Movie Buff: The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio

Last evening I finally got around to watching The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio.  It’s been in my Netflix queue for several years and popped up in my mailbox.  I was expecting Julianne Moore in a delightful light-hearted tale of a plucky woman who entered a lot of prizes.  Much to my surprise, what I got instead was a look at what life was like for millions of American families who weren’t the Cleavers or the Andersons.  It’s easy to dismiss those old 1950s and early 60s sitcoms as postwar escapist fantasy but I don’t doubt that many people lives were, if perhaps messier and more chaotic, were quite happy and stable during those years.  And then there was everyone else.  My own mother’s first husband (about whom she rarely speaks) drank and gambled away his Friday paycheck leaving them broke by Monday.  This was reality for millions of women.  It was hell.  Too often we tell the story of women’s liberation as a story of bored, unfulfilled women who wanted to do something besides housework.  There is some truth to that, but the reality is that a lot of women went to work because it was work or starve.  They were treated like crap for doing what they needed to do to survive or for the survival of their children.  For some reason we still don’t want to talk about this reality for millions of people for whom divorce was not a possibility for social, religious and financial reasons so they took the abuse and scraped by the only way they knew how.  Remember that when someone acts like women had it so good in some earlier time.  Perhaps the lucky ones did.  And then there was everyone else.

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