A couple of weeks ago I was channel surfing and came across the “reality TV” series Little people BIG world.
I have a mostly jaundiced opinion of “reality TV”. First there’s the question of whether/how much what’s being shown is spontaneous, staged, or edited/massaged to look a certain way. There’s Survivor, with the premise of being isolated in rough places, without three hot meals a day, along with a dozen unpleasant people. The Amazing Race with its exhausting scavenger hunt has had its moments, but they lost me a couple of years ago when the air traffic controllers left the show. Then there are the sleazy celebrities, with the skanky Paris Hilton, the drug-addled Osbournes and Whitney Houston/Bobby Brown, and the pierced and big-haired Gottis. Enough said on all of those.
Of course the subject of Little people big world lends itself to jokes and disrespect among the un-PC, but a viewer that sees the program exclusively from that point of view would lose a great deal.
The series is about the Roloff family, where both mother Amy and father Matt are little people (the condition is achondroplasia), with four children. They live in a farm in Oregon.
The first episode I watched was “Zach’s Future”. Zach, who is sixteen, is the dwarf twin brother of Jeremy, who is average height. Since life physically is an endless obstacle course to people their height, Matt took Zach to meet other men their height who have successful lives and carreers, among them a law professor at Washington University, and a (civilian) welder who works for the Navy building submarines, which are interesting carreers, but what kept me watching was Matt, a good father.
A good father, like a good man, is not just a father who says he loves their children, a good father is one that knows how to love. Matt didn’t sugar-coat anything for Zach (including Matt’s dislike of clear-walled elevators) as they discussed and traveled. Instead, Matt found subtle ways to show Zach that in this our country there are vast opportunities to people of talent. As a bonus, Zach found the law lecture most interesting, something Zach would otherwise have never considered, which is yet another benefit of having a caring father widen your horizons. This is important to every son, but particularly in Zach’s circumstances, since, as he explained, “having to prove myself all the time can get depressing also.”
While the idea of a TV program videotaping a family might bring memories of the horrid Louds to those of us old enough to remember, no family can be more different from the Louds. Read what Matt had to say about the experience:
Matt: One of the things that’s been an unexpected benefit to us as a family is that it’s given us a chance to look at ourselves and see what we’re doing that maybe isn’t so good and things that are good, and maybe improve on things. Everybody should set up a video camera in the corner of their living room and see what they’re doing, and think introspectively. We get emails from people who are critical of what we do or don’t do, and we try to take those comments in a constructive way, but some of us in the family read and take them to heart and think about how we can improve. Everybody wants to do better in life.
Last week I could only watch for a few moments an episode where Matt, with the help of his children, other relatives and some friends remodeled the whole house. I have recently
endured lived through a similar remodeling project and can only imagine what it’d be like for the do-it-yourselfer, so Matt again earned my admiration.
Last night’s episode had the family inagurating the gorgeous kitchen. Mom Amy holds two jobs, in addition to being a mother of four, and again, she earns my admiration — I certainly could never do her work as well as she. Amy was delighted! The kitchen was designed and organized exactly right: countertop height, appliances, shelving, floor plan, all done with the needs of the entire family in mind. Since three family members are average height, accomplishing that design is a most difficult task. Yet, the Roloffs rose to the ocassion one more time.
At the end of the episode they sat around the table and enjoyed their new kitchen, and their love and commitment for each other.
If only TV – “reality” or not – showed more of that.
Thank you, Matt and Amy.