For many of us, yesterday was traumatic. But in the wake of this world-rattling news, we need to give ourselves a break from worry, wondering, and activism to breathe. Because we can’t fight for our rights and our fellows if run ourselves into the ground.
So, let’s share how we’re coping. What’s helping you escape, however briefly. For me, it’s been watching Raising Hope on Netflix.
The Fox series that ran from 2010-2014 centered on the Chance family, who were poor, white, uneducated, but eternally optimistic, and loving. Their household included doomsday prepper/cleaning lady Virginia (Martha Plimpton spouting marvelous malapropisms on the weekly) and pool cleaner/lovable doof Burt (Garret Dillahunt, as hilarious as he is handsome), high school sweethearts who got knocked up young, but have stayed in love and young at heart ever since. There’s Jimmy (the affable Lucas Neff), their grown grocery clerk/artist son who became a single-father when he knocked up a serial killer who was later executed, leaving him with little Hope. (You’d be amazed at how light-hearted and how much mileage they get out of that bizarre origin.) And then there’s Academy-Award winner Cloris Leachman as Maw Maw, grandmother of Virginia and mentally on the fritz matriarch who bites, flirts and generally behaves bonkers.
A silly sitcom from My Name As Earl creator Gregory Thomas Garcia, Raising Hope is full on loony antics and outrageous situations, like when the Burt and Virginia lost their sex tape, or when Jimmy discovered he was briefly adopted (then kidnapped back by his birth parents) or that his serial killer baby mama wasn’t really dead. And as the series grew, so did the cast of characters. Jimmy’s crush Sabrina (the ever-sharp Shannon Woodward) went from a love interest/plot point to a quirky creation all her own, complete with pantyhose over her head sleeping habits, and eventually to being Hope’s earnest but oft clueless mom. And because the show was already all kinds of weird, they took no issue with folding in allusions to other titles like a Modern Family parody, a Hitchcock homage ep, the time Dillahunt started spouting lines from his one of his Deadwood character, or flat-out filming a whole episode about the unique action-figure hobby that hoped a lonely man cope with trauma in the incredible documentary Marwencol.
The show is warm, weird and funny. But also, it’s about a “white trash” family that welcomes new experiences, concepts and people. It gives respect and shows the humanity to an often mocked group. Though the Chances have never enjoyed the mind-expanding education of college, or the way world travel can broaden horizons, Raising Hope finds ways to offer them this chance all the same. And they grumble, but they grow, and they love and we laugh and learn with them.
Maybe it seems strange that a cancelled TV series is the thing raising hope in me right now. But I just finished an episode from 2013 where an earnest Sabrina told a little Mexican-American girl that “all girls—no matter what size, color or gender they were born with” can accomplish greatness. And you know what? I really needed to hear that right now, told not as part of a political speech or a Facebook post, but on a television show meant for a broad and undivided audience.
So. What’s working for you? Let’s share and spread the healing. Then, we regroup for change.
Kristy Puchko likes to think she’s a Virginia in a lot of ways.