Netflix Saved Me in 2017

This year, it feels safe to say, has been a real humdinger.  I have taken to my bed and my Netflix on a fairly regular basis.  My husband can attest to that. Soft pants and quality entertainment FTW!  I am grateful the subscription service has come through for me, time and time again, and for so much less than cable at that.


  • When I don’t understand the politics of dear friends or family or neighbors, there is “House of Cards” to help me feel less alone (but away with you, Kevin Spacey.  Robin Wright is going to take it home from here.).
  • When the budget at my son’s public school got slashed again and again and again, there was “Stranger Things” to keep me company.
  • When the anxiety and hardship of putting my Dad’s financial estate to rest were a bit much, I clicked on “The Crown” to remind myself that all families have struggles.
  • When the reality that the majority of white women were comfortable voting for men accused of pedophilia (if they had an R after their name) hit home not once, but twice, well, “Dear White People” and “Master of None” helped me get more woke.
  • When the tragedy of mass shootings became humdrum and National Parks came under fire, “Godless” helped reinforce why I really and truly don’t like guns and why I love and value and visit our national park lands.

The $6 billion investment Netflix made in original programming and the 1,000 hours of original content it provided was so appreciated and, well, it turns out a necessary tool for coping with a world that feels increasingly chaotic and scary and unrecognizable to me.  I needed escapism and entertainment to numb me.  Netflix is a lot cheaper than a therapist and less worrisome than drugs or alcohol.  It’s been a good alternative to the doom and gloom of social media and too many articles about the end of the world.

You can find a list of most of the original series from 2017 at Netflix HERE, and while I don’t agree with the rankings, it’s handy to have the offerings in one place for reference.  My favorites, in addition to the series listed above, include:

  • “Mindhunter” – a show about the FBI’s first profiler of serial killers;
  • “Orange Is the New Black” – women’s prison never looked so hip;
  • “The Keepers” – if you like true crime, this is your go to.  It is a documentary about the murder of a nun in 1960s Baltimore;
  • “Glow” – 1980s women wrestling.  Need I say more?
  • “Ozark” – Justin Bateman caught looking less wholesome than he normally does.  So good.
  • “Narcos” – a crime show about the rise and fall of Columbia’s notorious Pablo Escobar.
  • “The Fall”  – sexy, creepy, captivating.

Full disclosure, I really didn’t like “The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” and was underwhelmed with “Bloodline” and while “13 Reasons Why” was watchable, I found it’s glorification of teen suicide highly irresponsible.    Pffft.  Mistakes happen.  And, more truth, there are lots of shows available that I simply haven’t gotten to.  Yet.  Oh!  And how could I forget the content Netflix runs that was produced by another outlet?  Do not miss “Halt and Catch Fire” or “Being Mary Jane” — seriously.

So, thank you, Netflix, for saving my sanity.  You are like a cup of hot cocoa in January and a cool breeze in August.  You made my life better this year, and in 2017, that counts for something.

No Wonder I Am a Feminist

Being a 47 year old American woman means that I grew up watching Wonder Woman, Lynda Carter style.  That gal flew around in her invisible airplane and lassoed up all the bad guys and villains in her path.  She was a bicentennial bitch of the highest order, badass and gorgeous, resplendent in her red, white, and blue.

When you are a five and six and seven and eight year old girl and turn on the teevee every week to watch shows with women kicking ass and taking names, well, it’s safe to assume where my feminist beliefs had their roots.

Charlie’s Angels and the Bionic Woman and Mary Tyler Moore and yes, Wonder Woman all represented to me that women were perfectly capable of keeping the world safe and good and informed and gorgeous, too.


As an adult now, and a mom, it isn’t lost on me that none of these gals had children.  They were not mothers.  They were too busy saving the world, carving out a career, feathering their hair, and fighting crime to change diapers or worry about what’s for dinner. Huh.  I never made that connection until just this moment, but I wonder if that’s what contributed to me not ever really being interested in child rearing or motherhood when I imagined myself as a grown up.

When I was a girl, 27 was always my ideal age.  The adult version of myself would be living in a high rise, something sleek that required an elevator, with sliding doors and a balcony.  I would wear my slacks tucked into knee high boots, even in the summer, because I would be cool.  Independent AF.

A man was never really on my radar.  The imaginary me was always alone, arriving home after a long and satisfying day at work. Sometimes I was a flight attendant, sometimes a magazine editor, sometimes an advertising executive.  A career was a necessity in my idealized adulthood, but that career was flexible and open to possibilities.

As I hit rewind in my memories and think back to those things that influenced me, shaped my sense of what it was to be a woman, I am struck by the accessibility of strong female role models in pop culture.  In the mid-1970s, the glass ceiling was getting close to showing some cracks, but it was still a solid double-paned barrier.  These teevee characters, strong and capable, were a whisper of what was to be for women.

I wonder if it was watching these shows, seeing women perform and excel, that led me to ask the priest at my Catholic school why girls could not be altar boys.  “Tradition,” he said, before changing the subject.  Even at such a young age, I knew his answer was weak.

It never occurred to me that a woman was not capable of running  a business or a country, let alone a fictional detective agency or a newsroom. Golda Meir and Margaret Thatcher were part of my consciousness, even at a young age.  Being strong and being a woman were not mutually exclusive.  Being a leader and having breasts and a vagina were not mutually exclusive.  Confidence and skill and a voice were  as feminine as halters and strappy sandals and lip gloss.

