Half-pint, the troublemaker

gilbert_lA week or so ago I mentioned that I had stumbled across a Little House on the Prairie episode called Troublemaker. Laura Ingalls (aka Half-pint) is wrongly accused of being a juvenile delinquent and is, gasp, expelled. Well, I just got it in the mail (from Netflix, of course) on Saturday and am planning to watch it today.

While I did read (and loved) all of the Little House books and I did watch the television series (well, not the last season or so when Mrs. Oleson lost her money and they all had to move away from the town. Am I remembering that right?), I was never as big of a fan of The Ingalls family as I was of the Brady Bunch. It is true that “Pa, I can’t see!” is a regular part of my lexicon and Albert and his brush with morphine addiction comes up sometimes in my conversations with STA. But, when I think back on my years (and I mean years) of intense television viewing as a kid/teenager/college student, Little House was never a big deal. Mabye it should have been.

When I came across “Troublemaker” I was immediately intrigued. Of course, Laura is the tomboy who is not afraid to speak her mind and who resists the feminine rules/regulations that are imposed on her. She is also the instigator who fights against the capitalist machinery (aka Nellie Oleson). And, she is someone who is curious about the world–a little scholar-in-training. All of these things indicate that she makes trouble and is in for some trouble. She refuses to accept her assigned status and she is willing to challenge those with power and privilege (her nemesis fluctuates between Nellie Oleson and her mom Mrs. Oleson, part of the richest and most powerful family in town). Therefore, she must be punished–occasionally or frequently–by being ridiculed, ostracized, shamed and dismissed as nothing but trouble. Looks like this episode will focus on Half-pint as the juvenile delinquent (more on this once I watch the episode).

little_house_big_woodsThis episode is not the only reason that I am intrigued by Little House on the Prairie. Last night, when I was randomly browsing some online journals (yes, I do that and I am proud of it!), I stumbled across an article in Frontiers entitled “Civilization and her Discontents: The Unsettling Nature of Ma in Little House in the Big Woods.” Who knew that there was so much to say about Laura Ingalls Wilder and her troubling relationship with Ma? Who knew that all of this could be connected to the tension between wilderness and progress/domestication and industrialization and the destabilizing of the frontier/Manifest Destiny ethos in late 1800s/early 1900s U.S? Who knew that so many feminists had written about this series of books? Well, maybe I should have known….

imagesAnd, to top it all off, Little House on the Prairie, The Musical (starring Melissa Gilbert as Ma!) is coming to the Ordway here in St. Paul this fall. The universe is trying to tell me something–I must watch (and perhaps embrace?) Little House on the Prairie! And I must reread the books series! It looks like I must also never, ever sleep again. Sigh…I mean, yawn.

22 thoughts on “Half-pint, the troublemaker”

  1. OMG Sara! I love it. I too read the books when I was a young girl, of course at the time I was very uncritical of the race stuff in there – which I believe *many* feminists have spoken to – especially the fact that the Ingalls are basically colonists and their run-ins with the “Indians” is an often source of excitement and (portrayed as) white territorialism and good-ole American bravado. My Chicana Aunt bought me every single one of the books in hardcover no less and I cherished them thoroughly. Perhaps it was a connection to Laura’s “feistyness” or as you call “troublemaking” that was exactly what drew me to her. And the fact that they lived in Kansas (for at least a short time if I remember correctly) and since my family was from Kansas I felt some odd connection to them. Wow… who knew all of these feelings could come up from House on the Prairie. Can I go see the musical with you? Oh, and “Pa! I can see!!!”

  2. I would love to see the musical with you–how fun! Good point about the Ingalls as colonizers. Any sources offhand? The frontier woman (as troublemaker/as feminist/as embodied in Sarah Palin) seems to be coming up a lot for me lately. I should think about it some more.

  3. Yeah… that point about the colonizers I said *many* feminists meaning I can’t think offhand who had this argument first or particular sources, but I know it’s out there. I am pretty smart but I don’t think I came up with that argument all on my own, yet I could clearly make the argument based on my entire read of the series and watching the entire television show quite easily. Oh, and I never enjoyed the goody-two-shoes Mary always telling Laura what to do too was very oppressive.

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