130. Lucy, Murphy, and Reality

In the 1950’s, Lucy got pregnant. Desi was the father, and he was married to her. He had been for quite a while. But still, it was a scandal. I was a child, and I didn’t understand the scandal. I remember thinking pregnancy was some kind of disease you got by doing something nice people didn’t do. I resolved that I was never going to get pregnant, and it could be said that in a way, I never really have.
Later, I learned that there were people who had gotten pregnant even before Lucy had. Even my own mother had been pregnant. More than once. I figured that if my own mother could do it, it couldn’t be as bad as people seemed to think. Much later, Murphy Brown wanted a baby, and got pregnant. There was no Desi. She wanted to be a mother, and she had no Desi, Ozzie, or anyone to be the father. The social forces that had made getting married less of a priority for many people had not had a corresponding impact on people’s desire to reproduce. The phrase “family values” was thrown around, and there was an attempt to make it into a scandal on a par with the Lucy/Desi scandal.
But I don’t think the scandal ever quite materialized. Commercial television is supposed to sell
products, and even though many products get sold through manipulation of culture, when there is a controversial issue at hand, it’s often a safer bet to reflect culture. You can’t go around telling people their lives aren’t legitimate. My point is that just as Lucy was far from the first person to be pregnant, Murphy was not the first to decide that having a baby was an important enough priority for her to do it the hard way if the easier way didn’t seem to be available.
I think that we, as a culture, are headed for big trouble if we cling to old “family values” so hard that we ignore reality. We’ve got to become more of a supportive culture. There are lots of single parents in our culture – some by choice, some not – and we’ve got to make decisions with that reality in mind. We’ve got to think more about valuing families and less about the abstraction labelled “family values.” Sorry, Dan.

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