Kirk’s Problem with Kids

I love Star Trek.  I was a diehard Trekkie by the time I reached kindergarten, raised on the Original Series.  I love Roddenberry’s vision of the future, some of which I have lived to see come true, and it continues to inspire me.

All that said, it can’t be denied that TOS has its issues.  Sadly, Roddenberry’s vision was fettered by the time in which it was made, and some of the mid-twentieth century American prejudices did slip into the show occasionally.

Today’s hot take is that there is a recurring theme of dangerous children or the fear of youth in TOS.  Science fiction has always been used as a mirror to society and being written in the 1960s, it was inevitable that some commentary on the youth movements of the time would make it into the show.  But these stories were written by adults, and it’s painfully obvious.  On no less than four occasions, the Enterprise encounters children or teens without parents, sometimes with extraordinary powers, sometimes just without any respect for authority.  Each time, the youth are eventually shown to be corrupted or misled or out of control without the presence of parents/adults and Capt. Kirk and crew provide the necessary discipline to “save” them.  It isn’t hard to see the societal fear of the youth rearing its head in these scripts.

Charlie X

The first time the Enterprise meets a child without parents, it’s young Charles Evans who miraculously survived alone from the age of three after a ship crashed.  By the time he arrived aboard the Enterprise, he was seventeen and had only met other humans very recently.  His first missteps – interrupting out of eagerness, showing blatant fascination with the first woman (“girl”) he sees – seem pretty harmless at first blush, the obvious fumblings of a child who never got to learn how people behave.  But then it’s made clear that he also never learned self-regulation and he can’t handle his own emotions.  Basically, Charles Evans is what happens when a child is never told “no”.

While Charlie’s limitless powers make him more dangerous than your average spoiled brat, it’s the lack of discipline that is the real problem.  He doesn’t observe societal norms, he feels entitled to everything from Janis Rand to the ship itself, he lashes out and harms people at the slightest upset and shows no remorse.  He responds to Kirk’s paternal manner, but only up to the point that Kirk tries to enforce rules.  When it’s ultimately revealed that the incorporeal Thasians had given Charlie his powers so that he could survive on his own, they have to take Charlie away from other humans for everyone’s safety.  Charlie begs to stay, because to be corporeal among incorporeal beings is torturous, but his end is presented as a justified, if tragic, sentence.

The moral of this story is pretty clear: children cannot be given power, because they cannot be trusted with it.  There’s no mention of teaching Charlie to control himself or his abilities, just a few cursory attempts to explain manners to him and then the decision that he must be taken away.  This story speaks to a pervasive fear in a time when teenagers were fighting to individuate from their parents more strongly than ever; the fear that children and teenagers given the power to make their own choices would only become irredeemable delinquents who would then have no place in society.


Our intrepid crew’s next run-in with dangerous children is on a planet that is a near-exact replica of Earth.  An experimental project aimed at prolonging life caused all adults to die off centuries before, leaving only the children – the Onlies.  The Onlies are violent, remorseless, destructive, impulsive, and see everything as some kind of game.  Naturally, they have no sense of consequences since, despite their chronological age, they are developmentally just children.

It’s not wrong to point out that children left alone long enough will inevitably go Lord of the Flies.  You only have to look at a sixth-grade class to see that.  But the difference between the Onlies and Charlie Evans is that the Onlies don’t have any powers.  They’re just kids who haven’t learned how to care about anyone and haven’t developed a fully functioning frontal lobe yet, and therefore, they can be saved.  Kirk gives one big speech, telling them “Look at the blood on my face, now look at your hands.  Blood on your hands.”  And that’s pretty much all it takes for them to give up the game and be good little children, as far as the plot is concerned.

The point is well summed up in another line from Kirk: “I think children have an instinctive need for adults; they want to be told right and wrong.”  In other words, in the absence of the “civilizing” influence of adults, children become monsters.  In the 1960s, more women were entering the workforce, leaving more children without a full-time caregiver, and fears of what this might do to children abounded.  This script offered what might have been seen as a cautionary tale at the time, with the hopeful message that childish rebellion could be cowed by strict parenting.

And The Children Shall Lead…

On the remote outpost of Triacus, Kirk and company find a pack of children playing happily in the wake of the collective suicide of all their parents.  McCoy mumbles about a “defense against trauma” as an explanation of why the kids don’t seem upset, but they soon find out that the children have been granted mind control powers by an entity called Gorgan which is using the children to take it to another colony.  Once Kirk makes the children realize that they killed their parents via mind control, the children cry and abandon Gorgan, who, powerless without followers, disappears without further incident.

Here we see the fear of children being corrupted.  On Triacus, the children’s parents were all very busy with their work, and the children were left alone long enough to fall under the spell of Gorgan.  In mid-twentieth century America, society was afraid of children’s susceptibility to corrupting influences like the hippie and beat movements that threatened their parents’ status quo.  Again, the end message is that adults should just force children to see the destruction they’re causing, at which point children will immediately become remorseful and beg forgiveness.  Pretty wish fulfillment for adults of the era, but it wasn’t very effective outside of Star Trek.

