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10/18/2011

Concerned Women for [Divorce-and-Remarriage as 'Traditional Family' ideal]

by Jeremy Hooper

6A00D8341C503453Ef0128765B2301970C-1Janice Crouse, the Concerned Women For America spokesperson who routinely knocks LGBT people and families for not fitting her image of acceptability, is bemoaning the changing family form in general:

...[T]hese days, as conventional wisdom is increasingly convoluted, it isn’t surprising that many have rejected the order of romance first, marriage second, and finally childbearing, instead creating their own rules of the game. Indeed, gone are the days of Brady Brunch families and June Cleaver-style households; they have morphed into ABC’s “Modern Family“ — a show promoted as “redefining what family means,” and portrayed as “one big straight-gay, multicultural, traditional, happy family.” Hence, every day it seems, a new tide of case studies surfaces on the shores of our Hollywood-esque world of hook-ups, shack-ups, babydaddys, and baby mommas, attempting to prove how “liberated” we are, unbound by the shackles of tradition.

But here's what really gets me about this. Note the first image that Crouse evokes in order to convey family wholesomeness. Before even June "I vacuum in high heels" Cleaver, Crouse turns to the bellbottomed Brady clan. Which okay, makes sense in one respect, as that certainly was a functional TV family whose backyard potato sack races seemed as cozy as they did corny. But the fact of the matter is that the Bradys, as written, were far from CWA's perfect family picture. Consider:

Sherwood Schwartz, the series' creator, has given numerous interviews in which he has said that Mike was originally created as a widower and that Carol was supposed to be divorced. However, when ABC refused to allow Carol to be described as divorced Schwartz said he made all references to her previous marriage deliberately vague. Schwartz also has said that he always considered Carol divorced.
Top 10 Questions About The Brady Bunch [Encyclopedia of Brady]

Few people know that Carol was meant to be divorced, since it would be years before any TV character in possession of such a past was allowed to emote before the cameras. A controversy that leads precisely to my point here: That "The Brady Bunch," in its premiere year of 1969, would've been seen as very radical by many. Groups like CWA would have been on the fVery-Brady-Weddingront lines decrying the lovely lady who walked away from the man who fathered her three very lovely, golden-haired girls, had "religious right" special interests groups been de rigueur during the Brady's day.

And it's not only Carol: Many evangelicals would have condemned patriarch Mike Brady for marrying a divorced woman, as many committed Christians see this as adultery. And actually, I don't even know why I'm putting any of this in the past tense, since large swaths of CWA's supporter base would still see this family setup as unbiblical.

But for Crouse, here in 2011, where she has a more "Modern Family" structure to knock, the Bradys have become the nostalgic throwback. Unwittingly, Crouse is helping our cause, not her own, as her impulse glorification shows how ever-shifting the "traditional family" structure truly is. What would have been seen as "radical" to a majority in 1969 is now the aspirational structure for a 21st century "traditional marriage" advocate. What would have been condemned with a biblical basis is now earning credence from someone who leads with the same. What would have earned a "Concerned Women" pockmark in '69 is earning the seal of approval in '11. "Traditional family" = a belied limitation.

This only tells me that, come 2053, Mitch, Cam, and Lily will be on the religious right's pedestal, positioned as a family that works. As they should be.

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