To paraphrase a famous speech by George Bush Sr.:
I do not like
Quinn, Medicine Woman. I have not liked it since I was a kid
and my parents made me eat watch it. Now I'm
President of the United States, and I'm not gonna watch any more Dr.
A popular term in the 90's was "politically correct." You don't hear it as much anymore, mainly because you don't see examples of it as blatant as what the 90's had. When people complained about political correctness, Dr. Quinn was the kind of thing they were talking about: smarmy, smug moralizing, blunt black-and-white arguments and obvious strawmen, for no other purpose than to boost the ego of the writer behind it. The show constantly set up people in the Old West in ways that we were expected to laugh at them; to turn up our noses at how primitive they were and how much better we are now. South Park once showed a liberal community constantly smelling their own farts, and this is the kind of attitude they were depicting literally.
For a show that thought it was so daring, Dr. Quinn was about as safe as you can get. Social issues that took decades to resolve (if they ever were at all) were patched up in Quinn's world within one hour. Black children not allowed in a white school? Just wait 60 minutes! Racism solved forever! The stories would also frequently go into bold directions, but then quickly take them back. The most shocking moment I remember in the whole series was when general store owner Mr. Bray suffered a stroke and wound up in a coma. When he awoke from the coma, he could only speak in unintelligible slurs. I couldn't believe it had happened. This kind of brain injury takes years of hard training to recover from, if at all. ...Mr. Bray recovered by the end of the episode.
There are a lot of stupid things about Dr. Quinn I could rant about. The main character being the biggest stick-in-the-mud in TV history. Her boyfriend/husband ripped from a cheesy romance novel, Byron ("Sully" was his last name). Every White Male being evil and every member of the Cheyenne tribe being perfect. The fact that everybody always calls the blacksmith "Robert E" including the initial, every single time, for no reason (when he's in trouble they scream "ROBERT-EEEEE!") But for listing's sake, there are five that somehow elevate themselves above all others. These are the most egregious moments in Dr. Quinn history I remember.
One of the earlier Dr. Quinns was about a horse race being held in Colorado Springs as one of the events in the annual fair. I remember watching it when it first aired and thinking it was the most predictable episode of anything I had ever seen in my life, and it still holds that crown.
There's a horse race. And a Cheyenne woman has a gift for Dr. Mike behind those trees. Is it a horse? Will Quinn enter the race? Will people tell her she can't enter because she's a woman (even though if we're comparing the theoretical limits of genders, it should be the horses they're judging)? Will she take after Mulan and disguise herself as male? Will a loud, unabashed chauvanist enter the race and be NECK AND NECK with Dr. Quinn until she wins by the SLIGHTEST margin? Can Quinn's adopted son Brian win a blue ribbon at the pie contest? Will he get the ingredients mixed up? Will he enter it anyway and call it "Surprise Pie"? Does "Surprise Pie" win anyway? Yes to every tired, boring cliche.
As I watched that episode, I successfully called every single thing that happened before it happened. If I'd known back then it had the clever title of "The Race," I could have thrown that in too.
There's an outbreak among the citizens of Colorado Springs and any one of them could fall victim to it next. The show would use this plotline many times, but this was the first one. I wish I could say the first time they did it felt fresh, but right after the plot was established, they threw in this scene of Colleen talking to "her best friend" whom we've never seen before:
"We're best friends!"
"We sure are."
"I'll always be there for you, Colleen. Whenever you have problems, you can always come to me."
"Nothing can break our friendship. I'll be with you until the day I die!"
"Well, see you around! And can I expect you at my wedding in ten years?"
"I'll be there!"
Guess who dies in this episode? GO ON....GUESS.
Unfortunately I couldn't find this exact clip before deadline. Maybe my memories are wrong and it was all the way in season 6 or something...but my head says it was an Erika Flores scene, not a Jessica Bowman one....
When the Cheyenne get moved against their will again, Quinn and company locomotive their way to Washington DC to lobby on their behalf. As just a humble family against the multiple powerful forces of Washington, they shouldn't stand much of a chance being heard, especially since the series is more or less trying to stick to historical events, and the Native Americans never won.
But then they meet President Ulysses S. Grant. They not only meet him, they're invited to stay in the White House even though Grant's only known them for one minute. This is followed by several scenes of Quinn and Sully casually strolling through the White House lawn, riding horseback with Grant, their children bonding with the First Children.....WHAT?!?
