“Signature” provides new look at women
By Mike Hughes
Gannett News Service
As she hoists a sign reading “Ladies Against Women,” a spokesperson lectures firmly.
“We think ladies should be ladies,” she explains, “and no one should be women. … If God didn’t want us on our pedestals, why would he make us shorter than our husbands?”
She is not serious, of course. LAW is offering street corner satire, with pronouncements like: “I believe a woman’s body is her husband’s temple.”
But the people at the Little Miss America pageant are terribly serious.
“Diane is 5 years old,” the pageant announcer purrs. “Coloring is her favorite hobby, and her ambition is to be a bus driver.”
Another young beauty has a simpler goal: “Her ambition is to be a lady.” The LAW ladies would approve.
What we are seeing is U.S. life at its extremes. We’re also seeing the emergence of a remarkable series: Once Upon Her Time, at 10 p.m. today is the second outing in the Signature series on cable’s Lifetime channel (channel 23).
If you don’t get cable you’ll find plenty on regular TV. ABC (WMGC, channel 34) moves its oft-overlooked Spencer to regular duty of 10 p.m. PBS (WSKG, channel 46) has live Mark Russell satire at 8 p.m., then reruns the movie Testatment at 9 p.m. This post-nuclear film was brilliantly written by John Sacret Young (China Beatch), stunningly performed by Jane Alexander and so well-made that it becomes almost unwatchable.
But even if you don’t see Once Upon Her Time, it has some things worth talking about.
When Lifetime announced it would have periodic documentaries focusing on women, we nodded blankly and figured we’d seen it all before. But that was too hasty. After all, the network had already shown it can do talk shows--Attitudes, Motherwowrks, Dr. Ruth—with extra intelligence. Why not this?
Signature opened with a dead-serious look at child abuse, finding some genuine moral dilemmas. Now it follows with this wonderfully whimsical hour.
The show simply says we’ve reached a point where women can choose opposite lives. But the examples chosen by producers Shari Cookson and Melissa Jo Peltier are rich and vivid.
The old way? We see those 5-year-olds going through the prettiness game. We see women whose faces already seem perfect, explaining why they want the plastic surgeon to make subtle changes.
We also see women who mud wrestle with the highest bidder. “It’s a very competitive business,” one explains. “If someone gets a higher bid, you’re stressed.”
And the new way? We see the first female minister at a massive Long Beach church, proudly baptizing her grandchildren. We see women lining up to be arrested at a nuclear facility. “This Mother’s Day is special because my mother is being arrested,” a young man says proudly, “which is quite a shift for me.”
And we see a class where young women learn to strike the attacker with savage fury. “The balance of power is shifting,” they’re told. “This class helps you beat the monsters of the night.’
Press and Sun-Bulletin
22 Jun 1988, Wed · Page 35
Transcribed by: S Cookson