The Last Very Special Episode About Things You Shouldn't Do
Not having premarital sex? Not smoking pot? Not marrying people your family disapproves of? Didn't pretend to get married when you'd really already eloped on your first date so you could finally have sex? Never trashed the high school gym, got kicked off the basketball team, sent to jail, stolen money from your (seriously odd) infant brothers, and forever after been the loser of your family? Never disobeyed your parents and then been immediately struck by a car/had your dog struck by a car/struck someone while you were driving the car? Then you should feel plenty smug watching tonight's series finale of Seventh Heaven, because baby, you're perfect enough to be a Camden. In fact, you're a lot better than the Camdens, because they've done all of this stuff, over and over, season after season, for an unbelievable ten years.
Today's New York Times had a really funny retrospective review of the series, though I wish they'd gone farther. I loved this:
By the show's moral logic, there is really nothing worse than premarital
sex, certainly not manslaughter: this revelation came when one of the Camden
boys accidentally ran over and killed someone with his car. That incident was
quickly dispensed with, but then came the shocking consequence: the boy's desire
to then become physically intimate with his girlfriend.
The boy, Simon,
appeared in the show's pilot as an 8- or 9-year-old pining for a dog. The dog he
got, as it turned out, was about to give birth to a litter of puppies. That the
dog — presumably unmarried — is named Happy and not Crushed, Devastated or
Destined for a Life of Squandered Opportunity seems, in retrospect, a
The smartest observation was about the show's schizophrenia. I successfully avoided watching this show for almost its entire run, finally succumbing during a research leave last fall. I started watching out of some weird Mormon-nostalgia, like poking a bruise, thinking I knew exactly what kind of audience it was aiming for, smugly congratulating myself on not being part of it, but then I found myself really liking some of their positions, as when the mother freaked out because her daughters didn't recognize and respect the sacrifices she'd made to be a stay at home mother and the amount of work she put into this career choice, insisting that motherhood is a choice, and it is work, or when she freaked out because the father objected to her going back to school, or when the father freaked out over the sexualization of children, wondering why his pre-teen daughter felt so much pressure to be partnered off with a boyfriend. I think I almost convinced myself the show might be feminist, despite the fact that the credits list the Camden sons before the daughters, instead of listing the siblings chronologically. But since the father's one dating freak out was the last time the show ever shied away from pushing insistent heterosexual match-ups and matings, regardless of the character's age or, as the Times article points out, their educational or career goals, I mostly watched because I was always hoping for another very special episode about the dangers of doing drugs. (Even the mom smoked pot, once, in college, and yes, a car crash did follow and someone did die. Someone. Always. Dies.)
The Times notes that "as distasteful as the series might seem to liberal sensibilities, it is arguably more offensive still to conservative ones, because of the sleaziness with which it puts across the Christian values to which it halfheartedly aspires. . . . It revels in the illicit behavior it condemns and takes pleasure in its own creepy innuendos." Uhh, ya think? I've been wondering where all the NC-17 Seventh Heaven fanfic is hiding, because this show offers lots and lots of squicky subtext that fanfic could go to town on, and brothers and sisters who love each other waaaay too much is just the beginning.
Afraid you won't be able to follow the drama tonight? Check out Television Without Pity's handy Seventh Heaven FAQ.