Post 49:
“Sylvia, Part One and Two”

Post 49:  “Sylvia, Part One and Two”

From 13-Year-Old Anne’s Journal —

May 16 & 17 – GOOD

“Sylvia & Albert like each other & she gets raped. They want to get married & she falls trying to get away from the raper. The raper gets shot but later Sylvia dies.”

152 - 5-16

____________________________________________________

From Anne —

It’s Sunday. I can do whatever I want. I could watch the NFL playoffs, or a 1960s French film on Hulu, or make these crystallized ginger cookies I’ve been meaning to make.

But out of duty to anyone who was ever traumatized by the most unsavory LHOP episode ever, I force myself to re-watch (it’s been 30+ years) parts 1 and 2 of “Sylvia.” I subject myself to this twisted combo of Stephen King’s It, The Blue Lagoon, and some after-school special.

How else to explain “Sylvia,” sprung from the mind of sadistic Michael Landon? Perhaps inspired by the gothic chill of DePalma’s Dressed to Kill, or Kubrick’s The Shining (both out around the time Landon must have written “Sylvia”), he conflates whore-ishness with innocence, and romantic awakening–alongside sparkling streams and daisies–with leather-gloved sexual assault.

IrvHartwig

What stands out today is less the theatrical nightmare of a masked “raper,” as I called him in my journal. It’s more Sylvia’s misogynist dad. Making her bind herself, telling her she’s possessed by the devil, calling her a lying whore, making her work the fields while pregnant. All because she hit puberty! Thanks, Dad. On another level, “Sylvia” makes a strong case for a little abortion on the prairie.

Isn’t it also bizarre that the “raper” gets shot in the back, but no one seems very interested in who he was, and why the cheesy mask? Did he order that mesh mask from Sears & Roebuck? Did they come customized, or did he paint the lips and eyes himself, when he wasn’t shoeing horses?

____________________________________________________

From Tracy —

Anne and I have talked about this episode for as long as I can remember. And I somehow thought covering this one would be kitschy and weird and inadvertently funny. Anne was smarter than me on this point. She’d wince whenever I would mention the “Rape Clown.” Finally we got down to it. But instead of giggling at the perverseness of a raping clown stuck in the middle of Walnut Grove, I just about ground my back molars into bits because of all the sexist shit.

Who doesn’t let poor Sylvia down in this episode? Clearly Albert is the only one. Even Laura stands by while the Salem Witch trials go on in her classroom with Mrs. Oleson as judge, jury and executioner. And Doc Baker (!) fails to notice she’s been raped. This episode should be retitled “Blame the Victim.” I’m surprised they didn’t make her wear a scarlet letter on her dress.

witch-hunting

Amongst the Massengill commercial sweetness of all of the pistils and stamens and young romance there lurks something even more sinister than a blacksmith gone bad — a dad who says things like “You’re a wanton thing Silvy” and “You reap what you sow” and “How can I believe a whore?”

This may be the worst episode in LHOP history ever. Social media on the subject certainly claims that it is.

For me though it turns out to be just one more reason to be freaked the fuck out by clowns.

PS: I did some digging in the Sears and Roebucks catalogs of that time and didn’t find any clown masks. He probably bought it from Mrs. Oleson.

TumblrPinterestFacebookTwitterGoogle+

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *