18 April 2024
Entertainment Television

‘Free to Be … You and Me’ Took the Revolution to the Playground

The present, aired on community TV in 1974 for youngsters, assumed heterosexual, mom-and-dad households; it doesn’t distinguish between organic intercourse and socially constructed gender. Its gender-neutral optimism would possibly now ring naïve, after a half-century of backlashes and “Can girls have all of it?” options.

In case you’re going to ask how effectively “Free to Be” has aged, although, it’s solely honest to ask how effectively we now have, too. Positive, “Barbie” grossed greater than a billion {dollars} by saying, like “Free to Be” did, that ladies and men are held again by stereotypes peddled within the toy aisle. Youngsters’ entertainments like “Bluey” mannequin egalitarian parenting.

However gender essentialism remains to be alive and effectively. It begins earlier than start: Dad and mom-to-be blast pink-and-blue confetti cannons and burn down forests with gender-reveal events. Tradition warriors and state legislatures are consumed with angst over how a lot authority youngsters (and even adults) ought to have to say their gender identities; some younger individuals are bullied and bodily attacked for refusing conventional classes. “Males’s rights” influencers promote the concept that girls’s beneficial properties are males’s losses. Politicians use macho displays to say dominance and not-so-subtly telegraph nostalgia for the outdated days.

And having reached center age, not a number of of my fellow Gen X-ers have determined, like members of generations earlier than us as soon as did, that the extent of progress we reached once we had been younger was good and adequate, and the world ought to cease there. They may look again at “Free to Be,” with its easy gender binary — each boy “grows to be his personal man” and “each woman grows to be her personal girl,” the theme music says — as proof that immediately’s spectrum of identities has gone too far.

“Free to Be” was a product of its time. However it could appear perverse to assert that this wild, rebellious work about self-determination was meant to implement any inflexible gender boundaries. Its finest declare to timelessness is its easy affirmation: Solely you get to resolve who you’re.

Within the present’s finish sequence, the cartoon youngsters gallop again to the park, flip again into flesh-and-blood children and proceed their carousel experience. As they develop up, they are going to spin ahead for some time, and so they’ll spin backward, and so forth. That’s what revolutions do generally; they revolve.

However I hope that each one of us who took the “Free to Be … You and Me” experience nonetheless carry a few of it inside us. That’s the benefit that artwork has over carousels: Even when it brings you again to the place you began, it doesn’t go away you in fairly the identical place. As a result of now what it feels wish to get away.