On the other side of the river from The Naomi Center and about 10 miles from the Republican National Convention sits the Guthrie Theatre, one of the more highly regarded performing arts companies in the US. We were there to see Little House on the Prairie with Melissa Gilbert staring as ‘Ma’ Ingalls.
This production was really outstanding, entertaining, and funny. I cannot recommend it highly enough. Well, except for one disturbing issue – the family values it espouses.
Little House on the Prairie has poor family values? This stage performance must be a gross distortion of the books and TV series right?
It unfortunately does have poor family values. And so to the books and TV series. Worse, it celebrates these poor family values. In the play, as in real life, when Laura Ingalls is 15 she begins a courtship with Almanzo Wilder who in the book is 24. Statutory rape? Well, we don’t really know what happened during the courtship, but they did marry when Laura was 16 and Almanzo 26, an act that would constitute rape in a number of US states today. (in real life Laura was 17 and Almanzo 28, not sure why the apparent change in ages and 8 year shift in time for the books).
The bigger problem though is what happens to Laura’s friends. In the play one girl gets married when she’s “just barely 14.” I haven’t read any of the books, but have talked to a few people who have read them and did a bit of research. There are a number of instances of what today is prosecuted as statutory rape. Girls under 16 getting married and presumably having sex with men several years older. Worse, the girls parents approve of the rape, thus becoming accomplices in the rape of their own daughters.
Should today’s parents allow their children to read books or watch movies that celebrate what we now know is rape? Books that condone and celebrate parents encouraging the rape of their daughters?
I am strongly against general censorship by government, but I do believe that as parents we should be cautious of what our children read and watch on TV. Books that celebrate rape are just not appropriate for children. Along with banning the Little House series from our schools and homes we should look at a number of other books and video’s with similar rapes such as Anne of Green Gables, Little Women, and the Love Comes Softly series.
And it’s not just the rapes in these books, but other values such as Anne Shirley’s teen fling with the pervert Morgan who is more than old enough to be her father.
A final thought. As we were leaving the Guthrie and walking by the stage door I noticed a key performer leaving and walking down the street hand in hand with his boyfriend. I wonder if he realized the irony of playing a character who was considered normal and acceptable in Little House on the Prairie but today would be considered a pervert and prosecuted as a rapist, while in his real life he is today considered normal and acceptable, but would have been labeled a pervert and prosecuted for sodomy if he’d lived in Little House on the Prairie.