I remember having a strong "OH COME ON" reaction to the whole episode. It's not the worst stretch of credibility the series ever had (see the next selection) but it's my pick for runner-up. If there was any doubt about Quinn's Mary Sue-ness, the fact that she walked into Washington and instantly became the President's best friend closed the case. There's also an assassination conspiracy involved in the plot, which Quinn's family successfully stops...but those events only happened after she'd been inside the White House.
Around the fifth season the show started treading water as its ratings continued to slope downward. It was hovering just above the cancellation mark, and diehard fans launched a write-in campaign they called "Save Our Sully." Note that they didn't call it "Save Our Show." They mostly wanted this to stay on so they could stare at Byron some more. Dr. Quinn got its season 6, and the writers took it as their cue to start putting the fans' crush object in serious jeopardy. Sully got into a massive fistfight with a White Male Jerk and they both plummeted off a cliff. The fate of both was unknown for a while, but law enforcement made it clear that if Sully ever turned up, he would be charged for the White Male Jerk's murder. DA-DA-DUMMMMMM
A few days later, it was revealed Sully was still alive, but barely hanging on and stumbling around the wilderness. Weakened by hunger and dehydration, he collapsed on his back, lying among the reeds. At death's door and his face dripping with sexy dirt, he slowly turned his head toward a solitary flower growing in the grass and whined out the name of his true love: "Michaelaaaaa!"
Meanwhile, a few miles away, Dr. Mike was searching for him while standing near the same species of flower. That's when she suddenly heard him. "What? SULLY?" she cried out.
Byron heard her back. "Michaelaaaaaa!" he whined again into the flower. They find each other because their desire for one another was so strong that they willed two flowers into walkie-talkies. This is an actual thing that happened. This is a thing someone really wrote. This is why Dr. Quinn is one of the stupidest shows in the world.
The fifth season of Dr. Quinn came out at the same time Ellen did. Suddenly more shows were allowed to discuss the issue of homophobia, and Dr. Quinn leapt right into it first. The only problem was that they'd never established a gay character in the history of the series. So a new guy visited the town for one episode. It was Walt Whitman.
Yes, that Walt Whitman. The "Leaves of Grass" Walt Whitman. That's the gay guy they got. Except Walt Whitman wasn't gay.
Or maybe he was; no one can say for sure, right? That's the problem with deciding the sexuality of historical figures with absolutely nothing to go on. At least we know Whitman wasn't openly gay or there wouldn't be a debate. But in this episode, everyone knew Whitman was gay.
I've heard people say that Abraham Lincoln was gay, that Benjamin Franklin had ADD, and that Isaac Newton had Asperger's. They have no proof, they just have stereotypical behavior that seems to match. If you have no proof, YOU CAN'T SAY IT'S TRUE.
When I was in school I remember the 500th anniversary of Christopher Columbus's voyage to America being celebrated. Half the teachers, textbooks and media presentations told us Columbus was a brave explorer who, though not the first to reach the American continent, popularized the knowledge of its existence and paved the way for the English colonies. The other half told us Columbus was a greedy scumbag who blatantly and with deliberate intent stole the land out from under thousands of Native Americans. Both those things happened, but Columbus's involvement in them is minimal. Other people hosed the Native Americans -- Columbus just found them. And he wasn't trying to reach America either, just blindly stabbing at a better way to get to India. We don't know much about Columbus. We have his old diaries of the voyage, but that's about it. We don't know if he was a good OR a bad guy. We'll never know him personally. So...there is no point in debating it because no one is ever going to know.
Lately there's been a movement to portray Thomas Edison as an idea-stealing monster and Nikolai Tesla as the true genius of the late 1800's. It's the same thing again; people are posthumously judging long-dead individuals with no proof or evidence. It always gets an audience, though, and for some theorists, that's all that's important.
|Dr. Quinn aired its last
episode in May 1998 with Colleen's wedding. Later on, two
TV movies were made, but they felt a bit different from
the show....for one thing, townies Jake, Hank and Mr.
Bray had gone from ignorant strawmen to complete
comic-relief buffoons in the span of a few years.
They don't make these preachy, sappy kinds of shows anymore -- some complain about that, but not me.
By the way, did you know I didn't like Dr. Quinn?
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