Saturday, August 09, 2008

Was life really this bad in 1973?

So with the heat and the boredom and the laziness and all, we are downloading stuff to watch on the computer. Our latest find is the British show Life on Mars. I guess that I've been living under a rock again, as I have only recently heard of this. The American version will air here in a month or so, and Colm Meaney will be on it. So how did I miss hearing about it?

Anyway, we're watching the original British version, and are maybe a third of the way through. Life on Mars has nothing to do with the planet Mars. There's a present day police detective who gets hit by a car, and then he wakes up in 1973. And he knows that it can't really be 1973, and in 1973 he was only four years old, so he can't be an adult police detective in 1973.

But, he's still a police detective, and if you give him a case to work on he'll try to solve the crime. What alternative does he have? It probably isn't real, but it might be, and if he makes a big deal about this not really being his life they might lock him in a padded cell. So he tries to catch the bad guys, without a cell phone or a computer or DNA testing, etc....

Things really seem bad in this TV version of 1973 England. And since I've never really been to 1973 England, I can't say that this isn't a fair representation. I'm sure that a lot of it was like that. I'm sure that there were a lot of dirty cops and that a whole bunch of them were sexist and racist and that a lot of them were just plain rude. I'm sure that a lot of this stuff is just the way it was there, and that a lot of it was just the way it was here too.

But I'm wondering if things were really all that bad in 1973. I was six years old back then. I went to first grade, I wanted to wear flare-leg pants all the time, I played with my dog and climbed trees when the weather was warm, I went to church on Sundays, and I watched cartoons on Saturdays. The rest of the week we watched Little House on the Prairie, The Waltons, The Brady Bunch, Truth or Consequences, and Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom. Once or twice a week we had candy and sodas. Dad went to work, and Mom stayed home to cook and do laundry and such. The Avon lady and the Tupperware lady came by once in a while. We ate pretty dull food sometimes, but we were made to eat all of it because there were starving kids in China. Most of the people I knew were reasonably polite and wore clean clothes. There was a war going on someplace else, but I knew nothing about it. I'm sure I was sheltered from a lot of things, but were they that bad?

Everything on this show looks dirty and run down. The only normal person the detective works with is a woman who has also studied psychology and nursing, and he's the only person who appreciates her. He's a grown man about my age, he has a steady job, and he's the second ranking man in his particular part of the police department. So why does he live in such an awful little apartment? It looks like some fleabag motel rooms I had to stay in back when we were on the road a lot. And his apartment doesn't even have a normal bed, but something that looks like what we would sleep in at summer camp, only with the top bunk taken off.

In 1973 my dad was a bit younger than this guy. He wasn't a cop, but he had a steady job. Besides taking care of himself, he had a wife and three kids. We lived in a regular house. Martha Stewart did not decorate for us, but things were clean and nicer looking than what things look like in this show. My parents had a regular bed, and I had a regular bed, and my siblings had bunk beds that looked a lot better than the thing that this guy sleeps on.

My dad didn't wear leather jackets. Maybe this guy can't afford a good place to live because he spends all his money on beer and snappy clothes.

I know that we didn't have cell phones and computers and debit cards and such, and it would be hard to go back in time and try to do without stuff we are used to having now, but was the rest of it really this bad in the 70s?


Mark J Daniels said...

Life On Mars was a brilliant series and its follow up, Ashes to Ashes which was on earlier this year was equally good.

The representation of British policing in 1973 is pretty accurate, from what I've been told by people who were police at the time, and the depiction of Manchester in that period is pretty true too.

You have to remember that Manchester, or parts of Manchester that were being shown in that series were, at that time, pretty run down. Some of it still is today although I suspect they all now sleep on proper beds and probably don't have flock wallpaper any more.

Not all of England looks like that, either now or then, but at that time that particular area of the country did, the police did work like that, and pubs and clubs were dingy, mothballed drinking establishments.

I'm looking forward to the American version of the show to see how it compares!

dmarks said...

I don't quite get debit cards and what use they are. I guess I am out of it.

Mark J Daniels said...

I know that when I was in America in '92/'93 Debit Cards and the idea of Direct Debits were an alien concept but we've had them for years in the UK. They basically replaced cheques and only allow you to spend the money you have in your current account (checking account in the US, I think?) rather than borrowing on a credit card.

Personally, I prefer cash...

laughingattheslut said...

In second or third grade we had a field trip to the bank. As part of the tour, they showed us the ATM. I think that maybe there were only two in town or something. They were quite proud of it. You still had to go to the bank to get your money, but at least you could get it after the bank closed. The main thing that I remembered was if you put in the wrong pin number a few times that it took away your card and it went down into a vault three stories down under the basement, and you couldn't get it or your money til the bank opened again.

I've now become very dependent on debit cards. I'm so used to them that I don't carry cash except for buying lotto tickets, unless maybe I plan to be some place that I know that I'll need cash for. Garage sales, going out of town on toll roads, tipping people at ren faires, and that sort of thing. If I have cash on me it's usually just a few dollars left over from one of those things. If the machine goes out at the McDonald's we have a hard time coming up with enough cash between us to pay for lunch.

And we don't use paper checks either, except to pay rent or make car payments. Everyone else has a machine for debit cards or online billing.

dmarks said...

I'm so retro; it is mostly cash. Very little checks, very little credit cards.