Assignment: Earth

I don’t like to mention this episode, but it is relevant to this discussion for one line spoken by Roberta Lincoln: “I know this world needs help.  That’s why some of my generation are kind of crazy and rebels, you know?  We wonder if we’re gonna be alive when we’re thirty.”

This is the one time that Star Trek gives any credence to the point of view of the hippie generation. Their parents’ ways have brought the world to the brink of destruction, so why should they keep doing what their parents would do?  It’s quite logical, really, and would carry quite a lot of weight if it weren’t undermined by Roberta Lincoln being a complete dingbat of a character.

The Way to Eden

Of course, this discussion wouldn’t be complete without the infamous space hippie episode.  In fact, this is the last episode to touch on the fear of uncontrolled youth, and the most blatant parallel to the 1960s, almost acting as a culmination of the other scripts.

This episode gives us a small band of happy hippies who are determined to find the planet they call “Eden”.  They are naïve, young, crunchy granola types following the insane and rather Charles Manson-like Dr. Sevrin (this episode first aired in February 1969, pre-dating the Manson murders by almost six months).  Sevrin is shown to be a danger from the start, as he is a carrier of a virulent and deadly disease.  Nevertheless, his followers break him out of quarantine and take over the ship, using ultrasonic waves to incapacitate the crew so they can escape in a stolen shuttle.  Of course, the planet “Eden” turns out to be deadly to humans; everything from the grass to the fruit is highly acidic and poisonous.  Dr. Sevrin dies after eating a fruit, as does the young man Adam (prime ham-handed Roddenberry allegory).  The other hippies suffer some minor burns, but they’re returned to the ship and healed.

These were the hippies that people saw on the street every day, those who had left their parents and families and who were now following whatever “guru” caught their fancy.  They started with simple sit-ins and protests, then began using violence against authority figures to achieve their goals, which sometimes led them to their deaths.  And all the while, they were recruiting others to join them.  Adults of the time feared that they were watching the younger generation destroy themselves.  But in utopic Star Trek, the hippies are made to acknowledge that they need authority, that rebellion offers less than falling in line.  That’s a very specific kind of utopia.


I find it a little odd that this show which up-ended so much of the accepted social status quo was still so afraid of young people.  Perhaps Roddenberry agreed with the sentiments in these scripts or thought that there would be no generational conflict in the future.  In any case, these scripts are obviously products and reflections of their time.  I would imagine that scripts written today would either paint young people as a rescuing influence on society or as its destruction, depending on the writer’s political stripe.  We are all, after all, products of our time and place.


Agree?  Disagree?  Got a better point to make?

The (Model) Addams Family

In honor of Halloween, today I present to you the model family: The Addams Family. 

Sure, they’re creepy and they’re kooky, but I submit that the Addamses are the most functional family in TV history and a role model for families everywhere. 

NB: For this argument, I am using only the original series starring John Astin and Carolyn Jones and the movies starring Raul Julia and Anjelica Huston. 

Morticia and Gomez’s Love Affair 

Morticia and Gomez Addams are, without a doubt, relationship goals.  They’re so in love they don’t even notice other people.  In a time when TV couples were still relegated to twin beds, Carolyn Jones and John Astin decided that Tish and Gomez should have a “grand romance”.  Although still bound by 1960s censorship – the kisses were almost entirely confined to Tish’s arms – they managed to imply a passionate, fiery marriage that clearly included an incredible sex life.  Gomez even gives her a nightgown so sheer and lacy that Morticia mistakes it for a bat net!  In the more permissive 1990s, Huston and Julia continued the passion with even more (and more blatant) innuendo, even adding a layer of kink to their very obvious sexual relationship. 

This says something really important about Gomez and Morticia, namely that after 13 years of marriage (Morticia’s Romance, Part 1, 1965) and two children (three in the movies), they are still madly in love and their relationship outside of being parents is fabulous, thank you very much!  Where so many sitcoms and movies are built on jokes about sex ending after marriage or after kids, playing on the fact that a married couple loses their passion in the face of everyday drudgery, Tish and Gomez offer us another option: to maintain the relationship that gave rise to the family in the first place, to keep up that love and passion in spite of parental obligations, day-to-day stress, and plain old familiarity breeding contempt.  That’s a fairy tale we should all believe in! 

Extended Family 

Gomez and Morticia are the backbone of the family and the groundwork upon which the rest of the family is built.  The next level is the extended family living in the house. 

Uncle Fester was Morticia’s uncle in the series and Gomez’s brother in the movies.  Either way, he is always shown as the bachelor uncle who is frequently little more than another child.  Even in the 21st century, it’s rare for a married couple with children to allow a developmentally delayed adult relative to live in their home.  But for the Addamses it’s not even a question; Uncle Fester is family, so he belongs with them.  Nobody considers Fester a burden; he’s treated with respect, and everyone is very concerned with his happiness.  He plays with the kids, teaching them about dynamite and wounds, he backs up Gomez in all his schemes, he generally takes great joy in being part of his own family, and in return, they take joy in him.  Much of Fester’s story involves looking for love, on both the large and small screen, and in all cases, Tish and Gomez are supportive and encouraging, whether the object of his affection is the new nanny or one of his many penpals.    

