The one about flip floppers

We are gearing up for an election cycle sooner than ever before. Last night the Iowa Caucus happened and the pundits on TV are going crazy about what it means that Mitt Romney won by only 8 points and blah blah blah I’m already exhausted. I’m going to try to stay out of the whole politics thing for awhile because frankly January is too early for me to start caring about the November election. However, I do want to comment on one aspect of politics I saw in action today. John McCain has come out in support of Mitt Romney. ABC News was interviewing McCain about the endorsement and mentioned the zinger he had for Romney 4 years ago when they were both competing for the Republican nomination. McCain called Romney “the candidate for change” meaning he changed his mind on many issues during his political career. The reporter asked McCain why that didn’t matter to him now.  There was a definite sarcastic implication in pointing out McCain’s “hypocrisy” in changing his mind on Mitt Romney changing HIS mind. (confused yet??)

Now I am not writing this to speak about whether Mitt Romney changes his policies based on what will get him elected because frankly I haven’t studied him enough to know if that is true. What I do want to speak about is this idea that during an election year the go to insult from opponents, and even the news media, is to call someone a “flip flopper” and accuse them of always changing their mind. Obviously politiciains change their mind based on public perception. That is not really up for debate. But does it happen as often as we like to say it does? Why is changing your mind a bad thing? For once I would like to hear a politician say “you know I used to think this way about a situation, but after I was presented with more information from people who knew a bit more about the subject, I’ve decided to adust my views.” To me, taking a position and never being open to changing your mind about it is just foolish, and not a quality I would want in a leader.

What’s that you say? You want a personal example? Well ok! A few months ago there was a facebook chain status floating around talking about how Florida was going to pass a law requring that those who wanted to receive their welfare checks would have to pass a drug test first. The chain status was one those “support this by copying and pasting it as your own status” because we all know laws get changed when a bunch of people change their facebook status’ to something. (riiiight) Anyway I thought it was a decent idea. I mean the welfare system is definitely broken and maybe this would have been a good way to fix it. I mentioned it to my mother and what she had to say made me pause. She pointed out that the children of those people on welfare had done nothing to deserve not receiving the money that helps them live. The 6 year old daughter of a drug addicted woman in Florida can’t stop her mother from taking drugs. What about her? What can we do to protect that 6 year old girl while also making sure people do not take advantage of a system that is, frankly, pretty easy to to take advantage of? My mom said maybe Florida could make the welfare money come as coupons that can be used only at certain stores. This way money isn’t being wasted but those who are innocent are not being punished.

After that conversation I changed my mind. Does that make me a flip flopper? How is getting more information and changing your mind based on that information a bad thing? Holding stubbornly to one opinion without doing research on it seems to show an unwillingness to compromise that concerns me. Isn’t it possible, that with my imperfect human mind, I could be wrong about something? Is being open to that possibility bad? Does that make me a “bad Christian?” To that I would say no. Didn’t Jesus when He walked on this earth shake up the status quo of all those that He met? People walked away from him thinking differently than they had before.

“You have heard that it was said ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy’, but I tell you love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”

“You have heard ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I tell you do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.”

“The greatest commandment is ‘love the Lord your God with all of your heart, with all of your soul, with all of your mind, and all your strength.’ And the second is like it. ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'”

Those that followed Jesus were the original flip floppers…and I’m proud to be in their ranks.

Jump Right In (the one about Parks and Rec)

Let’s get one thing straight right off the bat. I love to write, and I love to talk. I love to do both of these things in detail on pretty much any subject. I’m sure this is not surprising to those of you reading this since any followers I do have at this point are people I already know. But here’s the thing, with the writing and the talking. The whole introduction or smooth conversational transition to what I want to talk about? yeah I’m not so great at that. So when I sat down to write my very first blog post my first thought was not “what am I going to write about” but rather “how am I going to write an introduction post?”After much thought (let’s be real it was like 10 seconds of thought) I decided I wouldn’t write one at all.  Instead I’m just going to jump right in (ahh the clever reiterating the title of your blog in the blog trick!) and write about a topic I really love…television.

If you follow me on facebook (and I hope you do) chances are on any given Thursday night you will see a post from me gushing about how much I love the show Parks and Recreation. Parks and Rec is a show created by Greg Daniels and Mike Schur (they also created The Office) starring Amy Poehler. It follows a woman in local government named Leslie Knope (Poehler) who is the deputy director of the Parks and Recreation Department in Pawnee Indiana. What started as an Office like comedy that I didn’t even watch in Season One has slowly evolved into the sweetest/funniest/warmest show on television in the fourth season. Seriously if you aren’t watching this show stop reading right now and go catch up with it (seasons 1-3 are on Netflix instant) and then come back to continue reading. Parks and Rec also boasts the best portrayal of female friendship I have ever seen on television. No I’m not being hyperbolic. It’s true.

