Friday, March 16, 2012

"Who Do You Think You Are?": Jerome Bettis

Like how I'm waiting a whole week to post about these episodes? Way to stay current...

I actually don't have that many thoughts about this episode of WDYTYA. Two things in particular struck me, one good and one bad: when Jerome Bettis discovered his great-grandfather had abandoned his wife and young children, and that's why his grandfather didn't know much about him or never really talked about him, it was a little heartbreaking. It started out like Kim Cattrall's search for her grandfather, which didn't have a happy ending. But then Bettis searched for his great-grandfather's early history and discovered that he had pressed charges against his (white) boss in the Jim Crow south and brought him to court and - poof! - like magic, the guy was no longer a scoundrel, he was a hero. That disturbed me a little, that Bettis so quickly and easily forgot or chose to ignore that this man, while yes, was brave in standing up for himself in his youth, grew up to be a man who completely abandoned his family. Bettis kept saying how proud he was of him and that kind of bothered me.

What didn't bother me was his great-grandfather's father's story of not only taking a giant railroad company to court for injuries he incurred on their property, but for the case going in his favor, despite the all-white jury. That was impressive - that he had the courage to embrace that David and Goliath fight, but also that he got a fair trial. Yes, there was a lot of racism and hate and segregation and ignorance and all that jazz, but people forget (like Bettis seemed to) that there were also a lot of people who believed in equality, and even if they didn't necessarily believe in equality, they believed in fairness and justice.

Anyway, this episode kind of made me realize that while the original series has been broadcasting in the UK for years, that after awhile, the episodes start to feel repetitive. Unless it's a celebrity you're particularly interested in or like, or there's a real unique angle, the nuts and bolts of everyone's family story are the same. Although I guess you don't really know what surprises or unique angles you're going to find until you already start looking.

 I'd like to see some diversity in the storytelling - except for Sarah Jessica Parker, we haven't really seen anybody trace their family west of the Mississippi River; if I'm correct we haven't really seen any Eastern European genealogy except for Lisa Kudrow. What about all those Canadian and Australian actors out there? I'd love to see some Canadian and Australian genealogy. And I know this would be much more work for the researchers and possibly not fiscally feasible given the number of staff and time restrictions, but what about branching out from the white/black divide to our Central/South American and Asian brothers and sisters? These are the things I think about when I'm at work...

There's no new episode tonight, so don't sit there looking for it...go out and get a head start on celebrating St. Patrick's Day! I am half Irish by blood, but as I always say, we're all Irish on St. Patrick's Day! ;)

Enjoy your weekend, everyone!

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