Grandmama (or simply MaMa) was Gomez’s mother on tv and Morticia’s mother in the movies.  Again, it makes little difference to the character, as she is consistently shown to be helpful around the house and a good counselor for the family.  And it hardly matters whose mother she is, because how many spouses of either gender would allow their mother-in-law to live with them?  Not only is this arrangement somehow completely frictionless, but Grandmama has an honored place in the family as the wise elder.  She teaches the children until they go to school, and she can be counted on to have some potion, powder, or spell appropriate to any problem.  The rest of the family respect and appreciate her skills, from love dust and fortune-telling to cooking and diagnosing suddenly-golden-haired infants.     

Servants Are Family, Too 

A wealthy family like the Addams naturally has a staff, but they’re such loving people that they don’t draw distinctions between the family and “the help”.   

Lurch is the Addams’ butler, but he’s as much a member of the family as anyone else.  When they find that he’s lied to his mother about his position (spoiler alert for a 50-year-old show), Tish and Gomez play servants to Lurch while his mother visits.  They encourage his music career, despite the hordes of groupies on their lawn.  The whole family tries to teach Lurch to dance for the Butler’s Ball, and they build him a new harpsichord after his is destroyed.  There are families that don’t treat blood relatives that well. 

Then, of course, there’s Thing.  Thing is part pet, part servant, and…well, he’s their Thing.  Despite being a sentient disembodied hand, Thing is also a cherished member of the family.  As Morticia sings, “it’s so nice to have a Thing around the house”.  He brings in the mail, he always pops up when anyone needs a bit of help, from outing a hidden Lurch to offering a pair of scissors to helping to rescue Morticia and then Fester from their respective villains.  When Thing appears to have been hand-napped (more 50-year-old spoilers), the household is turned upside down by the loss until he returns.  Sure, any family would be upset at losing a pet, but how many would pay ransom in diamonds for the family dog? 

Gratitude and Generosity 

One of the outstanding features of the Addams Family tv series is the repetition of two words over and over in every episode.  No, not “You rang?” – I mean, yes, of course, that’s there in each episode, but I’m talking about “thank you”.  Watch a few episodes of that show and count every time someone says “thank you”.  It would make a great drinking game.  “Thank you, Thing”, “Thank you, Lurch”, “Thank you, darling”, and on and on.   

It seems to stem from Morticia, who thanks pretty much everyone in her orbit at every opportunity.  Everyone thanks each other quite a bit, but Morticia is the most consistent about it, and it appears that she sets the tone for the rest of the family, especially because Wednesday and Pugsley both mirror her, right down to her phrasing.  Gomez also thanks people often, but his phrasing tends to be variations of “thanks, old man”, and such.  Fester and Grandmama are frequently heard thanking Thing or each other, and even Lurch is occasionally heard to say “thank you”.  This family thrives on showing appreciation for each other, making every family member feel valued, and it pays off in their lack of resentment, limited quarrels, and quick forgiveness. 

I challenge all of us to do this in our own lives.  Just try it for a week – say “thank you” to everyone in your family at every opportunity – and see how that affects your relationships and your feelings toward the rest of your family. 

While Morticia leads the family in gratitude, Gomez leads them in generosity.  He gives away money and stocks without a second thought.  In an early episode, Gomez mistakes a pair of bank robbers for trick-or-treaters, but (half-century-old spoilers again) upon seeing their bags full of money instead of candy, he immediately gives them stacks of cash and an apology for being cheap!  He buys insurance from his neighbor just because he thinks it’s a nice thing to do, he hires a professional stage director for Wednesday’s birthday play, and generally spares no expense to help people with their dreams and projects. 

If we could all cultivate Gomez’s attitude of “it’s only money” and give what we can to others for no reason other than that we can, what might happen?  Would our generosity spur the same generosity in others, and spread like ripples in a pond?  The holiday season is coming up, and everyone gets a bit more generous at that time of year.  Maybe try keeping that up past New Year’s and see if you notice any changes in your world. 

Loving, Respectful Parenting 

Gomez and Morticia love their children almost as much as they love each other and they raise Wednesday and Pugsley in accordance with their family’s values.  They take family outings to go bat hunting, encourage Pugsley’s inventions (tv) and Wednesday’s fascination with electric chairs and guillotines (movies), and use discipline very sparingly.   

The Addams children are raised with an absolute certainty that they are just fine the way they are and their parents will always support them.  When little Wednesday comes home from her first day at school sobbing about a fairy tale in which a dragon was killed, her parents immediately go up against the school for exposing their child to such terrible filth.  On Halloween, when a neighbor traumatizes Wednesday by telling her witches don’t actually exist, again Tish and Gomez go to bat for her (pun not intended, but I like it, so it stays).   

Pugsley wasn’t so easily traumatized in the series, but he did give his parents an awful fright once when he went through a “normal” phase.  Gomez was horrified and Morticia was heartsick, both wondering where they had gone wrong, but on the advice of a psychiatrist, they supported and encouraged Pugsley in his aberrant behavior in the hopes that he would grow out of it.     

