Safety Asparagus

26 11 2011

I’ve been watching the show Terra Nova lately. It’s not the greatest storytelling ever, but it has dinosaurs. RAWR!

This week they surprised me with a simple – but remarkably well written – segment on safety planning in the family (one of many topics that has skyrocketed in importance to me after the Domestic Violence Advocacy class I attended a few weeks ago). I want to recreate some of that scene here, both to celebrate a rare instance where primetime television encouraged positive family dynamics and to inspire myself in my current project: writing a children’s book that would be of value to a child after witnessing violence in the home.

A little background:

The teenage daughter of a cop and a surgeon has found a new mentor – only, there’s something fishy about him. He has suspicious lapses in memory and personality changes after coming back from an extended geological expedition. The girl tries to talk to her mother about her unease around this man, but is blown off with a “our heroes are always somewhat disappointing in person” schtick. So, she investigates and eventually discovers he is not who he says he is (he murdered the real geologist and assumed his identity). But oh no! Creepy murder man was spying on her the whole time, and he wants to kill her to protect his cushy new life. The teenage daughter is able to escape from the first confrontation, so…murder man kidnaps her younger sister (little sis is the best part of the show besides the dinos. This made me pissed) and threatens to do terrible things to the little one unless Maddie, the teenager, follows him into an empty orchard. Maddie agrees, sending her little sis back home with the commission “tell dad I’ll be home in time to cook the asparagus.” Maddie is taken into the orchard, trussed up, and imperiled with a poisonous dino-spider!!

But! Little sis had found dad. He was in a hurry, nearly brushing right past her on his way to track down a druggie, but instantly stopped at the word asparagus. Everyone knows this word is only used in a state of extreme emergency – and, he trusts little sis implicitly. He listens. He acts. And he’s able to make it to the orchard in time to save his daughter!

Afterwards, we have a PSA-within-a-show (a hell of a lot more palatable than product placement!):

Mom and Dad are sitting at a table.

Mom: Think about what almost happened out there. Thank God for your panic words.

Dad: Asparagus?

M: Hmm. I always thought you were being paranoid, but I guess I was wrong.

girl enters

D: Hey, you feeling better sweetie?

Girl: Yeah, a little.

M: Maddie, what on earth possessed you to try and deal with this on your own?

G: I didn’t have any proof…and I did try and talk to you, Mom.

M: …yes, you’re right. You did. But if I’m not listening to you, you have to make me listen or you go and get your father.

G: yeah

D: That being said, you trusted your gut even when all the evidence was against you. I’m proud of you.

and that’s the end. It wasn’t fancy. Took no more than 30 seconds. But what a great tool for families to start conversations geared toward making the home a safe place, conversations that feel awkward because it’s so uncool to be deliberate – it is “paranoid.” It stresses the value of listening to your own intuition when you feel unsafe. More than that, it values the children’s intuition when the parents are both too preoccupied to notice the subtler signs of danger. And, it models a family that supports and protects one another in the moment of crisis and – far more rare for tv – in the times times between crises, the moments of normalcy when the preparation and prevention is most effective.

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