There’s a television program on SBS called Who Do You Think You Are?
The episodes currently being shown date back to 2004, but the show is obviously popular because an Australian version will appear on our screens early next year.
The premise of Who Do You Think You Are? is that if you find out something about your ancestry you’ll learn something about yourself.
Last Sunday’s episode featured comedian Bill Oddie and his attempts to obtain such family facts as why his mother was put in a mental asylum.
While the show was sad and interesting, in the end we really just discovered what Oddie wanted to believe about his mum, his seemingly domineering grandmother and his sister and grandfather’s deaths.
Whether Oddie’s own bout of depression was linked to his mum’s mental health issues was never established because nobody could say for sure why she was institutionalised.
Alas, many women languished in asylums in days gone by for a whole range of reasons, including not conforming to dominant ideas of femininity.
A lot of folks find constructing a family tree a worthwhile pastime, but I wonder whether people think the basis of the show is valid.
In the advertisement for next week’s instalment, flirty cook Nigella Lawson says something to the effect that she believes we make her own lives, which conflicts with the Oddie effort in which issues of class and paternal encouragement in the face of expectations due to class were raised.