No Such Nonsense

A little of this, that and... what was I talking about again? It's TV, sports, pop culture and politics - all the stuff that really matters in life.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Free to be...

In the early 1970s, Marlo Thomas (yes, That Girl) discovered to her dismay that the bedtime stories available for her young niece tended to reinforce old stereotypes of sex, class and race. She found that, in these stories, the boys wanted to be doctors and policemen and the girls wanted to be nurses and ballerinas. Diversity was nonexistent. She wanted stories where girls could be police officers and daddies could stay home with the kids. She wanted to see kids of many races in the stories.

Since no such stories existed, Thomas decided to create a collection of skits, songs, stories and poems with a group of celebrity "friends". The result was the unusual, unforgettable Free to Be... You and Me. Diverse, politically correct, yet charmingly dorky, the one-hour program was a staple in my elementary school.

It hasn't aged perfectly; some of the fashions are amusingly era-specific and the "we're all equal and special" message gets a bit heavy-handed at times. But Free to Be... You and Me remains a cheerful and funny experience. Highlights include Mel Brooks voicing a newborn baby puppet with some gender identity issues, notorious football tough-guy Rosey Grier singing "It's all Right to Cry" and, surreally, a teenage Michael Jackson singing about how he doesn't want to change when he grows up. The true cultural high-point, though, is Alan Alda's narration of "William Wants a Doll" about a little boy who desperately wants a doll but can't seem to convince his parents and peers that there is nothing wrong with that. This particular story was even refenced on Sex and The City - Stanford tells Carrie that he played the scene so much "I almost turned my little sister into a gay man." Clearly, we've come a long way, baby.


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