1. Boys are allowed to cry.
2. Girls can be whatever they want.
3. Puppets are funny.
These are the most important lessons I’ve learned and I learned them all from one movie.
I’m a child of the 70s. TV didn’t have 900 channels and everyone watched what was on the 3 major networks. The civil rights movement was still fresh in people’s heads and it wasn’t cool to be different. The Jacksons were still 5 and Mary Tyler Moore aired on primetime.
My town and neighborhood weren’t terribly progressive. My obnoxious neighbor thought it would be funny to write the racial epithet in front of our house in chalk. Except he wrote ‘Niger’. He wasn’t smart.
So my journey of otherness continued. Until in the third grade. A bright spot that indicated that the world might not always be so ugly. On a rainy afternoon teachers rolled in a tv and we watched Free to Be You and Me.
I. Was. Mesmerized.
Hosted by Marlo Thomas and starring people like Mel Brooks, Alan Alda, Michael Jackson, Rosey Grier, Roberta Flack and Kris Kristofferson, FTBYM was a mixture of animation, musical, live action and documentary rolled into one. Kids of all shades played together and talked about their feelings on life. Gender roles were challenged. My favorite two segments we William Wants a Doll and retelling of the Greek myth Atalanta. Looking back I really was struck by the idea that as a girl (and in my head a Black girl) I could do anything and see the world. FTBYM was amazing because it was light and fun while taking on some tough issues that were dividing a nation. It’s worth watching this Emmy and Peabody award winning film. It turns 40 today. And while much has changed since I saw it, much has stayed the same. I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing, but if I decide to cry about it, I know it’s okay. Rosey Grier told me so.
Did you watch FTBYM when you were a kid? What are your favorite memories? Have you watched it with your kids?