When I think about my childhood, I feel grateful for the era in which I was raised.  It’s easy to over-romanticize, of course, but as a white girl in the 1970s, I got to see powerful representations of what was possible for myself just by turning on the teevee.  And every week I got the message that I could be strong, independent, beautiful, smart, talented, respected, honorable, and essential.

Those are some important messages for a young girl.  Hell, those are some important messages for a middle aged mom.

In Defense of Caillou

Poor Caillou.  Seriously.  Poor little bald headed animated child.  People hate him the world over. Not dislike him, or feel mildly irritated by him, or, you know, turn the channel when he comes on the TV dislike him, but hate him, loathe him, and wish very, very bad things upon him.  Him being a fictional character.

What's not to like?
What’s not to like?

I don’t get it.  I never have.

The level of animosity reserved for this little guy astounds me.  You would think that a fictional four year old would push a few buttons, what with the whining that goes along with being four, but man, it would be easy to confuse him with, I don’t know, Hitler or ISIS, for all the hate and venom he incites in parenting circles.

Here is a sample from Urban Dictionary under Caillou:

A fucked up kid’s show about a spoiled little turd who gets upset when he doesn’t get his way.  If Caillou was real, I’d kill him.

Caillou is a soiled little shit TV show on PBS. Caillou can’t grow hair, not because he has cancer or progeria, but because he sucks, and even his own body recognizes that he does not deserve hair or food or love

A children’s show featuring an aggressive bald kid who is easily irritated and agitated when things don’t go his way.  Caillou made me search for my virginity.

Then there was the anti-Caillou smackdown Buzzfeed ran last week.  Um.  Okay.  Well. It seems more than a few folks take their PBS really, really seriously. In other circles I have seen Caillou referred to as a prick, douchebag, cocksucker, asshole, uterus killer, fucker, and the list goes on and on and on with some decidedly unfriendly language not typically associated with kid’s TV.

If the point is that Caillou acts like a typical four year old, well, then, sure, I totally agree.  Most four year olds (at least the two I have parented to date; I still have a two year old in the pipeline) can be whiny and entitled at times.  It’s just part of the package.

Full disclosure, if you haven’t already noticed, I kind of dig the little guy.  I first started watching him in 2007.  Eight years and two toddlers later, I’m still watching. So are my kids.  Our brains aren’t bleeding.  I haven’t gone insane from the whining.  My kids don’t seem to have experienced any adverse effects of too much Caillou.

And laying all my Caillou cards out on the table, I actually like the show, especially compared to some of the other offerings in the kids’ entertainment arena.  Here’s why:

1. Caillou gets to have emotions.  Yes, he is whiny and entitled at times, but he also experiences guilt, regret, anticipation, joy, fear, curiosity, annoyance, gratitude, frustration, confidence, impatience, relief, and boredom.  I complied this list after watching just one 30 minutes episode.  Even better, the grandmother narrator — a kind, nurturing voice, labels Caillou’s feelings for those watching at home, e.g., “Caillou was upset his little sister took his favorite toy.”  Of course he was!  But then we get to watch him figure it out, too.

2.  I recognize the day-to-day family environment.  There is a loving mom and dad with grandparents close by.  You see the family doing chores around the house, and the grumbling that goes along with that.  The adults cook, clean, shovel, rake, grocery shop.  The adults get to complain, too, because, yes, it is a pain sometimes to be responsible, especially when your car breaks down.  The family eats together and celebrates together.  The show reflects my kids’ day-to-day and I get that might not speak to everyone, but it is a comfort to see your small world reflected on the screen.

3.  It’s quiet and simple.  There is a whole lot to mine from a kid’s simple experiences, a lot to learn from and consider.  When I think of shows like Wow! Wow! Wubbzy!, Sheriff Callie’s Wild West, or even the beloved Thomas or Dinosaur Train shows, basic lessons in social skills are encouraged through the use of robots, trains, dinosaurs, or animals. Caillou does all that through people.

Why is it more appealing to teach things like patience and sharing by adding an extra layer of difference?  Is it more palatable to learn about grumpiness or bullying from a train than from a kid who might act a lot like your own?

4.  Imagination is encouraged. In later episodes (admittedly, these are not my favorites), Caillou uses his imagination to explore being an astronaut or a rock star. Some of this is accomplished through reading books found in the library his Mom and Dad take him to — win win!

5.  The show features discipline.  This is one of my favorite aspects of watching Caillou with my little ones.  When Caillou acts like a jerk, there are consequences. When he grabs a toy away from his little sister or excludes a classmate on the playground, there is a price to pay for his poor behavior.  He can stomp his feet and not like the consequence, but they are still there.

As a parent, I love that.  And I honestly think it is productive and useful to see that 1) all kids misbehave sometimes; 2) there are ramifications to misbehavior; and 3) your parents are not the only ones who practice standards of behavior, discipline, and consequences.  Those are things other kids have to deal with, too.

Perhaps this post presents me as a Pollyanna.  Well, then, so be it.  I will own that shit. I’ve just seen the words “Caillou” and “cocksucker” attached one too many times for my liking.  And rather than tell all you Caillou haters to get a freaking grip, or, do as my husband joking encouraged, and theorize that anyone who hates Caillou really just hates their own kids, I will simply encourage you all to give it another look see, that Caillou show, and try and be just a teensy bit more objective towards him.

Honestly, he’s not all that bad.  And, more importantly, he probably resembles your own kiddos more than you realize.