Category Archives: An American Family

October 17, 2012, 2:32 pm

Calling Mary Poppins: Should Colleges Teach When Parents Don’t?

Should these books be on every dean’s shelf? Photo credit.

Now that I no longer teach at a residential campus, I rarely think about what used to be called in loco parentis, otherwise known as “parietals” or “colleges acting like parents.”

Mary Poppins was the original in loco parentis, but her university life descendants had titles like Dean of Women and Dorm Housemother.  You have to be sixty or older to remember what these remnants of Victorian England were like: they enforced a set of rules, the most odious of which purported to control campus sexuality by controlling women in particular. Women signed in and out of dorms, and had to be in at a certain hour. Men were allowed in the women’s dorms in the evening, but only in parlors. Any man visiting a woman’s room required an open door so that patrolling…

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April 23, 2011, 8:14 pm

I’m OK, You’re (Really Not) OK: Memories of “An American Family”

Tonight HBO rolls out “Cinema Vérité,”a movie, starring Tim Robbins and Diane Lane, about the making of the TV series “An American Family” (go here for a trailer.)  My students can’t imagine a world without reality TV, endless channels where you can test the authenticity of your own life and emotions against the appalling things that other people say and do.  However, they probably also can’t imagine being fifteen in the winter of 1973, as the Vietnam war was coming to its grisly end, and having the Loud family combust live, every Sunday night, on PBS.  This is how one archive describes the series:

In 1971 filmmakers Alan and Susan Raymond spent seven months documenting the day-to-day lives of the Loud family of Santa Barbara, CA, including parents William C. “Bill” and Pat Loud and their children Lance, Kevin, Grant, Delilah, and Michele. The resulting 12-hour documentary, “An…

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