Tuesday, January 27, 2015

How 'Cougar Town' Restored My Faith in Comedy

As the parent of a young adult with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, I'll admit, I can be pretty humorless about the topic of alcohol use during pregnancy. I have no patience for anyone who wants to split hairs. This is a 100 percent preventable birth defect. We know exactly how to avoid it. News reports about how maybe this much is okay, maybe that much is okay, just make steam come out of my ears. You might be able to smash your baby's head against the wall a few times before causing permanent brain damage too, but why in the world would you?

Still, our society and our entertainment is pretty heavily invested in the idea that abstaining from drink is a fate worse than death. That's certainly the worldview of Cougar Town, a show that revolves around a group of friends in a Florida cul-de-sac whose most common communal pastime is polishing off bottles of wine. Jokes have revolved around the size of the container Courteney Cox's character uses as a wineglass. Funny jokes. I love the show, despite the fact that I gave up alcohol not too long after adopting my son when it became tough to relax and enjoy a substance that broke my kid's brain. (It's not like I was ever much of a drinker anyway. The line between feeling good and feeling sick was always pretty thin. No way could I keep up with the cul-de-sac crew.)

Cougar Town is one of those rare good-natured comedies — like Parks and Recreation — that just leaves me feeling happy, like I've spent some good time with fun friends. But I'll admit, I was worried when at the end of last season, one of the wine-swilling characters turned out to be pregnant. I wasn't looking for the show to turn into a crusade against drinking during pregnancy or anything; it's not that kind of show, and shouldn't be. But these are characters one might reasonably expect to be among the hair-splitters on the topic of fetal alcohol exposure. If the season resumed with Laurie explaining how she had determined how many glasses of wine she could safely swig, or grandma-to-be Jules laughing about how she drank when she was pregnant and her son turned out OK, I'd never be able to watch the show again, or with the same pleasure. And I would miss it.

So huge thanks and kudos to the Cougar Town writers for, in the usual amiable way of the show, just ambling right around the issue. The season picked up with Laurie late in pregnancy and lamenting her inability to drink. Her friends tried abstaining with her and were unable to, but there was no suggestion that she should join in (or preaching that she shouldn't). In the second episode, she had the baby, keeping this from being a season-long concern. Maybe I should worry about whether she's going to drink while breast-feeding, but you know what? I'm going to let that slide.

I'm just going to be happy that, at a time when those with serious concerns about special needs are regularly admonished not to hold comedy to any standards at all, Cougar Town has shown that you can avoid issue-baiting and still be funny. Turns out it's not that hard to avoid pissing people off.

[I also talked about this on the Parenting Roundabout Podcast: Round 2 this week, along with Snowpocalypse, the Super Bowl, Oscar scheduling, and books I may or may not have read. Listen in, and subscribe on iTunes for weekly episodes on parenting and entertainment.]

Monday, January 06, 2014

Brain Damage Does Not Make for Fun Link Bait. No. It Does Not.

Well, I made myself a New Year's Resolution this year that I wouldn't let myself get all furious and grumbly and foot-stomping about stuff I read on the Internet, and I was doing pretty well until this afternoon, when I came upon this on my Google+ feed:



And that's when the top of my head blew off. Steam out of the ears. It's hard to imagine a post so thoroughly designed to turn my outrage knob to 11. I shared it and added this comment:
OMG, are they kidding me? Is it April Fool's Day already? Drink alcohol during pregnancy to guarantee yourself a well-behaved kid? I think those of us raising kiddos with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder would beg to differ. This is an incredibly irresponsible way to report on a "study" that basically involved asking moms if their kids are well-behaved. Based on that, you feel comfortable saying "Attention Pregnant Women. Want well behaved kids? Maybe you should pick up that bottle of wine," CBS Atlanta? Shame on you!
and took a bunch of deep breaths, but ... GAH! Bad enough the study was done, bad enough it's reported on misleadingly, bad enough the headline completely misrepresents, but whoever is responsible for the message that accompanied it on Google+ needs some serious education on FASD and what it means and why it's really really really not OK to turn this into a flip little "Hey moms!" link-bait come-on.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Games for My Friend, the King of New Jersey

These links to games on the Internet are listed here for V.M., but anyone else who wants to follow them to somewhere fun is welcome to.

Friday, July 26, 2013

The Truth, and Nothing But the ... Wait, What?: I'm having my head spun around this week by a couple of kids with fetal alcohol syndrome and the sort of fluid relationship they have with the truth. One I've caught in a relatively harmless lie, but it puts into question whether any of the stories she's told are real. (Many I would be happy to find out are not.) The other changes stories so quickly when challenged that it's impossible to know how to follow up -- I've sent him with instructions before to make something right only to find out there was never anything wrong. A fun thing about the "crazy lying" kids with FASD do is that, while their peers might lie to get themselves out of trouble for which they're responsible, these kids lie in a way that gets them into trouble they had nothing to do with, so it's impossible to know the right reaction. If I could be sure there was one cold hard truth I could get to with questioning, that would be great, but that particular ice cube has melted, and the kid holding it in his hand doesn't even remember what shape it used to have.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Blue-Light Special: I've definitely been reading too much give and take this month about Autism Awareness vs. Autism Acceptance, blue lights as awareness-raising vs. blue lights as a small ridiculous gesture, because when I saw the Disability Scoop headline Neighbors Clash Over Blue Light Supporting Autism this morning, I automatically thought it was an ideological clash between two families of children with autism who approached advocacy differently. But no, it was just a nitpicky neighbor thinking a blue light on the garage looked tacky. Maybe I need to lay off with the special-needs-news reading for a while.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Parenting Fail: Having one of those depressed days where I'm unsure whether I'm making the right choices for one of my kids, and wishing that the line between pushing too hard and not pushing hard enough was painted in neon and had flashing lights and arrows so you could find the dang thing. Especially for kids with FASD, it's just so hard to know whether apparent potential is real, and a worthwhile goal, or just a mirage to pursue at everyone's peril. Sigh. Tomorrow is another day, and fall is another semester.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

You Almost Have to Admire the Creativity: Earlier this week I wrote about spam on the Readers Respond forms on my About.com site, which appeared to be responses stolen from other spots on the Web and spam-botted around to new destinations. I'm getting a lot of spam blog comments, too, but those are different -- where the Readers Respond spam tries to sneak in looking like a legitimate entry, comment spam goes with flat-out flattery. Sad that the some of the nicest feedback I get on my work in a given week are these "Wow you are so brilliant why isn't everybody coming here and reading this" comments that just sort of sneak in the link for weight loss or Gucci bags or Viagra as if it was a small price to pay for such extravagant praise. Does this really work? Do bloggers not notice that that ten comments in a row on what a nice layout they have are bogus? Do they take at face value the requests to chat about how to combat spam by comments that are spam? Are they just so happy to get comments that aren't mean and nasty and fight-picking that they go ahead and let the false flattery stand? It's tempting.