More Honest Stories
Posted on 18 July 2013
I am a great fan of Adam Hills. He is a brilliant comedian and consummate television host. I’ve been enjoying his current show Adam Hills Tonight. On last night’s show he decided to interview a number of people who had been married for a significant length of time.
This was meant to be a feel-good segment. He hoped to share with the world an image of what it could be at its best. I believe in what he was trying to do. However, such an image doesn’t help if it reinforces feel-good propaganda, rather than digging deeper and grappling with the truth in a compassionate manner.
Comedian Peter Hellier was on the same night. He spoke a little about how his parents fought. He then looked nervous when the interview included his parents. His parents also looked nervous and gave very careful answers. They were on TV and of course they wanted to be seen at their best.
If you look at the statistics in Britain, the US, and Australia, at the moment women who divorce their partners mid-life, around half of them will subsequently find themselves living below the poverty line. So when Gran and Gramps have a marriage that lasts more than fifty years, they may not be together out of love. Gran may be terrified of facing poverty and Gramps may be frightened of losing contact with the kids. There’s a reason so many people make the joke, “A prison sentence would have been shorter than this marriage.”
In front of a camera or under the scrutiny of an interview, people will play at happy families. They will put a brave face on and pretend everything is all right, because they don’t want to be judged. I dislike public marriage proposals for the same reason. A young woman doesn’t want to look like a bitch when her boyfriend has gone to such trouble to put on a show. She says “yes” when she wants to say “no” and thereby imprisons herself.
I love the fact that Adam expects only the best from people when he asks his questions. But some of his questions are charged. Some are likely to make people feel more isolated than ever. They don’t fit the ideal norm and they have been made to publicly dissemble.
A comedian can argue, no one forced them to do this. I would say, imagine for a moment what it would be like in their shoes. These are people who are particularly vulnerable to peer pressure and public perception. These people want to feel special, so they want to answer your questions. They will say what they need to in order to avoid consequences, but sometimes there still are consequences, emotional consequences if they felt the need to lie.
When people stay together for a long time out of love, that is wonderful. When people find the means and self respect to raise beautiful children on their own, that is wonderful. When someone remains unmarried, but goes out of their way to help the community, that is wonderful. So many other ways of being are wonderful. So many other stories are wonderful. Our culture has a tendency to focus on just one or two, then marginalise everyone who doesn’t fit.
Comedians are in an ideal position to tell and show these other stories. Let’s do it. Take a moment to look past the fairytales at real human beings and see the many many ways in which love and light and joy still shine through in unexpected places. Getting overly focused on the fairytales can create deep cynicism when people discover they can’t live them. The answer is we need better, more honest stories.
Peace and kindness,