Beth Sullivan, Miracle Woman – Tribute to a genius of creativity.
By Stanley Collymore
Those of you who read my articles – and all the prevailing indications from the several emails and other modes of correspondences I receive are that increasing numbers of you are doing so, and for which I take this opportunity to thank you – will know quite well that I don’t mince my words let alone pull my punches; in short I always tell it like it is and as I honestly interpret things to be and that isn’t about to change. It’s very uncomfortable reading for some I know having a mirror placed in from of themselves that compels them to see themselves and their actions for what they actually are rather than how they would dishonestly like to see or have themselves portrayed. No apologies whatsoever from me for such discomfiture caused as I’m neither in the business of nor would my character and conscience ever allow me to do makeovers. It’s just not part of my upbringing or my style; and frankly I like it that way.
For me there’s no substitute, either real or synthetic, for the truth but sad to say although there are many people who recognize and individually know what the truth is they either calculatingly shy away from it, pretend it doesn’t exist, refuse to respect it, or worst still flatly disown it completely even when all commonsense and logic tells them otherwise.
As a small boy growing up in a very close and extended family environment I was told and quite importantly persistently reminded that within each human being there’s a small voice: a kind of personal alarm, that alerts us to what’s right or what’s wrong; whether what is said or being done is right and proper or just plain downright immoral and a travesty of justice. Significantly, I was also advised to always heed that small voice within me because it was my conscience and as such the objective arbiter of my thoughts and my actions, and therefore I should pay attention to it. It’s sort of analogous I discovered to a smoke alarm in one’s house. You just don’t ignore it if it goes off whatever time of the day it does and simply pretend that it hasn’t been activated; for if you do the consequences of doing so might be absolutely horrendous not only for you but others, including close family members and others that you care for, who’re in that specific vicinity. However, just like the aforementioned smoke alarm this inner voice or conscience must similarly be periodically checked and put into its proper perspective to ensure that it functions effectively every time.
Regrettably we now live in a world where increasingly might no matter how brutal or unjustified it is, is shamelessly and flamboyantly portrayed as being right; where wants have supplanted genuine needs; where being a Good Samaritan is seen by many if not the majority as wimpish; and voices from outright covetousness to grasping venality to premeditatedly killing others far away from our own shores to satisfy these odious obsessions and doing so under the lying pretext of humanitarian reasons are viewed, wilfully propagated and rigorously though absolutely deceitfully reinforced as virtues; and nauseatingly it’s the most powerful countries on earth that are among the foremost and worst offenders of this kind of objectionable conduct.
For they together with their tame or sycophantic media have become quite adept at these dishonest and iniquitous practices of theirs, where precious human emotions like love are packaged as cheap tawdry commodities to be bought and sold while qualities like faithfulness, loyalty, mutual respect for each other and empathy with those different from ourselves are expediently disregarded for the so-called but short-lived joys of lasciviousness and epicurean ecstasy. Little wonder then that so many among us have lost their individual moral compass, if they ever had one to start with that is.
For right and wrong are concepts that have to be taught, nurtured and reinforced and preferably so by example, and that’s the particularly challenging problem that contemporary human beings and especially those in the west face and will keep on facing unless and until there’s a predominantly radical overhaul and general consensus of what consider as being both worthy and worthwhile in terms of what ought then to be thoughtfully implemented in our own lives and what shouldn’t be. For like every skill we ultimately master our morality or lack of it in many instances must equally be constantly and assiduously worked on.
We might never acquire perfection in our respective endeavours but the enjoyment and satisfaction from aspiring to worthwhile goals and ambitions are well worth the effort and inner peace that they regularly bring; and I really wish that the majority of our so-called leaders, the movers and shakers of our respective communities and societies as well as those who are either appointed or invariably set themselves up as our religious but for all that never miss an opportunity that comes their way to callously and premeditatedly betray their alleged calling and more specifically their congregations, in particular the quite young, highly impressionable and most vulnerable among their flock would heed their own inner voice and take stock of themselves.
It’s against this backdrop that I’m writing this article both as a tribute to and to congratulate Beth Sullivan who is well renowned: certainly in my household and among all my relatives and closest friends, for her exceedingly inspirational creation: Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman. Inspiration aside this quite justifiably popular and deeply well-loved television series had undoubtedly to stem from someone whose personal moral compass isn’t only firmly in place but also is itself categorically in excellent and permanent working condition; and in our modern era where what routinely passes for television and film entertainment is nothing more than a grotesque assortment of utterly gratuitous and downright suffocating violence, lewdness, profanity and banality Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman thankfully, refreshingly and extraordinarily bucks this trend.
