The PBS program everyone's talking about from last week is of course the Frontline special on the internet generation, which I found kind of terrifying, especially 1) the part where the teacher is talking about how the kids just don't read books anymore, and 2) the internet-bullying that goes on. We had our own analog version of that back in the day, the three-way-calling prank, but it isn't the same thing; we had our own analog version of sneaking out and keeping secrets, too, and I think it's an important part of adolescence in that, at some point, you have to get into trouble, and out of it again, on your own so that you learn how. But the special was based in towns adjacent to the one where I grew up, and it really brought me back -- because my parents would have been just as strict and zero-tolerance about my internet usage as they were about everything else.
Including TV consumption, and we see how that worked out. Heh. Hi, Ma!
Anyway: another good bit of PBS programming from last week is the American Experience episode about Walter Freeman, the lobotomist. I do not need to hear the word "transorbital" and then the word "icepick" in the same sentence, but there they were, hanging out together a bunch of times...I knew the procedure was primitive, but I thought of it as primitive in the sense of killing a fly with a howitzer, not in the sense of, you know, NO ANESTHESIA for God's sake. This is the guy, and the procedure, that turned Rosemary Kennedy from a delayed but functional woman into an infant, more or less, who needed full-time supervision.
It's a disturbing hour, but fascinating, and I didn't want it to get lost in the shuffle with all the talk about that one Frontline.
It also put me in mind of Geraldo. Geraldo is thought of indulgently now, I think, like a crazy uncle; when I was a kid, he was reviled as a shock journalist (possibly because the culture wasn't as inured to Maury-type shit as it is now), and it was a surprise to me to learn that his special on the Willowbrook institution had made his name and put a spotlight on the treatment of the mentally ill. I just wasn't used to thinking of him as a serious-story guy. I'm re-reading The Executioner's Song at the moment, and his name pops up there; already, by '76, he'd become this sensationalist gadfly people didn't want to deal with, but you forget he actually did some good. Not without an eye towards his own reputation, I'm sure, but still.
But the Willowbrook report is really hard to find on VHS or DVD; I've got an eBay search out for it, but I've never seen it and I'd like to. Anyone with some wisdom on how to get my hands on it can write me at sars at televisionwithoutpity dot com -- thanks.