You’ve probably already drawn the parallel between that episode of Pugsley becoming a Boy Scout and the kids going to summer camp in Addams Family Values.  Leaving aside the fact that it was based on a lie, let’s focus on what happened from Tish and Gomez’s perspective.  As far as they knew, Wednesday and Pugsley desperately wanted to have this “normal” experience that went against everything they had tried to instill in their children.  They were shocked and appalled but it was what their kids wanted, so they made sure it happened.  In the scene where they drop the kids off at camp, it’s obvious that Gomez and Morticia aren’t happy about it, but they’re trying very hard to be supportive. 

Think about your parents or your own children.  Would it be easy to accept your children becoming the complete opposite of what you raised them to be?  If you’re religious and your child became an atheist or vice versa, if your child grew to hold political ideas totally opposed to your own, could you support them?  Have you been supported by your parents in spite of diverging from the way you were raised?  Even in 2018, many LGBTQ kids are thrown out and abandoned by their families just for their orientation, so I think that Morticia and Gomez’s example of not only tolerance but unconditional love and support for their children is a great model for everyone to emulate.     

Manners and Acceptance 

Another way Morticia leads the family is in her impeccable manners as hostess.  While perhaps she doesn’t read other people so well, she makes every effort to make her guests comfortable in her home, offering the “good chair” and cups of henbane or tea with “lemon, cream, or…saccharine” (the last dispensed from her poison ring, naturally).  When the Ladies’ League question if her gardening techniques would work for daisies, Morticia is obviously disgusted but covers with a very polite “I wouldn’t know, I’ve never raised…daisies.”   

In the later movies, this is mostly compressed into Morticia’s interactions with Margaret Alford, (spoiler alert for a 27-year-old movie) later Margaret Addams, and the phony Dr. Pinder-Schloss.  Tish wants Margaret to be comfortable and enjoy herself in the Addams home, and she is warm and welcoming to Dr. Pinder-Schloss when she brings Fester back after his long absence.  There’s a great payoff with Margaret at the end of the movie when she becomes really at home with the Addamses and seems much happier for it. 

This idea of being gracious and trying to make guests comfortable expands into the general Addams theme of acceptance.  Anyone they run into is accepted just as they are, regardless of how “normal” or “weird” they are (which is which depends on one’s perspective in this context).  On tv, the entire Addams family embraced a beatnik who was hated by his father and Tish and Gomez were quite fond of “that nice Mr. Hilliard” who first forced the children into school and later ran for local office.  In the movies, this is best illustrated by Debbie Jellinsky.  When she arrives, they welcome her as one of their own (see that bit about the help being family), despite her being such an overly normal person.  Gomez and Morticia are supportive of Fester marrying her, and if it hadn’t been for her tearing the family apart, she would have made a great addition to the Addams clan.**  Even at the end, (25-year-old spoilers) when she’s giving her villainous monologue to the tied-up family, they acknowledge her feelings and motivations and validate her right up until she tries to electrocute them.  Talk about turning the other cheek. 

It’s worth noting that in the movies, Wednesday and Pugsley are decidedly not so widely accepting.  Wednesday, in particular, gave some of the best sass to various blonde normies.  But the point was made that Wednesday and Pugsley embraced the outcasts at camp: the nerdy Joel Glicker and the other non-blonde, non-white, or generally non-conforming kids who were also cast as native Americans in the pageant. So I can accept that maybe Morticia’s extraordinary tolerance is something they will come to as they mature. 

In the Addamses, we find a family that appreciates each member for who and what they are, extends the definition of “family” to include everyone they are close to, practices continual gratitude and generosity among themselves and those they interact with, shows constant love and affection, supports and encourages each member no matter what choices they make, accepts people as they are without judgment, and welcomes all comers into their home.  They rarely have problems among themselves, and when they do it’s mostly based on misunderstanding and is easily resolved and quickly forgiven.  This is the most functional, well-adjusted, neurosis-free family I’ve ever seen, and I believe that everyone would like to be part of a family like that. 

I’m not the first to make this assertion.  John Astin (who is still living at the time of this writing) says that at the time of the tv series psychiatrists wrote articles much like this one, extolling the health of this family’s dynamic.  He also claims to have called Gomez and Morticia “the best-adjusted couple on television” in a promo.  Check out his take on Morticia and Gomez’s relationship here and the full interview here.  You will not be disappointed. 



**Debbie Jellinsky is also the object of Morticia’s greatest shade:  

“You have married Fester, you have destroyed his spirit, you have taken him from us. All that I could forgive.  But Debbie…” 



Bits like that are why I want to be Morticia Addams when I grow up! 

Migraines Make People Mean

I read quite a few articles about migraines because I live with the blasted things and it’s nice to know I’m not alone.  For the same reason, I tend to read the comments on said articles, and I’ve noticed something that disturbs me.  There’s a lot of more-miserable-than-thou crap in those comments, with people dismissing and invalidating other people’s symptoms, experiences, and effective treatments.  I don’t like this.  Don’t we all suffer enough without being cruel to each other? 

It’s true that the term “migraine” gets thrown around far too easily, and many people misunderstand that it’s more than just a bad headache.  But it’s also true that each person’s migraines are different – hell, the migraine I had last week was different from the one I had the previous weekend.   

So, right now, I want to talk to all the migraineurs out there. 

