July 25 Norman Lear

“That’s the heart of it: My shows were not that controversial with the American people. They were controversial with the people who think for the American people.” Norman Lear

I believe in exposure: to everything, everyone, all religions, food, languages, lifestyles, points of view, etc. Make your own choices, allow or disallow what you may, but expose yourself. And please, by all means, expose the children. With that said, I grew up in the ’70s and ’80s in the Bay Area. I was exposed. And I love who I am because of it.

Today, at the Jewish Community Center, Tall Handsome Son and I went to a Film Festival featuring a documentary film about the life of Norman Lear. Norman Lear is a TV writer and producer and he is responsible for such TV shows as “Good Times”, “The Jeffersons”, “Sanford and Son”, “Maude”, “All In the Family” and “One Day at a Time”. His production company was also responsible for “Diff’rent Strokes”, “The Facts of Life” and “What’s Happening!!” If you too grew up in the ’70s and ’80s, were a half Creole/half Mexican girl living in Oakland, California, and were a lonely, latchkey kid, then these shows may have totally changed the world as you understood it to be, as well. Even if you weren’t and you watched any of these shows, you may have remembered some of the tough topics that were tackled.

I saw mixed race couples (Tom and Helen Willis on The Jeffersons). Yes, Lucy and Ricky were a mixed race couple, but it was handled differently on The Jeffersons. The actual problems that mixed race couples encountered were explored on The Jeffersons. I remember when J.J. on Good Times had a fiancee that was a drug addict, that was a learning experience for me. When Penny’s mom was abusing her, I learned to spot and report abuse in families. I learned about adopted kids (Arnold and Willis) on Diff’rent Strokes, saw racial and socio-economic disparities reflected on TV that I already knew existed from personal experience. I discovered what a boarding school was on The Facts of Life. I wanted braces like Tutti. When in the world does that ever happen (that a kid wants braces)? My oldest brother always said I was just like “Dee” on What’s Happening!! And I was, how funny.

I have so many good memories of spending time watching these TV shows, with my family, or sometimes alone as I waited for my mom to get home from work. Talking about the shows at school the next day was always a great way to re-live what we had seen the day before. We learned to ask questions, to think differently because of those shows, to even see ourselves and each other differently. Mr. Norman Lear is a visionary and I greatly enjoyed watching the documentary, Just Another Version of You, today. I am not currently a television watcher, at all, but I think we could use some humor, Mr. Lear. The world is getting too heavy, once again.

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