COLUMN: For women, the facts of life don’t really change

It’s all too edgy.

So said the youngest DeMeer recently, whilst reviewing the various choices for entertainment – on Netflix, Prime, Crave etc.

Everyone wants to out-edge everyone else.

Kid has a point.

Woman is confronted by the ghost of her murdered ex-lover and former father-in-law, who returns from the grave to encourage her to self-identify as a marsupial and run for speaker of the house.

That is sooooo last week.

It was on my mind, when I stumbled across ctv.ca, which is now streaming its programming for free.

There’s a ‘throwback’ section on the website. The menu includes, but is not limited to, Maude, Barney Miller, Bewitched, Charlie’s Angels, Dawson’s Creek, Corner Gas, Hart to Hart, Fantasy Island and I Dream of Jeanie.

And then there’s The Facts of Life.

If you are a woman of a certain age – if you suffered through a hot flash last night but used to read Tiger Beat magazine and never went anywhere without Love’s Baby Soft – you watched the Facts of Life.

Premiering in 1979, the story unfolds in an all-girls boarding school.

Like most television at the time, there is a processed cheese ingredient. All or most problems solved in 30 minutes less commercial time with the exception of those cliff hangers…continued next week.

Weirdly though, it stands up.

In the first three seasons the characters explore sex, sexual identity, sexual assault, infidelity and divorce, body image, body shaming, teen pregnancy and marriage, racial struggles, people with disabilities, and suicide. (Spoiler alert, the class president actually does die of an overdose, so thumbs up to the writers on that one.)

The Facts of Life helped launch some significant careers. An extremely pre-pubescent Molly Ringwald was a first season regular, and in season two (episode 3) a nerdy-looking Rob Lowe makes an uncredited appearance. You won’t find that on his IMDB, and if you Google Rob Lowe + Facts of Life you just get … erm … the facts of his life, which are edgy in themselves to be sure.

George Clooney, Helen Hunt and Richard Dean Anderson also make appearances.

What’s unique about this series — and it was the longest running sitcom in the 1980s — is it’s just all about girls and women.

There were pop-ups by those scamps from the neighboring boys’ school, Bates Academy, and in the background always a headmaster.

But the show is girls’ and women’s stories exclusively. Their points of view, their challenges, decisions and feelings. The male perspective doesn’t hijack that agenda for a heartbeat.

In 1979, whether we knew it or not, that was pretty damn edgy.

I didn’t follow the program through to its finale. Gave up in the early eighties, while putting myself through journalism school and coping with sex, sexual identity, sex assault and body image. Became one of those teenage brides in 1986 and still have the paper to back it up.

March 8 is International Women’s Day. If you’ve a soft spot for nostalgia and comfort food, check out ctv.ca. If you’ve got a daughter aged anywhere between 8 and 52, maybe sit with her and a couple of bowls of ice cream, and introduce her to The Facts of Life.

To report a typo, email:
publisher@similkameenspotlight.com
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andrea.demeer@similkameenspotlight.com

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