IF YOU'VE NOT SEEN LAST NIGHT'S EPISODE of "MAD MEN", SPOILER ALERT!
Last year, when "Mad Men" 's Don & Betty Draper's little girl, Sally, became so attached to Betty's father, the dottering, senile old grandpa(it was hinted that he might be stricken with what we would now label advanced Alzheimer's) who loved to have the little girl join him at night, as she read "The History of the Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire", I suspected this series might step into the area I've long said needs to be explored. Since 1998, I've been saying:
"I think a television series should broach a subject long overdue, in weekly television: a beloved member of an intact, good, seeemingly "perfect" family, commits sexual abuse on a child--and if the show does it corrrectly it should be UNSEEN/UNKNOWN to the audience, so that when it is revealed(by a child "acting-out" or acting up, or simply telling someone), the audience will feel the same sense of shock, disbelief, denial....and eventually, betrayal, that the family itself feels."
The friends I shared this with, said "Why don't YOU write it, Lisa? Write it."
I even came up with possible titles,"A Good Family", "Relatively Speaking", etc...
I told one dear friend, Ellen L., to feel free to share it, because I felt sure I'd never write it, perhaps because I'd never written for tv, and also, because I felt tremendous pain at writing about something about which I unfortunately have first-hand knowledge.
Why do I think this subject matter should be brought out, through episodes on a weekly t.v. series? Because it can HELP. By definition, a regular T.V. series allows us to become "attached" to favorite characters, people who are loving, but of course, like all of us, very flawed. In seeing deception and dysfunction of the most egregious, aberrant kind(trusted relatives and friends,sexually abusing children) on t.v., we will be able to see our own lives, less-filtered, too, and perhaps identify a problem within our own families, before it spins out of control.
In "Mad Men", little Sally has suffered grief(very understandable, and normal) after Grandpa dies. And has acted up, becoming visibly aggressive and rambunctious with her baby brother. After her parents'divorce, and Betty's remarriage, we see her "sass" her impatient, un-yielding mother, trash her own dolls, and last night, we saw the results of other reckless behavior by an uncomfortable, tense, 10-year-old child: a short, hatchet-y haircut she performed on herself, in the confines of a bathroom, unbeknownst to the babysitter, (while her father, Don was absent, busy with a hot date)claiming, when what she has done, has been discovered, "You have short hair, and Daddy likes you..."(Sally incorrectly assumes her Daddy is dating the babysitter).
We see her at an "overnight" at a friend's. Sitting on a sofa, her friend sitting next to her, only a few feet away, we see Sally, still uncomfortable, tense, and intense, staring at a screen where two men are bound, unable to escape(I believe a shot from "The Prisoner" a 1960's tv series), and we see her legs part slightly, and then the camera quickly cuts to her face, and we see her eyes narrow, as her hand reaches down to...and suddenly, an adult enters the room. The mother of her friend(the female friend is still staring straight ahead at the t.v.)screams, "What are you doing?" and separates the two friends,insisting Sally leave. One quick phone call to Betty, "I'd rather not discuss this on the phone.." and then "I caught her...playing with herself..." delivered to Betty, in-person, is the jolt that sends Betty and her new hubby clamoring for a psychiatrist.
I went online to see if anyone else has thought what I'm thinking, but everyone else is talking about Sally (she's only 10, people!)and her "sexual awakening".
Here's where I think the storyline is going:
It will be revealed that Grandpa molested her(Even though molestation was never even hinted at, there were other boundary violations.Like letting Sally drive his car--at age 8 or 9!), and/or someone else is molesting her (perhaps the slightly older boy down the street, whose behavior is odd, and controlling, and stalker-like?).Of course, the therapist will very likely assume Betty's new husband is the offender, even though he suggested to Betty, a psychiatrist for Sally.
This season is really heating up, and is taking the show where I previously believed only someone like Alan ("Six Feet Under") Ball could take any series.
He would've been my choice to write and direct my "A Good Family", had it ever been written, and become a series...
Kudos to Kiernan Shipka, who portrays Sally Draper. She has a mature, nuanced manner, and is a highly skilled actress.
Peace to anyone out there, who's been abused by a family member, extended family-member, or "friend" of the family.There is hope, and help, available.