Sunday, March 17, 2013
"Anything worth having is worth going for, all the way."
My love of the eighties primetime soap began when I was ten years old. I know my parents watched it in my childhood, but it went off the air when I was five, so I remember nothing of it until the first reunion movie, J.R. Returns, in 1996. My father, who constantly usurped the living room TV, forced me to watch it. (Well, I'm sure he didn't force me, but that's what was on.) I have no idea what it was about that show that I loved and connected with, but I remember being instantly caught up in the drama. Who were these characters? What was their backstory? Why did Major Nelson have insane eyebrows?
It was around that same time that TNN (RIP that channel) began to air the original series. My dad being my dad, he watched it religiously. Me being me, I decided to join him. Now, my father and I have never had an easy relationship. We haven't always gotten along and our relationship during this time was incredibly strained, in many ways nonexistent. "Dallas" was what brought us together. For an hour at a time, we could sit there and root for our favorite characters -- his were Jock and J.R. (to this day, he always says, "J.R. is everything I wanna be: rich, powerful, and corrupt.") and mine was Sue Ellen. More on her later.
To this day, this is one of my favorite shows. I'd go so far as to say it's my second favorite show of all-time. The characters and their relationships are so compelling that even a reboot of the show 34 years later is still popular. So when Larry Hagman died, I was beside myself. Is that a little much for a man I've never spoken to a day in my life? Probably. But the fact of the matter is that I considered Hagman (and J.R. Ewing) more of a member of my family than, well, most members of my family. He has been a constant presence, a source of bonding for me and my own father, and let's face it -- a life without J.R. Ewing is simply no life at all. I still like to pretend November 23rd never happened, but last week proved that, without a shadow of a doubt, our beloved Larry Hagman is gone. (Unless he's faking his death. Which is unlikely. But would be THE GREATEST PLOT TWIST OF ALL TIME.) And that beautiful memorial last week brings me to this woman:
Have you ever seen a sadder-looking individual? When I first saw Linda Gray, I thought she was the most beautiful person I had ever seen. She was fifty-six at the time. When I started watching the original series, I thought the same thing, but with an added layer: she was also the most tragic person I had ever seen. Between those huge eyes and that trademark lip-quiver, Linda Gray made you want to save Sue Ellen. Neglected by J.R. and driven to alcoholism by his philandering, I have never seen any character before or since that I felt that sorry for. And yet, there were times when she could be a woman of steely resolution. She was a dichotomy, and in so many ways, the most real of any character on there. She will always be my favorite. I will always want to be her. And when she threw her slightly intoxicated self across J.R.'s grave last week and told him she'd have dinner with him, it felt like somebody was tearing into the depths of my soul.