Think about when you were first diagnosed, when you were figuring out your triggers.  Didn’t you find that some things were triggers for you but not for other people, and vice versa?  Some migraineurs swear by caffeine to take the edge off, but for others, caffeine will jumpstart an attack.  Some people can’t handle strong smells, others aren’t bothered.  Aged cheeses, cured meats, chocolate, wine – they’re all common migraine triggers, but they’re far from universal. 

Symptoms vary by individual, too.  Not all of us get aura – my sister does, but I don’t.  Visual aura runs the gamut from spots or lines to distortion or even partial blindness, or your aura might affect other senses, as in cases of phantom smells.  Then there’s light/sound sensitivity, aphasia, allodynia, Alice In Wonderland syndrome, and any number of other unaccountable weird things that can occur during a migraine.  Even nausea isn’t a universal symptom.  I rarely got nausea with my migraines for the first 15 years, but after that, it became a regular thing, and it’s getting worse with age. 

When it comes to treatment, most of us have long lists of ineffective meds we’ve tried.  We know what it’s like to try some prescription that everybody swears by, only to get no relief at all.  If one more person tells me that sumatriptan will be my magic bullet, I think I’ll scream – that was the first med I was given over 20 years ago and it never did a thing.  I mean, really, if the same treatment worked for every person, would we have all the myriad options we do? 

And can we PLEASE put an end to the idea of “if you can function at all, it’s not a migraine”?  You’ll find this over and over in comment threads and forums, and it annoys me to no end.  “If you can look at a screen long enough to post that you have a migraine, you don’t really have a migraine”, “If you can get out of bed without throwing up, it’s not a real migraine”, “If you can drive yourself home from work, you don’t have a migraine”, etc., etc., etc.                                                                        

This.  Is.  Crap.   

Migraines are debilitating, no doubt, but not always 100%.  Chronic migraine (defined as 15 or more headache days per month) forces you to choose between fighting through the pain and giving up your life.  Many people simply have to work or have no access to treatment, and so they learn to cope as best they can.  Yes, looking at a computer screen hurts, but you can turn down the brightness and wear sunglasses indoors and squint and thereby kind of manage.  When you have no choice, sometimes you just do what you have to do, even if that means staying at work while functioning at only about 40%.  And if you’re in near-constant pain anyway, you become kind of inured to it and you develop a higher tolerance.  For years, I didn’t even notice any headache that wasn’t at least a 4 or 5 on the pain scale, because I spent most of my life at a 7. 

Another thing you hear in the migraine world is “If [insert OTC med of your choice here] fixes it, that’s not a migraine”.  Here’s what I have to say about that. 

I don’t know anyone who lives with migraines who claims to get 100% relief from an OTC pain med, but I know plenty who use OTC meds to regain some functionality until they can get their stronger prescription meds, or to avoid side effects like drowsiness while driving. 

When I had no access to treatment, I kept Excedrin Migraine on hand (yes, I know it’s exactly the same as regular Excedrin, but I started buying the migraine labeled stuff and now I keep doing so).  It was something, at least, and it was all I could get.  Lo and behold, it took the edge off the worst of the pain most of the time and made me able to function.  I keep it around now because it really does help some of my headaches, even when they include nausea and light/sound issues, which are normally hallmarks of a migraine.  I’m also prone to tension headaches, which can turn into a migraine if left alone.  For those, three ibuprofen are more effective at cutting it off before it gets bad. I keep naproxen on hand, too, because I live with more than one chronic pain condition and I need a variety of options based on the pain of the moment. 

Also, I had both chronic migraines and chronic daily headaches for a long time.  Having both conditions (and no aura) posed a problem: the symptoms were nearly identical.  The only way to tell the difference was to try the OTC meds and see if it worked.  If the pain lessened by at least half, it was just a headache; if not, it was a migraine and I was in for 72 hours of hell, like clockwork.  My migraines have since gone back to being episodic and the daily headaches are mostly gone, but I still use the same process of elimination before resorting to my nausea-inducing narcotics. 

Needing bigger and badder treatments is like a badge of honor among migraineurs – as if we have to prove how tough we are by complaining about how untreatable our pain is.   

But it’s not a freaking competition!   

And nobody who actually lives with migraines wants to be in intractable, disabling pain.  We all want a reliable, fast-acting cure that doesn’t take us out of commission for the rest of the day or give us awful side effects.  If you’ve ever had a migraine or cluster headache, you know that you’ll try anything, however weird, to stop the pain, and once you find something that works reliably, you will stick to it forever (or until it stops working).  Lots of us have entire protocols involving medication, heat or cold, darkness, caffeine and/or salt, etc.  While I’m the first to say that if a couple of ibuprofen cures it, that probably wasn’t a migraine, if your go-to is three ibuprofen plus 12 ounces of caffeine and then lying down for an hour with a towel under your neck and an ice pack over your eyes, well…that sounds familiar. 

If someone can get relief from that sort of treatment protocol with an OTC med, it doesn’t mean their pain isn’t “bad enough” or isn’t a “real migraine”.  It just means they have something easily accessible and inexpensive that works for them.  

