Sunday, August 15, 2010
Confessions of a Prairie Bitch: How I Survived Nellie Oleson and Learned to Love Being Hated by Alison Arngrim
I loved this book. I was well over half-way through with my next read when I saw this book at the store. I was just going to read the first chapter and wait to read the rest until I finished the book I was already reading, but I stayed up until 3 a.m. reading Confessions of a Prairie Bitch. Alison Arngrim tells the story of her childhood, experiences during the filming of Little House on the Prairie and all that happened after the show.
The television stories were really my favorite part. Who doesn't love Little House on the Prairie? It's possible to watch several hours of the show every day in syndication. Reading Arngrim's stories about the set made me feel like I was privileged with top secret information. I learned that Michael Landon would wear tight pants with no underwear and drank lots of Wild Turkey. He also kept everyone on the set on a pretty short leash. His high standards didn't stop when it came to the child actors, who earned a paycheck just like all the other actors and were expected to behave as professionally as the other actors. Arngrim brags, "Cast of Little House: no arrests, no convictions." Compared to other televison shows, this was a fairly admirable statement.
Melissa Gilbert, Nellie's nemesis Laura Ingalls, was actually Arngrim's real-life bff. They had slumber parties and got accidentally drunk off of convenience store rum cakes. Melissa Sue Anderson, the goody-two-shoes Mary, on the other hand, was very stand-offish. Anderson seemed very abrupt, even kind of rude. I am seriously thinking about reading Melissa Anderson's book, The Way I See It: A Look Back at My Life on Little House. It would be interesting to see things from her perspective and see if there was any explanation for her behavior. (Though, If I actually do read that, why quit without reading Melissa Gilbert's Prairie Tales? Little House Autobiography Trifecta!)
I was thoroughly enjoying Confessions of a Prairie Bitch and then I reached the parts about her molestation at the hands of her brother. It was a bit of a shock in the context of everything that I had read up to that point. Even though I know this sentiment isn't worth much, I really wish that this wouldn't have happened to her. I have nothing but respect and admiration that she survived all that and later advocated for other abused children through the National Association to Protect Children, helping to repeal laws protecting abusers in cases of incest. If that isn't awesome enough, Arngrim became an advocate for APLA (AIDS Project Los Angeles) after her close friend Steve Tracy (Husband Percival on Little House) was diagnosed with the disease. She continues to work with both organizations and more.
I loved Alison Arngrim's attitude from the very beginning of the book. A lot of celebrities take great pains to distance themselves from roles that originally made them famous. Arngrim now embraces the character as part of herself. Nellie Oleson wasn't shy and didn't take anything from anybody. Though a fictional depiction of a real-life 1800s bully, Nellie helped her portrayer to be bolder and braver, she gave her money and friends, and a means to help other people. In all honesty, Alison Arngrim is now one of my heroes and it will be difficult to dislike Nellie Oleson as much when I know the story of the person underneath the curly wig.