A Die-Hard Lenten Longing

During this Lenten Season (weeks before Easter), it’s always been kind of a fetish of mine to be attentive to the offerings on network and cable stations.

When our youngest daughter was in grade school, we watched no TV during Lent, instead opting for religious movies.  They would be movies I decided were religious.

The list of films I deemed suitable ranged from A Man for All Seasons, Going My Way, Scarlet and the Black, to Somebimages-1ody Up There Likes Me (1956).

I just don’t think it’s that big of a challenge to dust-off  the reels of these classics and show them.  But, here we go again with another year of Speed and Diehard dominating the repeat cable offerings and little to nothing else on network stations.  Maybe a call to TCM host and critic Robert Osborne would help.

In 1992 a commentary I wrote about this very topic was printed in the Star Tribune.  You might get a kick out of some of the references (it was 21 years ago!); however, the challenge remains.


Monday, March 30, 1992  Star Tribune 


TV should be showing films appropriate to Lenten season  by Dorothy Fleming

For years these 40 days of Lent were opportunity to witness right in our own living rooms the bravery and faith-filled message of hope delivered by Hollywood’s finest.  No more.

Is it asking too much of TV programmers to air some worthy religious films during this time before Easter?  Or will we be treated to last year’s fare of poor taste like the showing of “Friday the 13th on Good Friday?

What’s missing these days, these 40 days when smokers are climbing the walls and the kids have change in their pockets from bypassing sweet temptations, are some honest-to-goodness, color-by-Technicolor religious films.  “The Robe” and “The Silver Chalice” are examples of such films that haven’t been around for a long time.

Maybe programmers believe their audiences aren’t religious.  A fallacy, according to the Statistical Abstract of the United States, which lists Minnesota fourth in adherence to Christianity.  “Nearly 65 percent of Minnesotans are religious,” the report says, and that’s 16 percentage points higher than the national average.”

So why would broadcasters and their advertisers not want to please the majority?

Certainly these old films aren’t too bloody for prime-time TV viewers.  Horror “Freddy” flicks running just before Christmas have already ignored all such sensibilities.  Instead of scheduling films during the Easter season that offer Passion and put our kids in a more reflective mood, VCRs are running “Terminator II” and “Thelma & Louise.”  And why not?  There’s nothing else on.

Although the 1954 film “Demetrius and the Gladiators” sports brutality and near-escapes, it would make for a thrilling yet inspiring film during Lent.The-Robe-thumb-560xauto-26242

“Demetrius” is the sequel to “The Robe” and boasts a host of stars, including Victor Mature as the Greek slave who keeps Christ’s robe, and Susan Hayward, Anne Bancroft and Ernest Borgnine.  It must be around somewhere.

If station programmers won’t listen, viewers can bypass the scheduled shows and bring home “Ben-Hur.”  Watch

The thrilling chariot race and at the same time see the dynamic and loving role of Ben-Hur played by Charlton Heston.  Admire the courage displayed when he ignores all warnings and ushers his mother and sister from the cave of lepers.  The film was exhausting, uplifting, truly beautiful and appropriate for this season.

Just because our kids are expecting to find Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in their Easter baskets, and we have spring break instead of Easter vacation, there’s no reason to abandon all our traditional practices.

If a crowd of people can gather in the back yard with Paul Douglas and get “Cheers” back on the air, maybe, just maybe, there’s still hope.

Dorothy Fleming is a freelance writer, homemaker and St. Anthony City Council member.

And it all started w/ “Frankly My Dear….”


christmasStory_ralphie01_1024x768_121920080205Casual use of slang words and/or swearing has permeated the air waves, books and movies.  Sometimes network stations try “bleeping” or substituting a word(s). Good luck.  Gone are the days of Ralphie getting his mouth washed out with soap.  Gentlemen who curse often follow with a quick “pardon my French.” Why French?  Whether it’s “cool” to swear a blue streak, I have no idea.  Will I get used to it?  I don’t know how long I will live.

Ask instead, what difference does it make?

Like vinyl shoes, it’s here to stay.