You are totally allowed to be jealous of that or bitter about the fact that they don’t need a prescription like you do, or they don’t have to pay as much as you do, or that they have found an effective treatment while you’re still searching.  Those feelings are valid and you have every right to them and I am right there with you!  But don’t lash out at them and say those people don’t have real migraines.  Knowing how bad it can be, wouldn’t you be glad for any person who suffers with these things to have found relief? 

We can all agree that migraines are evil.  They make you wonder what you did to deserve such a curse.  Let’s try being kinder to each other and supporting one another, instead of invalidating everyone whose experience isn’t like our own. After all, we’re all just trying to get through the attacks the best we can and hoping to avoid the next one.    


Want to compare notes on all the meds you’ve tried, what worked, what didn’t?  How about the weirdest symptom or trigger you have?  Let’s talk about it, kindly and compassionately! 

The Greatest Insult I Ever Heard

Many, many moons ago, I worked for a time for a fairly well-known local family business.  They were lovely people, and I enjoyed working there for the most part.  But that is not the point of this story. 

Said family business was run by a pair of middle-aged brothers, Jim and Richard.  Both were kind men who believed in doing right by their customers, and both were active in their respective churches, although Richard was some flavor of charismatic (possibly Pentecostal, or maybe Assembly of God, I can’t remember) and Jim was a Baptist deacon. 

It was, as it so often is in Louisiana, election season.   

(Really, elections are an official state pastime, second only to LSU football.  We have elections all the time between city, parish, state, and national campaigns, and the ads start at least two months before and then go on for two months after election day, due to our Napoleonic system.  Remember people trying to understand the French elections in 2017?  Like that.  The politics never seem to change very much, no matter who or what party is in power, so one can only assume that we just hold elections because we enjoy it.  But I digress.)  

Now, please keep in mind that this was long ago, under Bush the Second, before everything became so divisive and pervasive and insane.  It was a different time.   

98% of the staff at this business were staunch conservatives and those who weren’t simply kept quiet when the topic came up, so there had been no political arguments in the office and nobody expected one to spontaneously break out.   

There were about five of us lowly employees gathered in the main reception area at the time, killing the last ten minutes or so before closing for a holiday.  Jim and Richard had been holed up in Jim’s office for about an hour when we started hearing raised voices.  We all went quiet and exchanged nervous glances as the door opened and the brothers came out, continuing their argument over which candidate was appropriate to vote for and paying no mind to the fact that they now had an audience.  Richard insisted that it had nothing to do with party lines, it was just that his candidate was the only properly conservative person running. 

And then it happened.


The greatest insult I can ever imagine one Christian throwing at another. 


Jim looked at his brother, shook his head, and said:  

“If Jesus Christ came to Earth and ran as a Democrat, you wouldn’t vote for him!” 


All of us who were watching this exchange drew back slightly, in anticipation of the lightning that was sure to strike Jim.  But it never came, and neither did Richard’s response, that I recall.  Maybe I was in shock, but all I remember is the brothers sending us home almost immediately. 

I mean, what could you say to that?  Surely that’s a line guaranteed to stop any argument in its tracks.  I don’t know that I’ll ever have occasion to use it, but I’ve kept it filed away in the back of my head for over 15 years just in case.  I just hope it doesn’t lose something in translation. 

Dark Shadows – the Early Days

Today I want to talk about one of my favorite tv shows – Dark Shadows.   

***This post contains spoilers for a 50 year old tv show.  If that bothers you, don’t read this.*** 

I love Dark Shadows so much.  It’s so ridiculous and campy and melodramatic, and the plotlines are absolutely outrageous, but some of them are pretty ingenious.  One of the great things about Dark Shadows is that you really don’t have to know what’s going on in order to enjoy it, the quick opening monologue will catch you up enough.  So when I first discovered it in reruns on the SciFi Channel in high school, I had no problem jumping into the world where Victoria Winters had been sent back in time through a séance to 1795.   

Backing up just a bit, I should explain that I had a little knowledge of Dark Shadows before the first time I saw it.  My dad had often made references to “Barnabas Collins, the reluctant vampire”, and my mother had told me about this ridiculous show where, when a character died off, they brought back the actor as a different character.  But that’s about as much as I knew going in. 

Lately, I’ve been craving more Dark Shadows in my life.  Being a completist, and having an annoying need to do things from the very beginning, I determined to watch all of Dark Shadows, from the very first episode when Victoria Winters arrives in Collinsport, through the very end and the last movie (Tim Burton’s interpretation notwithstanding).  Lo and behold, ALL of the show is available on Amazon and included in a Prime subscription!  Happy dance!!! 

There’s a caveat, though, and I offer it here as a Public Service Announcement.  On Amazon, you’ll find Dark Shadows seasons 1-26 (they must be actual seasons, like spring, summer, and winter, because the show did not run for 26 years), and then there’s also Dark Shadows: The Beginning seasons 1-6 (they’re each about 35 episodes, so about 7 weeks per season).  That which is labeled Dark Shadows begins with Willie Loomis finding Barnabas’ coffin, which is nearly a year into the series, according to Wikipedia.  So Dark Shadows: The Beginning is the first 200 or so episodes, the pre-Barnabas parts.  If you’re like me, this is where you start, and that’s the section I’m going to talk about today. 

