Tuesday, October 20, 2009

A.B.C. Wife Swap

Today I sat through an entire episode of A.B.C.'s Wife Swap show. The episode I watched turned out to be a rerun. The actual episode was episode 6 of season 4-- Kim and Randall Beckman-Heskett vs. Lee-Ann and Christopher Childs. The guide describing the two families can be found at:

Basically, the show goes for drama (as much of unreal "reality" teevee does). The paired up families are frequently polar-opposites in parenting styles as well as in values. Randall is a stay-at-home dad with a strong background in theology who likes to sing fundamentalist religious rounds in an off-beat way. Wife Kim is a C.E.O., kids Allison and Hannah are "regular kids," the family is liberal. I believe that "Lutheran" was specifically mentioned but I am not entirely sure of that.

Christopher refers to himself as the gatekeeper of his family (odd how that particular term is also used in a very witchy context, although the meaning of course is a bit different). He works. Lee-Ann is a stay-at-home mother who homeschools her six kids-- five girls and one boy. The boy does manly chores involving garbage and lawn-mowing. The girls are being trained up to be good fundamentalist christian housewifes. There is an emphasis on cheerful service as well as a firm belief that their god will bypass the whole dating scene and just sort of reveal the girls' future intended husbands to them. The middle girl wants to be a medical doctor and cannot understand why she cannot combine her dream with marriage and raising a family.

Kim talks to the middle child about her dream and assures her that it is possible to have a career and a family too. Kim stares in obvious disbelief as the the two older girls and the one boy explain that their god will just drop their mates upon them. They don't want to date and they like the feeling of "being sheltered." Middle child is whisked away to safety by the god-fearing dad as the girls scuttle around doing chores cheerfully.

Lee-Ann and Randall get into theological tiffs. She does not have the background, knowledge, or proficiency with languages that Randall has. In the show, he soundly trumps her several times and she appears "silly" in her sincerely held beliefs. By far the most disturbing thing to me was when Lee-Ann had the two Beckman-Heskett girls write out vows concerning dating (or rather not dating). These "vows" were forced upon the two girls. When mother Kim returns home, she spends an evening with the two girls undoing the "vows" which they had been pressured to write out.

I found this particular show to be offensive on several levels. In the United States, since children do not have the right to choose their own religion (especially without parental consent), parents get to raise their kids in the fashion that they choose to. Forcing two 12 year olds to record fake assurances that they will remain chaste (virginal) until marriage etc was upsetting to me. On the other hand, it was more than likely wrong for Kim to impose her views of happy slavery and life options on middle fundy daughter. That did not upset me nearly as much. I suppose that exposes my own bias. If there is any truth to this episode, I suspect the battle for middle daughter's future lifestyle to line up in accordance with literalist biblical ideology has already been lost long before the television crews showed up.

sapphoq reviews says: One complete episode of the show "Wife Swap" was more than enough for me. A big YUCK.