There is a scene in this first episode of Wonderful years, may you please get all the prizes in the next award season. Content, timing, speed: everything is right. What is meant is the moment when the then twelve-year-old boy rides his bike through this small town in the US state of Alabama and the narrator from the present says: “I didn’t understand a lot of what was happening – especially why People, when they’re angry, break their own stuff. “
He’s driving, and suddenly he sees the girl he’s had a hopeless crush on since first grade making out with his best friend. In the background the civil rights anthem “A Change Is Gonna Come” by Sam Cooke can be heard, along with the narrator’s sentence: “And suddenly the anger I saw on the news made a little bit more sense, mainly because it was felt like some things would never change. ” He takes a stone and throws it through the window of his former elementary school – which was only for People of Color. Explaining the small, the intimate, the big, often so difficult to understand as a whole, contained the strength and magic of the original.
Wonderful years is the new edition of the series, which has also been extremely successful in Germany, in which an adult talks about his teenage years in America in the 1960s and 70s. The original is also not afraid of political and social issues, in the first episode there is, for example, the news of the death of the neighbor boy – killed in Vietnam. Only protagonist Kevin (played by Fred Savage, who now directed this first episode) gets the first kiss from his beloved Winnie, the little sister of the fallen man – one of the most unforgettable moments in TV history. This is what the Wonderful years: This magical time between twelve years and graduation, in which all the important things seem so incredibly small and unimportant compared to your own world around you, in which so much happens within a week that it lasts for a lifetime.
Talking about the past means in the USA: talking about the white past
The reason why the series is so incredibly important is that it deals with a subject that is currently being hotly debated in the United States. When talking about the past, especially the American one, the white perspective is often taught in school classes – also and especially on topics such as slavery and racism. There is the “Critical Race Theory” movement, which – to put it very simply – calls for other perspectives to be allowed when dealing with history, for example, and for this to be taught in school lessons. Above all, those who voted for Donald Trump in the presidential election and want to vote again in 2024 are protesting against this. In pop culture, this leads to the debate that was once again led at the Emmy Awards: too few awards for People of Color.
Perhaps one should lead this debate like this: The subject of the original – from a later perspective to weave historical events into an intimate story – is also a model for the film Forrest Gump, the main character of the same name comes from, just like the Wonderful years-Protagonist, from Alabama. What if Gump was a Person of Color and so was the director? Could Don Cheadle (who is now the narrator) and Spike Lee have won the Oscars that Tom Hanks and Robert Zemeckis got?
Hypothetical question, of course, but: In order for people of color or women to win prizes, they must first get the chance that their projects will be realized, that there are roles for them, that their voices as screenwriters will be heard . That seems to be happening more often now, therein lies the change it takes. Doogie Howser, MD for example, the series from the early 90s about a highly gifted (and admittedly male) teenage doctor is also being reissued. The main character of the new series can also be seen in Germany on Disney +: Doogie Kamealoha, played by Peyton Elizabeth Lee, whose mother is American and the father comes from China.
Dean gets beaten up by a black classmate for behaving like a white man
Wonder Years-Showrunner Saladin Patterson, African American from Alabama, deliberately chose the same year for the new edition as when the original series started (1968, just a few months later); He succeeds both in doing justice to the model and in telling a completely new story from a completely new perspective: “I wanted to make it as distinctive as possible. It needs this own perspective, it should be as specific as possible about a black one Middle class family go. “
All of this is always connected with references to the present, when the narrator says, for example: “Parents give you the ‘Police Talk’: how to behave when you meet the police. There was a presidential election that divided the country, and flu that was said to kill a million people. ” Sounds like it does today, and that’s the question that not only this series wants to ask the still strongly audible Make America Great Again blaring of Trump supporters: For whom was this oh-so-great America from back then so great ? Sure, for white straight men. But otherwise?
Trailer for the series:
Wonderful years waived an indictment, at least in this first episode. The protagonist Dean is beaten by a black classmate at school because he behaves like a white man. There are things that he doesn’t understand because you just can’t understand them when he says about his white teacher, for example: “She remarkably looked after black students in whom she saw potential – which was somehow again racist could. I don’t know. ” The news of the death of Martin Luther King comes from a white couple who honestly sympathize with them. There is no dispute or even open racism (yet).
The first episode sets the tone for a series; it can already be seen where the story could go: Dean’s sister is an armed member of the “Black Panthers” (in the original, the older sister joins the hippie protests against the Vietnam War); the brother is a soldier in Vietnam. The father, a successful musician, always displays a passive-defensive be-cool attitude about the fear of racism and police violence, the mother relies on understanding.
In addition to the wonderful moments of growing up that everyone knows who can remember being young themselves, the series provides a completely new look at these years that were so formative for American history. A look that whites in particular should urgently take at least every now and then. So, once again: may this series win many prizes for the first episode alone – also because it would of course increase the chance that the US broadcaster ABC will order as many more episodes as possible. The original includes 115 episodes to graduate from high school.
Wonderful years on Disney +