According to everything I’ve read, Dark Shadows was conceived as a supernatural soap opera from the beginning; there were always supposed to be gothic and horror elements in the show, from the very first episode.  But those early episodes are nothing like the Dark Shadows I knew and loved. 

First of all, in the early days, the writing and pacing are just awful.  And I say this in comparison to the standard that was set in the show’s later seasons.  Sure, the writing was always campy and over-acted (or overly under-acted?), but the story moved along at a nice clip, whether it really made sense or not.  In these early seasons, though, it’s like they had no editors in the writers’ room – things get repeated over and over, scenes are slow and laggy, entire conversations are had where a few lines of dialogue would suffice if the writing were just tightened up a bit.  For well over 100 episodes, the show is concerned with a single storyline, that of the revenge of Burke Devlin.  Sometimes several episodes take place in the same day, following different characters, and other times a week’s worth of episodes or more go by without any real plot progression.   

Secondly, there are constant references to ghosts, goblins, and “the Widows”, but there is NO supernatural element present until episode 52.  In that episode, a book opens by itself and the marker reveals the name Josette Collins.  That’s it.  There isn’t even anyone around to see it.  Eventually, David takes Vicky to the Old House and shows her the portrait of Josette; after they leave, Josette’s ghost comes down from the painting and takes her sweet time walking across the grounds.  It’s not until episode 85 that we get a ghost interacting with anyone, when the ghost of Bill Malloy appears to Vicky while she’s trapped in the closed-off wing of the house.  It’s all so mundane, it really hardly feels like Dark Shadows at all.   

For the most part, the first hundred or so episodes feel like any other soap opera.  There’s a bunch of love triangles, a ton of misunderstandings, a few attempted murders, one or two deaths, a minor kidnapping or disappearance here and there – all perfectly ordinary soap opera fodder that you might see on All My Children, Guiding Light, or Days of Our Lives (no sex, though – this was in 1966, long before they started showing sex on daytime tv).  There were many points in those early episodes when I thought that if I didn’t know it was going to get better, that it was going to eventually become the show I love so much, I wouldn’t put up with this crap.  If I didn’t know what would happen later on, I would have quit watching the show quite some time ago.  So it was little surprise to me to learn that Dark Shadows was on the verge of cancelation when Barnabas was introduced. 

Another problem I found in the early episodes is the characters.  Not only are they ill-formed and badly written, but they’re all kind of one-note jokes.  Roger Collins is an asshole who hates his son and treats just about everyone else with terrible disdain (except Carolyn, more on that in a minute).  Carolyn Stoddard is a total brat who acts like a spoiled child though she’s supposed to be 18, treats her steady beau, her friend, and her family like trash just so she can get some attention from an older man, and goes off on anyone and everyone for little to no reason.  David Collins is played as a purely sinister nine-year-old, called “an incipient psychopath” by his own father, and said to have killed the last thing he claimed to love (a kitten he drowned, according to Carolyn).  Sam Evans is a drunk, Maggie Evans constantly makes jokes and laughs about everything.  Elizabeth Collins Stoddard is the unflappable matriarch, but a terrible liar and with none of her inscrutability that would come into her character later.  Vicky Winters is basically the ultimate innocent ingenue – quite bland, and entirely blameless.  It’s hard to care about these characters as they’re written at this point, especially knowing how they grow later. 

And there are some really weird, incestuous vibes going on at Collinwood!  It’s all about Roger.  With Elizabeth, the way he talks to her and the way he calls her “my dear” and such things, it feels so much like Riff Raff and Magenta from Rocky Horror.  Carolyn as much as tells Vicky she has a crush on her Uncle Roger – she waxes eloquent about how charming and wonderful he is, and how much better he is than her steady boyfriend, Joe Haskell.  Vicky doesn‘t blink or even act shocked, she just points out that Carolyn doesn’t exactly have the option of choosing her uncle over her boyfriend.  Meanwhile, Roger constantly addresses Carolyn as “Kitten” and they put off some serious sugar daddy-type vibes.  Then, when Roger starts trying to get close to Vicky and seems to be hitting on her, it feels creepy because he seems so much older than she is, and Carolyn gets snippy about it, which just makes it creepier.  Or maybe it’s just that Roger Collins is a creepy bastard in general and puts off that vibe with all women. 

David Collins is the one I really feel bad for, though.  Carolyn and Roger refer to him as a monster, a horror, a devil, and worse, often to his face.  Everyone uses the word “ridiculous” in response to things he says, far too often.  His father wants to put him in an institution, and openly says that he hates the boy.  His cousin laughs at him and calls him names and taunts him.  His aunt and his governess brush him aside and accuse him of lying even when he isn’t.  If we look at him from a 21st century perspective, it’s no wonder why the child is so troubled, why he lies and steals and says he hates everyone.  We’d see it as a natural consequence of the way he’s treated and we’d say he belonged in counseling, not in jail or a mental hospital.  Every time an adult takes David seriously, or at least doesn’t laugh at him or rebuke him, I immediately like that character, even if they’re supposed to be a villain – which is most of them.  Elizabeth and Vicky sometimes accept David as he is, but usually they chastise him or tell him he’s wrong.  Burke Devlin accepts David, but he’s a villain, and the housekeeper that he planted at Collinwood also takes David seriously when he talks about going to talk to his ghost friends, but we’re not supposed to like them, as they’re trying to destroy the Collins family.  It creates a weird dynamic that makes David look like a villain as well.                      

