne said...

I don't know...I haven't seen Little House in a long time, but I tend to think that even shows or movies that don't necessarily fulfull every requirement for what a Godly life looks like can still be worthwhile, even helpful to us as Christian viewers. If nothing else, they teach us about culture (or in the case of Little House, maybe that culture) and the forces that shape it. (which in turn helps us engage and love those around us better in my opinion) Of course inviting children to view these things does add another layer of complexity, but it seems to me that even then these shows or movies can provide great opportunities for teaching and discussion, especially with older children. I attended a lecture given by a man named Drew Trotter who is the executive director of the Consortium of Christian Study Centers (originally centered in Charlottesville), and it really helped shape a lot of how I think about tv/movie viewing.

Lawyer's Wife said...

Take a deep breath and appreciate the show for what it is--entertainment. It never professed to be completely, Biblically sound. And truly, C, after reading your blog for some time now, I've learned that there's probably a TON out there that doesn't suit what you and B want to teach in your home. No problem. Just preview all things before you introduce them to the children. And let Little House be what it is--a wonderful memory for those of us in our early 30s and an ultra-fun new musical worth taking kids to. Nellie's tantrums and all!

calli said...

I agree, Anne. The big boys and I were able to talk about what we viewed and that could be valuable. L, however, had SEVERAL tantrums yesterday, Nellie-style. . .that I've never seen before and can only attribute to her watching Little House. I won't dismiss the entire tv series out of hand, but my littles weren't ready to watch it.