Watching 7th Heaven with Asperger’s

A lot of times, when I watch shows, I can read people’s facial expressions. That’s probably because they make the expressions so obvious that they’re hard to miss: they exaggerate them. And then there are times when I detect that a character feels a certain way, but I really can’t specify what. In those cases, I go to wikipedia or some sort of episode guide, and it tells me what the character is feeling.

But when I was watching 7th Heaven yesterday (I’m in the eighth season), it reminded me a little more of the social ambiguity of real life. Okay, there’s this character named Peter, who is Ruthie Camden’s boyfriend. His dad is an alcoholic who left him and his mom three years ago, and now, all sobered up, he wants to become involved in Peter’s life again. The impression we’re supposed to have of Peter’s dad is that he’s a real jerk: he is blunt, sarcastic, and somewhat selfish.

And yet, we pity the man. Eric Camden says that Peter’s dad desperately wants to be loved, and that’s why he wants his son back in his life. And, ultimately, the one Peter’s dad hates most is himself. But he finds healing at the end of the episode, when he and the Camdens work with people who have mental retardation. Peter’s dad paints a picture, and it accidentally gets ripped in the car. When he goes into a tirade about his own stupidity, the people with mental retardation tell him how beautiful the picture is and give him a group hug. It was a touching scene!

Well, Peter’s dad meets members of the Camden family, along with people who for some reason like to hang around at the Camdens‘ (to the point of actually living at their house). Peter’s dad astutely says, “This is like an orphanage!” And he’s right. It is. But, anyway, Peter’s dad meets Martin, whose dad is in Iraq. He says to Martin, “Hey, aren’t you the one whose dad is a Marine? When are you signing up?” Martin coldly replies, “What do you have against the Marines?”

In my eyes, Peter’s dad was just trying to be friendly. I didn’t hear him denigrate the Marines. Why did Martin assume that he did? That whole scene reminded me of what goes through my mind on numerous occasions: “What did I say?”

Of course, this is the Hallmark Channel, which likes to delete stuff that it deems inappropriate, so maybe we didn’t get the full thrust of his comment.

But that whole incident reminded me of what I go through. In social situations, I have to say something, because otherwise people will ignore me. And I want to be witty like the people around me. Yet, I don’t know right then and there what to say. And I don’t have too much time to think about it, since, before you know it, the conversation has moved on to something else, and any comment I could have made becomes irrelevant (I hope this sounds stressful!). And so I say something, and people get offended.

That seemed to me to be the problem that Peter’s dad had: he just didn’t know what to say.

In any case, I’m looking forward to today’s episode. Roxanne, a cop, gets into a fight with Martin’s aunt over the Iraq war. I seriously wonder who will be for it, and who will be against it. Roxanne loves justice. She actually rejoiced when her cop dad shot a man who had killed her mother. She is not a bleeding heart liberal, by any stretch of the imagination.

But Martin’s aunt has a brother in Iraq, and I can see her supporting what her brother is doing. But I can’t take that totally for granted, for I know a mother with a son in Iraq, and she absolutely hates George W. Bush. She said her son jokes about the seven dollar Halliburton hamburgers!

This is the first episode in which there is debate about Bush’s war policies. In a previous episode, Ruthie was corresponding with an American soldier in Afghanistan, and the consensus pretty much was that he was fighting to keep America safe. Robbie and Simon had a discussion in which they both agreed that war is sometimes necessary.

But, eventually, we get tired of war. And I’m interested to see how today’s episode deals with that.

About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting. I have degrees in fields of religious studies. I have an M.Phil. in the History of Biblical Interpretation from Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio. I also have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University.
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