That said, the series doesn’t portray a fantasy world of incredulous beliefs or dreamland but rather highlights what can be achieved from among what we already have, but more importantly can also be drastically improved on. It’s a positive and quite inspirational vehicle for hope together with the marked and ongoing thirst for the improvement of one’s self and doing so primarily through one’s own endeavours but in the full knowledge that there are those around in one’s community that will always be quite willing and prepared to selflessly lend a helping hand if it’s ever required. In short good old community spirit! The series also tackles issues relating to and successfully demonstrates that the human will is such that if it’s guided in the right and proper direction and given the chance to operate as it was really meant to ordinary decent people can and will quite voluntarily empathize with each other.
Impressive too is the way that the female characters are allowed to be themselves and are not as in so many other television series and films portrayed as just adjuncts of the men around them. This particularly strikes a significant chord with me, where in my own family it was always impressed and rather convincingly so I must add upon me as well as other male relatives to acknowledge that females also have brains in their heads and are just as capable, and sometimes even more so, when it comes to using them constructively and helpfully in the service of others and therefore we ought to acknowledge this fact, never forget it and do whatever we possibly could, particularly where our own females were concerned, to facilitate this process. Therefore it is remarkably quite easy for the viewer to really empathize with the characters on screen and throughout the escapades of emotions and even the seamier and more violent aspects of life that are portrayed Beth Sullivan as producer and creator deals with these without sinking to the level of gratuitous titillation or embedding the characters and ourselves in the sewers of prurient mediocrity that so many other producers quite willingly descend into.
Additionally the characters are believable; and what’s more sensible and conscionable persons can identify with them as there’s a clear-cut rationale as to why even the most unsavoury among them behave as they do. Issues like racism, the abominable treatment meted out to the indigenous North Americans and prostitution are dealt with but always with the underlying current, but not portrayed in any pedantic way, that it’s not the exterior characteristics of he individual but their true worth as a person that really matter and along with that notion that the human spirit is paramount. Moreover that no one: man or woman, is ever beyond redemption if they honestly make the effort to improve themselves and that community spirit, being a good neighbour, our brother and sister’s keeper and looking out for each other, acting as a true friend in good and bad times even to those who we may have just cause to dislike aren’t fanciful simply notions but are and can continue to be expositions of the human will; the way we live and be themselves the vehicles for winning hearts and changing attitudes through tangible examples. Achievements and behavioural change that can be got though quiet diplomacy rather than the vainglorious and often useless methods of megaphone diktaks that we witness so often these days from our so-called leaders.
I have never met Beth Sullivan and probably never will, nevertheless my upbringing to which I’ve previously referred to makes me readily recognize someone that is not only highly inspirational but also has all the qualities of artistic and significantly humanitarian genius that I instantly distinguish when I come across them. Humanitarianism is a word that is dishonestly overworked these days to the point of almost being a cliché, but applied to Beth Sullivan it is not only fittingly apt but quite proper as well.
My English Master who recognized and actively encouraged my great love for English as a young boy at the grammar school I attended used to frequently say to me that I shouldn’t only write with passion and truth but also with creativity, and in such a manner that were someone to come across my works millennia after I had shuffled off my mortal coil that person or those persons through my creativity, mode of communication and the method of handing my subject matter should be able to instantaneously relive the contemporaneous situation I had created when I did that specific piece of work; and as my personal and enduring tribute to this remarkable man I’ve always endeavoured to do just that. Beth Sullivan is a kindred spirit I feel; and very much like classical greats such as Jane Austen, William Shakespeare, Charles Dickens and Tomas Hardy her work will live on forever as a testament to her sheer genius, appreciated with greater intensity, admiration and fascination and respect with each emerging generation; and that’s only as it should be.
Impressive too are the actresses and actors in the series and who are themselves professional to the point of making what they do seem so natural and unrehearsed; another outstanding aspect of this truly remarkable series, and I congratulate them all, since I’m left in no doubt that professionalism is at the very epicentre of this exceptionally brilliant and awe-inspiring series where one intuitively knows that regardless of what might transpire good always triumphs over evil and furthermore that it’s the more enlightening characteristics of life and human nature which will always triumph over man’s baser instincts. For Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman is much more than a television series with a moral perception; it’s unquestionably as well an incandescent beacon atop a Lighthouse of Hope directing one securely through the choppy waters, dangerous currents and treacherous reefs which routinely beset out every day lives; and what’s more doing an excellent job in the process.
Beth Sullivan from this complete stranger to yourself but not your inspirational work take a much deserved bow – you are truly A Miracle Woman!!