Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Nellie Oleson Fan Club

I don't know what you and your family did on cozy winter evenings back in the eighties, but we watched reruns of Little House on the Prairie. I delighted in what I perceived to be authentic details -- the whole Ingalls family in that one small house, all the grades mixed up together in school, everyone looking so fancy for church, drinks of water out of that community pail (eeks!), the way one out-of-town visitor can really shake things up, females wearing dresses and long skirts every day, the way Ma Ingalls let her hair down only at night, paying for doctor's appointments with eggs (bet Doc Baker had cholesterol problems), chores and more chores.

Sure, I loved when Half Pint learned those life lessons with the help of her wise and handsome Pa -- don't lie, be kind, you win some/you lose some, and darn that fool's gold. And, yes, I loved the later storylines when Laura and Manly fall in love.
But let's face it, what I really loved was the wicked ways of Nellie and Harriet Oleson. I delighted in being dismayed by their snotty, haughty ways. Nels was a saint, I thought.
Though I loved to hate Nellie Oleson back in the day, I never gave any thought to what it would be like to have played an iconic, ringleted villain. Never really considered that there were and are "fans" unable to distinguish between Nellie Oleson and Alison Arngrim. After reading Confessions of a Prairie Bitch: How I Survived Nellie Oleson and Learned to Love Being Hated, I have a lot of admiration for Alison Arngrim and the life and career she has made for herself. Arngrim covers her difficult and often dark childhood, life on the set of Landon's Little House, and the doors "Nellie" has opened for Arngrim to do important work in the AIDS community and on behalf of victims of childhood sexual abuse. Arngrim is unflinching and also funny. Arngrim's memoir was satisfying and kind of inspiring. I'm really glad I read it.
Now I find myself a little bit obsessed with learning more behind-the-scenes scoop regarding the Little House set and think I'm going to have to read the two other prairie memoirs published this year, Melissa Anderson's The Way I See It: A Look Back on My Life on Little House and Melissa Gilbert's Prairie Tale: A Memoir.
If my Little House appetite still hasn't been sated by then, maybe I'll read the whole series by Laura Ingalls Wilder all over again, though I was planning to wait until my Sweet P's old enough to do that.
Did you watch Little House on the Prairie? Any favorite episodes? Favorite characters?


LAP said...

I read about Nellie's book (probably in People to be honest) and I remember her saying in the article that she and Melissa Sue Anderson (Mary) were not the best of friends. She followed that up with "but now we are friends on Facebook." Love it.

Willie and Albert made me laugh. I also thought that Nancy, who of course came along later, made Nellie look like a saint. If DVRs existed then, I may have fast forwarded through many of the times Pa played the fiddle.

E... said...

I have a particularly vivid memory of my brother and I cracking up over a scene where Albert was pretending to be a bull, and said "I'll come at you a-rammin' and a-punchin'!"
I was always a big fan of Mary, so think I'll have to check out Melissa Anderson's book.

Sharon Byrne said...

I loved the show....until I realized most of it was all made up and half of the characters never existed in the books. Apparently I was a big stickler for accuracy in gradeschool. (Unfortunately, its a trait that has stuck with me for books made into movies/tv shows.)

But oh my god did I love those books. I actually got a new set of them for Christmas a couple of years ago. And I can't wait until Avery is old enough to read them. I may read them to her now- start with those instead of Charlotte's Web.

Steph said...

OH, I must read this! I, too, am a Little House fan!

Sue and Randy said...

That show was also a staple of my childhood TV (along with the Muppets and Dukes of Hazard?!). I always loved Nellie's hair, the banana curls. Harriet looks and acts just like a super mean Aunt I have, so her character was extra vivid for me. I never read the original books--would it be appropriate to start reading with a kinder-age girl?

Tracey - Just Another Mommy Blog said...

I hated how they would have a character or an entire family just "appear" in church one Sunday. The whole town knew them really well, but they had never been on the show before! What the hell??? Did they think I was that unobservant?!? Gah. And THEN?!1! That family would never be seen again. It still irks me. Can you tell?

I love(d) that show, though. Even though I knew most of it was false, I loved it. Except for all of the dying babies. I can't handle Mary's son dying, Ma's son dying, LAURA'S son dying... God.

dusty earth mother said...

I hearted Little House soooo much, I tear up just thinking about it. Nellie Oelsen was the best villainess ever. And I did a whole post once about how many times Pa cracked his ribs so as to assure us as many views of his naked chest as possible.

PITA said...

i dont have quite as vivid memories but can appreciate Nellie and the character she was. sounds like a goodie!

CaraBee said...

I'm with PITA. I definitely watched the show, but I don't remember it that well. I know I wanted to visit that time. Not to live, mind you, I enjoy indoor plumbing, but a short vacation.

Sounds like an interesting book. I'll have to add it to the list.

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