I I I I I I I  

MOM AND POP
CULTURE:
Legions of Lust 


by Marrit Ingman

You know, a funny thing happened recently. I was talking to Steve Burns.

Yes, that Steve Burns. With the music and the male-pattern baldness. The one not dead of an overdose. The one who’s been off the show for a while now. He’s getting ready to release his second album.

And I’m going to go ahead and tell you that he has a girlfriend, whom he was driving to meet in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. He was meeting her parents for the first time. I mention this because I prepared for the interview by asking the moms and dads I know how I might approach the original host of Blue’s Clues.

Their reactions surprised me.

“Grab his junk,” said one woman. “Tell him it's from me.”

"Give him a little blowjob for me, okay?” asked another.

“Ask him about the plot arc with Cinderella on the show,” said a third. “Then tell him you are legion and you want to touch the heinie.”

“I've never been more jealous of anyone than I am of you right now,” another said.

I told them the interview would take place over the phone. They revised their filthy suggestions accordingly.

The men were nonplussed. “Un-freakin -believable,” said one. “And my wife would totally do him, too. He’s like the inoffensive Everyman.”

There was a brief groundswell of pro-Joe sentiment, which I’m not even trying to hear, although I did talk with Donovan Patton. He joked about Nick Jr. executives withholding his dessert to keep him in line. At least I’m hoping that was a joke.

Well, the point I’m hoping to make is that a minor catfight resulted, and I began to realize that we have a certain depth of feeling invested in the men of children’s television. So I report: He’s taken, girls--and that goes for you, too, the occasional two-dad household. (But then so many of you are likewise taken.)

Parenthood can be isolating. Sometimes the only adults you see in a day are on television, especially if someone in the household has rotavirus. Unless you’re in a traveling family band or you live completely off the grid, the members of a family usually have to spend time apart during the day, so pretty soon you might actually have more face time with Steve or Joe or the Kratt Brothers or The Wiggles (and there but for the grace of God go I) than you do with your own mate. Get yourself a little sleep-deprived or crazy, and you might get somewhat attached to a helpful, amiable, and color-coordinated television actor who says “Thank you” often, especially if your child already likes him.

Apparently this is nothing new. Like everyone else raised in the second golden age of variety television, I found Mr. Rogers creepy when I was little, and now that I’m grown up and generationally ironic, I’m too tuned in to his kitsch to appreciate him the way our mothers did—sincerely.

(continued at right)



A friend of mine related her Steve crush to an older mother’s appreciation of Mr. Rogers. “Her real life was in chaos at the time, and Mr. Rogers was her rock. ‘He comes home every day at the same time, he doesn't open a beer, he's always nice….’” He was a proto-husband through the miracle of broadcasting—a decent guy who hung up his own sweater. He asked questions. He made a snappy new day. He genuinely cared about your children. As Steve is to the hipMama set, Mr. Rogers was to harried mothers in the age of Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore: a locus of benign fantasy, a mass-produced surrogate for sublimated desires.

Steve became agitated when I asked him, essentially, “How does it feel to be a mass- produced surrogate for sublimated desires after ten years of Blue’s Clues?” After all, Steve’s episodes are still in rotation. He’s probably still attracting new stalkers fresh from labor and delivery. He probably gets pairs of disposable mesh panties in the mail. Breast pads. Creepy stuff.

So I decided to sublimate my desires by fantasizing about a fictional character drawn in Canada. Very unattainable. You know Franklin’s dad? Yeah. He’s my new imaginary husband. No offense to my actual husband, who’s swell as far as actual people go, but even children understand the limitations of actual people, which is why they’re always inventing imaginary people to suit their developmental needs. (You hang out with a four-year-old long enough, and you’ll start to think like one) Actual people have mortgages and bunions and stuff.

I just want what every blandly liberal, apologetic thirtysomething mother wants: a hot, strapping green turtle with a white convertible, a dry sense of humor, and Canadian citizenship to father my children and live with me in an ivy-covered dome on a wooded country road. We’ll have a clothesline and a pond for skating, lots of sharing, whimsical incidental music, and a Bruce Cockburn theme (and we’ll never stop to think about how Bruce Cockburn has the worst name in the world). Of course the sex will be unhurried; we’re turtles. Neither of us seem to have jobs. We just hang out, gardening and waiting for the school bus, and Franklin doesn’t notice or mind that we don’t go to his soccer games—honestly, they really do seem to last forever. We divide up our domestic and childcare responsibilities equally, and we never lose our tempers. We solve common family problems in about nine minutes on Noggin. Who wouldn’t fantasize about any of that?
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 About the Author:
 
Marrit Ingman
is a freelance writer, film critic, occasional educator, and constant mother. She is a frequent contributor to the Austin Chronicle, and her writing on popular culture has also appeared in Brain, Child, Fertile Ground, Alternet.org, Clamor, and Venus. Her first book, Inconsolable: How I Threw My Mental Health out with the Diapers, describes her experience with postpartum depression and was published in 2005 by Seal Press.

 

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