Things finally start to get moving in episode 123, when Laura Collins, Roger’s estranged wife and David’s mother, turns up.  At long last, we get a new storyline starting as the last one is still trying to wind itself up, in true Dark Shadows fashion.  And in episodes 125 and 126, it finally starts to feel like Dark Shadows, with several ghosts intervening to save Vicky Winters from the insane caretaker.   

Throughout the Laura Collins storyline, the show feels much more familiar.  The pacing continues to be awful and slow, but the show seems to be finding its footing.  People are oddly compelled to do things against their wills, they have strange dreams and nightmares, and there are questions about a mysterious death and whether Laura Collins is really who she says she is. Vicky becomes not only interesting, but a driving force in the story – so much so that Carolyn just disappears for a few episodes and I didn’t even notice until she turned back up.   

It’s odd to realize that this is the first supernatural thing that the Collins family is dealing with – this story happens long before the séance-induced time travel and the vampire in the family.  I was more used to seeing the cast of Dark Shadows reacting to the supernatural with a certain understanding and nonchalance, not this confusion and disbelief they’re using in these early episodes.  It’s hard to believe, but most of them don’t even believe in Josette’s ghost at this point.  But eventually Laura Collins is shown to be a supernatural threat as she puts Elizabeth in a persistent coma by some form of magic, and the family calls in a doctor of parapsychology.  Correct me if I’m wrong, but wasn’t that the same title held by Drs. Venkman, Stanz, and Spengler? 

In the 21st century, when Fox Mulder and Ghostbusters are both so ingrained in the popular consciousness, all this jabbering about parapsychology seems very innocent and silly, but in the 1960s, I guess it was more of a big deal.  The writing makes a point of explaining the field and how it works and why it should be taken seriously, and it’s quite impressive.  That is, until this Dr. Guthrie calls Laura Collins “the undead”.  I am not ok with this!  “The undead” refers to those creatures which are dead but not dead, meaning vampires and occasionally zombies, depending on the rules of your universe.  It does not refer to other immortal creatures like werewolves, witches (in the Dark Shadows-verse, anyway), or phoenixes (phoenices?).  Sure, Dr. Guthrie defines it as “you lived, and died, and returned to walk the earth again”, but that is still not the same thing!     

At the very least, this storyline provides some vague subtextual explanation for David being such a weird kid and so in tune with the supernatural.  Although it’s never said outright, it’s pretty obvious that David is half-phoenix – that is, half magical.  You’d hope that this would get at least some of the adults around him to take him more seriously, but nothing really changes.  And, as if poor David needed another reason to be messed up, he watches his mother burn to death not ten feet from him, while she was trying to get him to burn with her. 

In episode 196, the next storyline gets properly started with the introduction of Jason McGuire.  Unlike most of Dark Shadows, this new arc feels abrupt, because it’s marked by Liz Stoddard’s return from the hospital after recovering from the curse, which ended when Laura Collins died.  I can understand there wasn’t really a better way to do it, but it still feels clunky.  And in episode 201, there is FINALLY an end to the Burke Devlin arc – a truce is called between Burke and the Collins family, at least in anything outside of business. 

The Jason McGuire arc also introduces another villain: Willie Loomis.  Introduced in episode 199, Willie Loomis is probably the most terrifying character I’ve run across since Buffalo Bill in Silence of the Lambs.  He’s incredibly sleazy, quietly but heavily menacing, and totally dehumanizing to women.  Interestingly, given the time, none of his advances are treated like something women just have to expect or put up with.  His attitude toward women is used as evidence of how dangerous he is, and Carolyn, Vicky, and Maggie’s fear of him is treated as completely justified.  Maggie is such a jovial personality, anything that stops her from laughing and joking is unsettling.  There is a scene where Willie orders Carolyn and Vicky to make him breakfast, and their fear is palpable.  Any woman will be able to relate to the feeling of being trapped between trying to get away and trying not to upset a man who seems unstable.  Eventually, Willie traps Carolyn in the drawing room and she has to pull a gun on him to get him to back off. 

Two episodes after Carolyn escapes being raped by Willie Loomis, the actor playing him was replaced.  This kind of replacement has been done twice so far in the series, once with Sam Evans, and once with a smaller side character, but each time, there was an announcement after the opening sequence.  This time there was no announcement.  I can’t find anything to back this up, but I want to believe that this change was made because the original actor was just so freaking scary!  The new actor still has a little creepiness about him, and he still menaces the girls a little, but it isn’t so chilling and uncomfortable to watch.   

Having spent so much time building up Willie Loomis as such a terrible person, it’s very fulfilling to see him get his comeuppance by opening a coffin only to be grabbed by the throat.  But it can’t quite wash the taste of his sleaze out of your mouth, particularly when you realize he wasn’t killed. 

There you have it, friends, the first 209 episodes of Dark Shadows.  It’s not what I expected from what I knew of the later years of the show.  We’ll pick up next time with the first appearance of Barnabas Collins, and the impressive fact that Jonathan Frid actually looked young at one point!