Friday, August 8, 2008

There go us for the grace of them

So anyone that knows me knows that basically I'm a flamy queen trapped inside a straight girls body-I'm also a dirty nut scratching stoner from the 1970's- but thats a different story-
Growing up with a single mom I was able to spend many long afternoons alone with the television, and happily so, watching re-runs of TV past- nary an episode of Gilligan, Golden Girls, Family Ties, Facts of Life, Twilight Zone or any other show escape my obsessive focus, one however transcended all and not only was the first show I remember laughing so hard that I cried and almost peed myself at the same time to, but also laid the foundation for many of the things I still love and have an interest in, in fact some of them have become the bedrock of my educational pursuits- Feminism, Fashion, "Real" Hollywood (as a subject also explored on the show, Music, the bond of female friendship and last but not least and most importantly, humor- the ability to laugh at ones self and at society as a whole- Yes, I Love Lucy was so much more than a funny show, it was groundbreaking, and all those things are not even taking into account what it did for people of color as a visible non threatening presence in the media, behind and in front of the camera. Lucille Ball, like Iggy Pop and many other absurdly famous celebrities are so overrated and loved that as a result become underrated. The weight and validity of her intelligence and foresight into the future is hugely missed by a line of chocolate Bon Bon's running down a conveyor belt. Granted that shit is pretty funny, but there was so much more going on than just some hearty yuks (the episode in which they rip the fashion industry is a masterpiece!). And perhaps that was the genius of Lucille Ball, she planted those seeds without us even knowing she was wearing gardeners gloves. That is real change, the kind that matters.
But alas this post is not solely bout' Lucy, but rather about Ethel Mertz, thats right, as the mother of that young child in front of the TV, my mom noticed that I, yes, loved Lucy. And wouldn't you know, she did too. It was something we still share. Moms favorite lady however was not Lucy but Vivian Vance, who she spoke of with the sort of awe and admiration she used when speaking of Eleanor Roosevelt, Pyramids, Architecture, landscaping and Disneyland. To her Ethel was IT, the glue, the piece that made the whole thing stay together. She was the underdog, the true unsung hero of I Love Lucy- and because of this intense scrutiny I also inherited a deep love for Vivian Vance- and underdogs and unsung heroes of all walks of life. In truth, I've always sort of despised the winner, I don't want to party with the winner, I want to have coffee and conversation with the runner up, imagine the things they have to say, and imagine the fight they have to keep going. Infinitely more complex and fascinating. The winner is always smiling, but the runner up is walking uphill blind, the sun always in their eyes.
This post is for Ethel Mertz. (I threw in some Lucy for good measure too!)