I loved “The Waltons” and the original Christmas special “Homecoming” based on the story written by Earl Hamner, Jr. You can take a peek at the orginal written work here.
The Waltons were a lot like the Crandells
I didn’t grow up during The Great Depression like the Waltons did. Still, Mom and Dad carried the frugality they learned during that time. With nine children, they had plenty of reasons to be thrifty.
The Walton children bickered over silly things. They dreamed about Christmas by wearing out the pages of the Sears Robuck catalog. They wore coats with frayed cuffs and their jeans patched jeans. And sometimes, they had a hole in their jeans or shoes. They had chores to do in a cold barn. They helped out in the kitchen. They drove an old, somewhat undependable car (or was it a truck.) Mom repurposed old clothes into new clothes or quilts.
Those are all things the Crandells knew.
I don’t think the new Waltons grew up during the Great Depression.
Their clothes look brand, spanking new; not even a worn knee. Even the bedspreads looked store-new. The family car looks like it came right out of the showroom. They did bicker a bit and they carried dreams of a wonderful Christmas. The boys had barn chores, but even those seemed sanitized and easy.
Times are/were hard.
Dad once told me that we should stop romanticizing The Great Depression. “It was hard. It wasn’t fun,” he said. To be fair, he and his brothers did seem to have a lot of fun. So did Mom’s.
Still, I understand what he meant. Times are pretty darned hard for many people right now. Parents work two jobs for low wages. Folk can’t afford the basic necessities. Food pantry patrons are at an all-time high.
I wonder what the new version of the Waltons’ hardship communicates to people today.
I remember seeing this disparity with “Roseann” and “Good Times.” In those shows, the families struggled, but their possessions didn’t show it. No one had clothes too big or too small. No one had baskets of laundry waiting to be folded because the parents hardly had time to fix dinner before it was time to help with homework.
That got me thinking about the difference between what we hear or read and what we see.
When we hear or read the story of the Waltons, it’s easy to imagine the people in the story with resources just like ours or less because they are struggling more than we are. We don’t imagine they are better off than we are, with nicer clothes and homes; with brand-new furniture, and with a car that’s not overdue for an oil change.
Does this lead people to feel more disenfrancized? More separated from people with haves? Less able to cope?
I know it’s just a TV show. Still, the network billed “The Homecoming” as a Christmas special to bring hope in these uncertain times. Did it?