No amount of complaining will help.  But, I thought you might appreciate knowing that years ago, back in 1989, the St. Paul Pioneer Press printed a piece I wrote about the subject.

For now, my kids and grandkids speak respectfully when they are with me.  For that I am grateful.


August 25, 1989

St. Paul Pioneer Press

Section: Editorial 

Edition: AM Metro Final 

Page: 13A 



BYLINE: Dorothy Fleming

 If I hear the “f” word one more time, I’m going to swear. I found it tiresome even when Tom Cruise in “Rain Man” delivered the lines. If saying so makes me a prude, then so be it.

My disdain began when I worked in an inner-city junior high as a teacher’s aide. Part of my assignment included lunchroom duty. Only a seventh grader (or mind of) could eat after an hour and a half in that den of potty mouths. However, having a healthy recollection of my own early teen years, I knew their repulsive vocabulary was a growth stage likened to zits and spitting. Unfortunately, seventh-grade boys believe it is imperative to spit and swear.

Granted, the use of a good slang word now and then does present a particular sort of colorfulness in an otherwise mediocre situation. Without a doubt, the most frequently quoted movie line is Clark Gable’s, “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.” Imagine, if you will, the triteness of “damn” in “Die Hard.”

Sad to say, profanity is used in so many films and plays, and with such battering repetition, that sometimes we do not notice its presence. My complaint about the constant “f” word in “Die Hard” was challenged immediately by a Bruce Willis fan: “I don’t remember him saying it much at all.” Not much? I reached for my VCR controls. Willis, in his “good guy frightened for his life police officer” role, says the “f” word 36 times in 131 minutes.

Mom used to say, “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.” Advice adhered to by Sylvester Stallone in his brutal role in “Rambo II.” Stallone says the “f” word once – and little else in the film.

Apparently film writers of today present the stark reality that they are no longer capable of writing conversation, much less award-winning lines. Consider for a moment classic films that presented difficult life situations, yet the characters’ lines are void of profanity.

Anne Bancroft’s 1962 role in “The Miracle Worker” best parallels that of Cruise in “Rain Man,” except for one stark difference – language. Frank Sinatra’s role as an addict in “Man With a Golden Arm,” and other tough-men films with Edward G. Robinson and Humphrey Bogart, may have been loaded with single-syllable words, but they did not resort to vulgarity. Reality? Never. If Rod Taylor and Tippi Hedren could face being attacked and pecked to pieces in “The Birds”; or Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway’s raunchy life as crooks and kooks in “Bonnie and Clyde” did not warrant rough language; then apparently today’s problem is merely one of communication – or, dare I say, talent.

One of my friends questioning Willis’ and Cruise’s constant “f” word use said: “I have several different circles of friends, and I don’t know anyone who talks like that.” Her comment reminded me of the film “Ordinary People” that was given an R rating some years ago because of language. The son in the film is excused for his use of the “f” word because that’s what he learned when he was institutionalized. The script, however, clarifies that “bad” language is not acceptable; and, secondly, he did not learn to “talk that way” from “ordinary people.” I did not hesitate bringing my two teen-agers to see it.

Now my oldest daughter serves the family as our movie language Richter scale. Upon hearing her convincing recantation of “Harry and the Hendersons,” we invested in a copy for our video library. Apparently, however, her satiation point had been reached, because she couldn’t remember any “colorful” words in the film.

All in all, it wasn’t bad. Makers of this film were careful in their use of expletives. They avoided the “f” word and left the viewer believing that off-color talk is not acceptable to everyone. Now she tells me, “You and Dad will just love `Indiana Jones’ and they only swear once.”

My, how times do change.

Most of us can remember someone from our childhood days whose conversation included “untidy” slang as they rambled with the folks. Always I found them as tedious to listen to as Henry Fonda and Katharine Hepburn in “On Golden Pond.” Such language was tolerated because “that was just the way so and so talks.”

And most of us, too, would agree that men “talked that way” – especially men who worked in the street. My husband used to operate heavy equipment for a public utility; but during those years he was considerate enough to leave the “street talk” just there, in the street.

