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Election Special or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Blue Bloods

TS mosaic

Tom Selleck acts with his mouth.

It’s a subtle but effective talent.

Most actors focus on how and what their eyes convey to the audience. Whether their characters are listening, reacting, retreating or attacking, they project it all through their eyes.

But with Selleck, both his emotions and his authority as NYC Police Commissioner Frank Reagan emanate from the nose down. The dimples appear when he’s caught out asking campus security to watch granddaughter Nicky (Sami Gayle) when she’s at a college party. The lips purse when he’s faced with a fugitive on the run, a potential bomb disaster or a dirty cop. And the mustache – of course the mustache – wiggles ever so slightly when he’s invited back to a woman’s hotel room. (This has happened a few times over 6+ seasons, not that I’m keeping count or anything.)

I never noticed Selleck’s mouth when I was a kid watching Magnum P.I. Back then he often let his eyebrows, his chest and his Ferrari do the talking. I also missed a good deal of his story arc as Monica’s older boyfriend on Friends. But once my 83-year-old aunt introduced me to the Blue Bloods universe (that multi-generational American drama on CBS), I gained a new appreciation for Selleck’s understated charisma and his enduring sex appeal.

Now I know what you’re thinking: rockmom, you watch Blue Bloods? A network drama with a geriatric audience about law and order white folks? Blue Bloods?

Yes, I do. I even purchase seasons on iTunes. Proudly.

While it’s true that Blue Bloods draws the oldest viewers on television – median audience age is 62.5 – and depicts characters who probably lean to the right politically, it’s also a show that I regularly enjoy with my teens. One that always inspires what-would-you-do-in-that-situation conversations and an appreciation for Assistant District Attorney Erin Reagan’s (Bridget Moynahan) tough but tender parenting. So when my kids give me a hard time about curfew times, we can watch the episode where Nicky’s arrested, and I can say: see, it could be worse. Her Mom made her spend a night in jail!

More importantly, in this never-ending, divisive election cycle – Red v Blue, Us v Them, Deplorables v Elites – Blue Bloods is one of the few designated safe conversation zones for me and my far-right, Clinton-hating relatives. There’s also the weather, college football, food and… well, that’s about it.

As an expat living in an international, fairly liberal echo chamber, I always experience a bit of a rude awakening when I return home to Texas for holidays. Mind you, there are a lot of wonderful things I can only enjoy when I’m back: Shiner beer, cheese enchiladas, perfect brisket, old friends and bluebonnets. But then I also have to be around people who tell me, out loud: ‘Blacks are bad tippers’ or ‘Hispanics don’t know how to look after their kids’ or ‘You can’t tell a good Muslim from a bad Muslim’ and of course the iniquitous assertion that ‘Of course, Obama is a Muslim from Kenya.’

It’s wearying. It’s depressing. It makes me wish Frank and his dimples would appear with a bottle of single malt and a couple of glasses.

But what can I do? This is family. I’m sure Father Quinn (Frank’s priest) would counsel: hate the sin, love the sinner.

And just keep watching TV. That great American cure-all.

At this moment in our nation’s unsettled history, I’m sure a lot of other families of mixed political persuasions could benefit from the moral clarity, compassion and generosity that Blue Bloods offers. I’m thinking specifically of Anglo-Saxon families that haven’t forgotten their own religious and immigrant roots. If, like me, you have a Catholic Dad who once bought everyone Christmas presents from the All Things Irish shop then you know exactly what I’m talking about!

With Blue Bloods, I might disagree with Frank’s support for the death penalty, but I can respect his convictions, and admire how good he looks in his sunglasses. I can also enjoy an hour when certain things are reassuringly, crystal clear. For one, according to Detective Danny Reagan (Donnie Wahlberg), there are only two kinds of people in the world: scumbags and not-scumbags. His job is to catch the former and help the latter. Don’t be a scumbag.

Second, there’s no problem so big that it can’t be solved with roasted meat and red wine. A beer and a chat with Grandpa also helps.

Further to that, it’s okay if Sunday dinners are contentious. Talk it out, disagree, argue, but above all, come back next week. We’ll be serving turducken.

Lastly, let’s not forget about the women on Blue Bloods. Because, you know, if this were a Hollywood movie, Moynahan would be playing Selleck’s love interest and not his daughter. So yay (!) to that casting decision. And yay to the other strong-minded women on the show: Linda (Amy Carlson), Janko (Vanessa Ray), Nicky and detectives Baez (Marisa Ramirez) and Curatola (Jennifer Esposito).

Can I also add that, as we all inch closer to Blue Blood’s median audience age, it should give us hope to see that Frank has very likely seen more action in the bedroom than his two single kids – Jamie (Will Estes) and Erin. (Not that my aunt and I discuss these things, oh no, not us!) I mean I’ve never fired a gun and would rather not dwell on Selleck’s association with the NRA. However, the season 2 episode where Frank buys Melanie (his foreign correspondent/booty call) a custom-made, leather thigh-holster for her concealed carry is, I’m not afraid to admit, incredibly hot.

So you see, Blue Bloods can bring liberals and conservatives together!

Now I know what you’re thinking, because I am too: the GOP chose the wrong ‘80s-era personality to top the ticket.

Vote. Peace.

Tom Selleck photo by Dominick D [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons.

Kings of Lincoln’s Legacy?

What do we have to do with Lincoln? Read on and find out. Photo courtesy NME

This Saturday – November 6 – marks the 150th anniversary of the election of Abraham Lincoln. I know this only because I recently read a NY Times OP-ED by the writer, Tony Horwitz. Horwitz is a journalist and the author of Confederates in the Attic, which is a funny, fascinating look at the enduring legacy of The Civil War.

If you’re interested in reenactors, remembrance and why racism still exists, read this book!

This is a fantastic read.

Horwitz’s latest OP-ED makes you consider the power and impact of selective memory – something we’re all too familiar with, especially during this current election cycle. He writes:

“Earlier this year in Virginia, Gov. Robert F. McDonnell proclaimed April to be Confederate History Month without mentioning slavery, while the state’s Department of Education issued a textbook peddling the fiction that thousands of blacks had fought for the South.”

After I graduated from college in 1989, I worked for a summer in Galveston at a surf shop. We sold swimsuits, boogie boards as well as seashell tchotchkes and postcards. One weekday a tour bus pulled in to the parking lot and a large group of tourists started to disembark. It was a slow day so you’d think the manager would be pleased to see a big group descending on the shop. These customers were all older African-American ladies from Houston. The manager looked out at the parking lot and then turned to me and said, “Looks like we got a busload of niggers.”

He said this freely and openly, as if I’d laugh along with him. Ha ha. You’re so funny you crazy white man.

I was speechless.

When our history of slavery persists as the elephant in the room and the FBI registers over 7,500 hate crime incidents for 2008, you have to wonder: Why is it so difficult for us to get past race, gender and sexual orientation?

I’m not being facetious here, but I’m now going to segue in to talking about the new Kings of Leon video. Watch it here:

Now is it just me or does anyone else find this video not only pretentious but horribly questionable? We’re talking bad taste here. Really.

Am I overreacting? Am I being overly sensitive? I don’t know. I think it’s odd and just not appropriate, this sunset-lit, golden time scene of four Southern white boys treating a bunch of black children to a barbeque. We’ve got Caleb, in his suspenders and kerchief, looking like Johnny Reb, we’ve got pies and fishing in the creek and we’ve got a fricking gospel choir. A gospel choir!

Scary? Or sacred?

It smacks of pretension, dubious intentions and an overall preacher-heathen aesthetic that I thought had gone the way of Birth of a Nation. I want to ask the director, Sophie Muller, “What the f*** were you thinking????”

But I also have to ask myself, “Why are you so upset?” Is it liberal guilt? Is it because I can’t get past it? Am I too caught up in racist imagery that I only see:

Southern white guys + black children = plantation life

I can accept U2 and a gospel choir (Eh, they’re Irish, they talk a lot and they’re in love with Graceland and Muddy Waters), but I can’t accept four guys from Tennessee. Am I guilty of some kind of reverse racism here?

In a short ‘making of’ segment about the video, Nathan says, “…Gospel music was a big part of us so to be able to come back and revisit that part of our lives in this stage of our lives is pretty special.”

You know, I don’t know.

I’m suspicious.

What do you think?