Friday, March 05, 2010

Who Does Sara Jessica Parker Think She Is? ( NBC episode)

I was caught off guard while watching the new NBC show and first segment featuring Sara Jessica Parker on the new series titled "Who Do You Think You are?" which helps famous stars track down their ancestors using historical and genealogical experts who work with each actor to uncover their long lost or unknown ancestors. Parker starts off saying her father's side is Eastern European Jewish and her Mother's side is of German descent. Both sides of the family are from Cincinnati, Ohio. Parker visits her Mother in New Jersey and with her Mother's help Parker gathers the names of all her grand and great grandparents and other relatives. In the course of looking at the names, she comes across an Anglo sounding name Hodge, later comes across a wife of a Hodge named Elwell. Turns out one of the Hodges in the late 1840's goes out West in search of gold and is written up in his local newspaper as dying in 1849. Parker is excited by this find and after a trip to Eldorado, California where she discovers this ancestor named Hodge dies of a disease that many miners searching for gold succumbed to around that same time, 1849 or 50.

Parker comes across other Hodges and also Elwells from New England. She goes to New England and discovers one of the Elwells is accused of murder during the Salem witchcraft trials period. She is relieved to discover this Elwell who is some kind of Great Great Great Great ... Grandparent never comes to trial and is spared as she is the last accused in the whole witchcraft episode and the cases come to a close just in time to spare this family member. Parker shares each new discovery about these ancestors conveying a sense of awe and excitement in the knowledge that members of her family were part of traditional history we all think of when we hear about the American experience. At one point toward the end of the episode she even says (paraphrasing), I never really felt like I was an American and now I do. She seems very proud she can share these names and facts about these so called very American ancestors with her children and that now their progeny will also know the true story of their family heritage.

I was surprised Sara Jessica Parker grew up thinking she was not really an American. I am Jewish on both sides of my family and I always felt very American and I am only second generation with grandparents born in the old country (Poland and Russia). Sure I did not feel I was part of the Anglo-Saxon America or Puritan America. I knew I was not descended from the folks who came over on the Mayflower or from those who rode covered wagons or plowed ground in the Midwest or New England. But still I am American, Jewish and born in U.S.A. which is quite real and no mystery to me. on the other hand, Sara Jessica Parker comes off somewhat ashamed of her Mother's seemingly all German American (Germantown,Cincinnati) background and her Father's Jewish relatives who are not mentioned at all in the broadcast. I say this because Parker was just too enthusiastic about finding that because one relative's line was old line Anglo-Saxon Puritan America, she was suddenly redeemed and rediscovered. She states "this experience has changed my life" and "turned everything upside down and inside out." So does that mean before she was poor Cinderella who suddenly finds the slipper of a Prince fits, The Prince being old line American Protestants, not German or Jewish. Nothing wrong with being descended from these old line families who had both good and bad in them like everyone else and who have gained enormous stature for being the first non Indians to claim this land of ours. The problem lies in the naive belief that Sara Jessica Parker conveys to everyone watching the show, maybe it is poor editing, that finding she is a true American and most of the rest of us are not is quite offensive and conveys a very wrong message to America and Americans alike. And another thing, Sara Jessica Parker should know better. I am hoping the rest of this series offers something better than I experienced as the Parker "downer". And by the way, I really admire Parker
as an actress, loved
Sex in the City
. I certainly expected more from her.

Sharon Raphael