Grace Under Fire: Domestic Violence Laughter, Okay or Not?

Do you  remember this sitcom? Brett Butler, a comedian from Alpharetta, GA, played a struggling single mom of three children under the  age of  12. She had endured a straight out of high school marriage of 10+ years to a man who hit her, cheated on her, and drank on a regular basis. Now she was working on her New Future!graceunderfire

I recently caught a couple of episodes that LAFF TV is re-running on cable. I watched with new eyes as I remembered watching this series back in the 90s when it was brand new. The topic of domestic violence is a constant on this show. It is a comedy. So, there are many  DV one-liners that come out of Butler’s character, Grace Kelley. The other characters on the show were written in a very respectful manner and don’t initiate this humor.

As I watched and laughed at the DV jokes, I wondered if this show would be well received today. Spouses choosing to beat and mistreat is not actually a laughing matter. But, for me (a 12 year victim turned Survivor) the jokes were a release. When I was in that ugly marriage I watched this show and wished I could have her courage. I identified with her story. I felt like the sitcom gave me hope. But, would it play today?

One of the episodes I caught was Grace helping another woman by giving her a place to stay temporarily. She  had not made the decision to leave yet and Grace was there to support her. She didn’t judge her. However, she made no bones about  the fact  that  she encouraged her to take care of herself and not put up with this treatment. Once the victim character asked her, “How did you do it? It’s just so hard living day in and day out with him.” Grace’s response? “I got out.” She made the point that getting out was not an option for her. It was a matter of when, not if. Leaving took much longer than it should have and involved three children in the process. But, she fought to make it happen and it did.

Some people today might say Grace should not be telling the victim these things. Her words might be seen as victim shaming. I have been the victim of victim shaming. A woman like Grace telling me from experience that ‘getting out’ is the only solution is not offensive to me. In my opinion, getting out is the only solution. But, the timing of it all is the choice of the victim. That cannot be forced. Nor should it be dictated by any on-looker; even one with first-hand experience.

So, my thoughts on Grace Under Fire? I wish it would play on every TV station in America. I  wish victims, Survivors, and everyone else could see life after leaving portrayed in an approachable manner. I wish victims/Survivors could laugh at the struggle as a means of healing. I hate feeling censored. I don’t want people telling me what I am not allowed to express. If I need to laugh about my issues, I should have the right to do so.  But, don’t you make jokes if you haven’t lived my struggle. My former life was no laughing matter. I like to believe I exhibited Grace while I was Under Fire. Thank you Brett Butler and others who  wrote this short-lived show. I believe (for the most part) you did a good thing.

Lisa Smith

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