How often he would complain when we would go to a movie or pay handsomely for theater tickets, only to be subjected to two hours of “f— you” or “G– d—.” “I had to listen to that talk all day at work,” he would say. “I sure as heck don’t want to pay to hear it.” Thankfully, respectable theaters now include offensive-language disclaimers in their ads.

But I didn’t know when I went to see “Rain Man” that the “f” word was going to be said with such repetition. I liked “Rain Man.” I want to see it again. But I guess I’ll wait for the edited TV version. Let us hope network stations will continue their consideration for us prudes.

Fleming lives and writes in St. Anthony.

Oh Deer! A kind word for the hunter

Thanks to our grandson, one less deer on the highway.

Thanks to our grandson, one less deer on the highway.

One beautiful Fall afternoon a doe tried leaping over the hood of my Chevy van.  She made it – my van didn’t.  Thousands of dollars damage done by one doe.  Two years later a smaller deer came up out of the earth (if you haven’t had the experience, you have no idea what I’m talking about) and just about made it past our Blazer.  While we were fortunate to escape with no injuries, I developed a–shall we say, attitude about deer.  The following article was printed as an opinion piece in the Minneapolis Star Tribune.


I was every bit understanding of the frustrated woman whose car was ambushed by a deer in the film The Straight Story.  Not once, but 14 times!  I’m on her side.  For me the announcement of bow hunting deer in the metro area couldn’t come soon enough.


Will it happen?  I’ve already I’ve heard comments about the “poor deer.”  What is it about hunting deer that has some folks so angry about the sport?  Maybe it’s the way scriptwriters have brainwashed their audiences about the hunter.


For years movies have depicted hunters as “bad guys.”  Consider hunters in Tarzan, Mighty Joe Young and George of the Jungle who are judged to be careless or worse, a bunch of meanies.


My granddaughter Anna and I watched The Iron Giant, a worthy animated film about non-violence, peace and love.  Puzzling then to see, smack dab in the middle of the film, a scene of hunter-hate.

The Iron Giant is filled with every unimaginable weapon, joins his friend Hogarth in gently welcoming a deer.  As the buck runs off into the woods, Anna and I were jolted by the sound of gunfire.  The buck lay dead and the hunters, fearful of the giant, ran off.  The Director inserts a purposeful pause here for his audience to mourn the loss of the deer.  Two horrible men gunned down the beautiful creature.  Baloney.


Not since Disney’s Bambi have I seen such a rotten presentation of hunters.  What is it about hunting that brings out the beast in its opponents?


There weren’t enough deer shot this year to please me.  Minnesota hunters could double their take and we’d still have the critters stalking cars on Interstate 35 or Highway 10.  Witness the existing problem right here in the Metro area.  Reports conclude “there are more than twice as many deer in some pockets of Ramsey County as the 25 per square mile is considered a healthy number by the State’s Department of Natural Resources.”  Bow/gun hunters beware!  A shot at these adorable animals may cause contempt for the hunter regardless of benefit to human life.


I am not a hunter.  I pick up caterpillars in harms way and move them to safety.   Once, as a council member in my city, I participated in a target shoot at a range with police officers.  The experience caused me to have great respect for officers who wield such precision instruments.  For me, hunting is a sport for those who are calm and competitive.  I can’t begin to imagine the excitement a hunter feels when he brings home his first deer.  If I’m lucky, maybe I’ll get some venison—my husband and I love the stuff.


People don’t run over deer.  Deer actually choose their victims and run into their cars.  Are you with me?  Twice we’ve had these brown beauties aim and fire at our cars.  Our insurance premiums reflect the thousands of dollars worth of repair for damage to Minnesota vehicles.

“Dorothy, I’m just glad you weren’t killed,” my friend Joyce tearfully cried.  Another friend of hers is dead.  Killed by a deer.  Imagine if my dog were allowed to run free.  Imagine a one or two hundred pound dog running around.  Deer are allowed to roam free.  How nice.


Don’t get me wrong.  I liked The Iron Giant and I love Bambi.  But, gosh, darn, is there anyone out there willing to say a word of thanks to the hunter?