Metro Weekly

Free to Be You and Me

Reel Affirmations 2009

Review by Sean Bugg

Rating: starstarstarstar (4 out of 5)
Sunday, 10/18/2009, 3:00 PM
Feature presentation, $0 at Flashpoint

WE GENERATION X-ERS take our childhood nostalgia seriously — that’s why we didn’t flock to see Will Ferrell’s remade Land of the Lost. You just don’t mess with Sleestaks, man. Have some respect for your source material. But alongside the cultural detritus of our youth — from Sid & Marty Kroft productions to Superfriends — is the earnest and well-meaning Free to Be You and Me, Marlo Thomas’s grand effort to let every one of us now that we are perfect just as we are.

A product of the ’70s, Free to Be is almost exclusively focused on gender roles, from a puppet baby who believes he’s a girl (asked what he/she wants to be when he/she grows up, the ever-amusing voice of Mel Brooks croaks out, ”A cocktail waitress!”), to a little boy who more than anything wants a doll. Of course, William the doll-desiring boy is also very good at baseball and we’re reassured that despite his desire to hold and hug and feed and change his dreamy little doll, ”Someday he is going to be a father, too.” Sure he is.

While our culture certainly can’t be described as one of pure gender equality and neutrality, Free to Be is a big reminder of how far we’ve come from the days when we had to be told that women could be doctors and lawyers and such, or that early marriage wasn’t the only goal a young girl could have.

Aside from gender roles, Free to Be takes on the tyranny of physical beauty by reassuring children that they look beautiful just the way they are. In retrospect, however, watching a young Michael Jackson dance around singing about not wanting to change at all and accepting yourself for who you are is one of the most ironically creepy viewing experiences you will every have.

Bonus moment of strangeness: Marlo Thomas herself chatting with a bunch of elementary school students while nestled under a some sort of geodesic play dome looks like Romper Room signed an endorsement contract with Pyramid Power.

The ’70s were a strange, strange time for a kid.

Free to Be You and Me
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Sean Bugg is Editor Emeritus for Metro Weekly.