Baltmore Sun review (preview) of Let's Get Married -11/02
cmfce at smartmarriages.com
Thu Nov 14 16:17:53 EST 2002
subject: Baltmore Sun review of Let's Get Married
from: Smart Marriages®
I guess the Baltimore Sun got a preview copy of tonight's documentary,
"Let's Get Married". Annoying if the filmmakers really made mistakes like
the one reported in this review - that welfare recipients in Oklahoma were
FORCED to take relationship skills classes to receive their aid payments. In
actuality they were offered the marriage education classes as one of the
OPTIONS that could fulfill their work/study requirements and they elected to
participate. - diane
Studying the state of the union in U.S. society
'Frontline' examines marriage's impact on the whole society
By David Zurawik
Sun Television Critic
November 14, 2002
PBS' Let's Get Married is exactly the kind of below-the-hypeline,
public-affairs program likely to be overlooked on a Thursday night
during November "sweeps" when every channel on the tube is doing its
best to entertain you. Set the VCR if you must see commercial TV
tonight, but don't ignore this provocative report from Frontline, the
series currently doing the best in-depth journalism on television.
Let's Get Married starts out looking as though it is going to be an
examination of the modern marriage movement - an amalgam of Christian
activists, political conservatives and intellectuals who begin with the
fact that one-third of all households in the United States are now
single-parent - and come to the conclusion that what America needs is a
society-wide rededication to couples getting married and staying that
way. Think Newsweek doing a cover story on a controversial social
We start in Chattanooga, Tenn., with a made-for-television marriage that
features audience members of a local morning show selecting a couple and
then planning their wedding day and honeymoon through a series of votes.
The couple gets the wedding and honeymoon for free - as long as the
bride and groom agree to abstain from sex before marriage and to
participate in marriage education as decreed by the modern marriage
movement group behind the event.
Then, it's off to Oklahoma, where Frank Keating, the conservative
governor, has embraced the marriage movement with educational programs
expected to cost the state $10 million this year. They range from
Christian family therapists offering voluntary marriage workshops to
welfare recipients being forced to take classes in "relationship skills"
as a condition of receiving aid. We meet one of those recipients, a
36-year-old mother of four who has been married and divorced twice.
There are almost as many divorces in Oklahoma each year as there are
marriages - 20,000 - we are told.
Keating explains his commitment to the movement by saying, "I asked
Oklahoma State University and Oklahoma University to examine the
question of why Oklahoma was poor. And they came back with something
quite extraordinary. ... They said, 'You have too much divorce, too many
out-of-wedlock births, too much drug abuse and violence.' The issue of
divorce was paramount to economists."
But just as you start to think you know where Let's Get Married is
headed journalistically and politically, the correspondent behind the
voice that has been reporting the story identifies himself.
"I'm Alex Kotlowitz," he says. "For 15 years, I've written about
families from Chicago's poorest neighborhoods. Unlike Oklahoma, the
trouble here is not too many marriages, but too few. In this
neighborhood, only one out of 10 children are born to married parents.
As we take apart the old structures of public housing and welfare, what
about the fate of the family?"
And, suddenly, what looked predictable is anything but. Instead of just
reporting on the movement and pigeonholing it by the conservative voices
that have been among its loudest, you get a thoughtful analysis of the
issues and history behind it from Kotlowitz, author of the acclaimed
There Are No Children Here: The Story of Two Boys Growing Up in the
Other America. You also get an informed discussion of how other peoples'
feelings about marriage can affect your quality of life.
"During my reporting, I became convinced that marriage, this most
private of institutions, has very public consequences," Kotlowitz says.
"And yet, we have such a tough time talking about it. Why is that?"
As Kotlowitz tells viewers that Republican President George W. Bush
wants to spend $300 million on programs like the ones Keating started in
Oklahoma, he also explains that Democratic President Lyndon Johnson
wanted to do much the same. And Johnson, Kotlowitz tells us, got the
idea from a 1965 report on the state of the African-American family
written by another liberal Democrat, Daniel Patrick Moynihan. That
report created a firestorm of controversy in part for expressing concern
"that a third of black children lived with only one parent," according
And remember what happened to Republican Vice President Dan Quayle in
1992 for raising the issue of children born out of wedlock in connection
with the television character Murphy Brown?
Let's Get Married deserves praise not just for exploring the
relationship between culturally embedded attitudes toward marriage and
huge social problems that we have been unable to solve for more than 40
years, but for doing so in a context that makes simple-minded
conservative-liberal, Republican-Democratic and black-white distinctions
all but impossible.
It is only an hour on a Thursday night in November when it's likely to
be dwarfed by the competition. But, maybe, it's the place where a
reasoned and informed national discussion can finally begin.
Copyright © 2002, The Baltimore Sun
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