I watch a lot of tv. Most of the female friendships on tv suffer from 2 main problems. One is what I call the tell and not show problem. Think of the show Gilmore Girls (a show I also LOVE by the way so no mean comments). Rory is supposed to best friends with Lane and in the first season, sure I could buy that, (although the friendship in that season did suffer from the second main problem which I’ll get to in a minute). However, by the end of the series could we really call what those girls had a friendship? We had hardly any scenes where Rory would tell Lane what was going on in her life and most of the ways we saw Lane’s life change were almost completely separate from Rory’s story-lines.  And yet the show kept having characters hammer home how these two girls were “best friends” and so close, and shared everything. Really? Because I talk to my best friends almost everyday. If AJ didn’t hear from my own mouth I bungee jumped off a bridge wearing early 19th century clothing holding hands with a cute boy who wasn’t my current boyfriend she would have a conniption                      “Before we jump Logan, I have to call Lane!”

This tell and not show problem effects many shows, some I watch and love and some that I casually view. (here’s just a brief list off the top of my head: Summer and Marissa on The OC, Elena and Bonnie on The Vampire Diaries, Blair and Serena on Gossip Girl, Beckett and Lanie on Castle, in the later seasons Lily and Robin on How I Met Your Mother, and all the girls from Friends) That is just a brief list. I’m sure there are more.

The second issue most shows have with portraying female friendship is summed up with the phrase The Bechdel Test. This is a test where you see if any popular entertainment has more than one women in the cast that could be called leads. The next question is does this show put these two women in a scene together? The final question is do these women talk about anything other than the men in their lives while in that scene? If the answer to any of these questions is no the medium in question has failed the Bechdel Test. Just look at the brief list I made in the last paragraph and if you watched any of those shows try to remember some of those women’s scenes. How many of them would pass the last question in the Bechdel test? Honestly? very few. Early seasons of Lily and Robin I think pass, and I guess Lanie and Beckett do sometimes although honestly the times they aren’t talking about their relationships is time they are talking about whatever case on which they are working. But going back to Lane and Rory, even in season one most of their scenes revolved around Rory liking Dean and Lane trying to go on dates with non Korean boys without her mother finding out.

I’m not going to pretend that when I get together with my friends we don’t talk about men. We absolutely do. However, I feel pretty confident in saying that more of our conversations cover things besides the men that walk in and out of our lives. We talk about books, tv, politics, music, and our jobs. Television does a disservice to us when it portrays what is supposed to be a representation of our deepest friendships as an hour long discussion about what a man said to us right before we met up. That’s why Parks and Rec is such a wonderful show (see it came back around).

Leslie Knope is best friends with Ann Perkins (played by Rashida Jones). Until season 3 Leslie did not have a boyfriend that was long term enough to be more than a guest star. Ann was the most important interpersonal relationship in her life. Their scenes together are warm and lovely. They talk about work pressure, their friendship, and yes relationships. But the relationships part is just that, one part of their deep friendship and love they have for each other. When I watch their scenes I could be watching a conversation I had with anyone of my close friends. And what is truly the best part? The show makes no comment about their friendship being so special. It is presented as what it is…normal.

See? How cute are they!

Even when Leslie began a serious relationship with someone her friendship with Ann was still a huge priority in her life. Most shows present how the main character’s best friend fits into the relationship begun between the male and female leads. Parks and Rec has Ben Wyatt (played by the oh so handsome Adam Scott) reach out to Ann to help fix a fight she has had with Leslie. He knows that the best way to make the girl he likes happy is to be a support in her friendships. This should not be groundbreaking television, but it is! In how many shows have we seen a girl start dating a guy and immediately the number of scenes with the best friend decrease significantly? And even when they are in the same scene the discussion is all about the lead’s relationship!

My point in all of this? (sorry to be so long winded) Parks and Recreation does not have the highest ratings. While it is critically adored it’s numbers are never very high. I wish more women would get behind shows like this and not watch other crap that presents us in a much more shallow light. I hope that someday a strong well written female friendship will be the norm on network television. I think one way that this can happen is by shows like Parks and Rec having success. So, if you watch the show, keep watching, and tell a friend to watch too. If you don’t watch start watching! Let’s support healthy portrayals of women on television. God knows there are enough unhealthy ones out there to last us a lifetime.

End note: Here are some of my healthy female friendships. Love you girls!