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March 24, 2012

A Lot of Chatter About Helen Hunt Episode on Who Do You Think You Are?

Season 3 of Who Do You Think You Are? sponsored by aired an Episode last night featuring Helen Hunt on her journey of discovery.  

There's been a lot of chatter on Facebook and Twitter about this episode and in general the reaction is pretty negative. It seems many viewers didn't feel engaged by Helen's ancestors or by Helen.

Most comments that I read last night focused on Helen's lack of emotion, on her seemingly cool reaction to seeing photographs of her ancestors, and on the fact that she didn't gush or seem excited about the finds.

Remember Sarah Jessica Parker? Talk about gushing! Watching that episode I quickly grew weary of her constant "Wow" and other expressions of amazement. Thank you Helen Hunt for not subjecting me to that again!

I do admit that Helen's episode was not my favourite but not because of Helen's reserve. For me it was because I didn't get a good sense of her ancestors and I felt the show rather quickly glossed over each one and moved on to the next.

But Helen's reserve is not something any of us should judge with criticism. I got the impression that she was very pleased at what was found. She mentioned her daughter several times and how she wanted to share the stories with her in order to help her daughter grow and become aware of the foundations of their family.

Helen was alert and focused on what each researcher told her. She asked appropriate questions which indicated she was listening and interested.  My perception was that Ms. Hunt is a very reserved woman who does not like to show emotion in public. Why would we judge her for that? 

Just sayin'.......


CallieK said...

I too found her a bit stoic but that didn't offend me - what bothered me more was there were times when it was difficult to make out what she was saying- her voice was so low and monotone!

Cannuk said...

This episode was actually my favourite because at long last they addressed women's history and tracing women ancestors.

We had to work hard for our achievements and it was good to see them recognized. It was also good to see the prejudices against the WCTU faced. Not only were they front and centre in the suffrage movement, they were also big in the People's Health Movement. They made a lot of difference to ordinary and struggling families.

Also, tracing women is diffent because we could not inherit like men, own property like men and vote like men, so you can't depend on the same records.

I hope she makes a movie about Augusta.

Liesa Healy-Miller said...

I agree with Cannuk, the whole temperance movement angle was interesting. I think my problem is that I have become disenchanted with the show in general. I ended up not even watching all of the episodes from last season.

As I tweeted last night, I think the novelty of "celebrity roots' in and of itself has worn off. They need a new schtick. Maybe Ancestry is free for 2 hours that night...and viewers can trace along and find the various documents. Whatever.

This show is not teaching people how to find their roots. I'm not saying that's what the goal is...but it wouldn't be a bad thing if that happened as a result of the show.

Folks just starting out, however, will get few usable clues from this show. Documents appear out of thin air with no explanation, etc. And I doubt Ancestry will get many members out of it, either - the show makes it look too easy. Most folks will then get their free 14-day subscription, get discouraged, and abandon their trees.

Lorine McGinnis Schulze said...

Lisa those are excellent points.

Re celebrity journeys: I think I saw somewhere that Ancestry has a contest for one person to win the chance to be featured - or am I imagining this?

I kind of recall taking a peek but it was only open to Americans so I didn't read the details.

Mind you I still enjoy watching as I don't care if it's a celebrity or not, I just like watching what finds are made

I agree it would be nice if they explained a bit more about the process.

And I think your idea of opening Ancestry for a few hours for folks to start their own hunt is intriguing!

Frances Elizabeth Schwab said...

I agree with Cannuk.

And I saw a lot of emotion. To me she seemed very moved by the role her ancestor played in women's history and it was clearly an important thing to be able to pass on to her daughter. I loved how they explained women's roles as social activists in the context of their time.

I teared up when she learned Augusta had been give the honor of casting the first ballot.

Lorine McGinnis Schulze said...

Cannuk - good points about women, thanks for commenting! One thing that I'd like to add is that the ease or non-ease of tracing women depends on the time period and the culture (location)

For example my Dutch female ancestors who settled in what is now New York in the 1600s had many rights. They could and did own property in their names. They could sue in court on their own behalf. They enjoyed many freedoms including freedom to run businesses.

But overall it's a challenge to search a female ancestor as you pointed out!

Lorine McGinnis Schulze said...

CallieK - yes I think too she is a woman of few words! often she only had one or two word comments

Lorine McGinnis Schulze said...

Here's the Ancestry contest I was talking about

I should do a blog post about it!

Christine said...

I loved the episode. Totally different story line to the last ones. Not to take away from their stories, but their history was all the same. Helen is a gifted woman. She is incredibly intelligent. I thought she handled herself very well. I loved her reaction to her gt grandma that was in the CWTU -one a lot of people would have and then she admitted that it was her ignorance about the CWTU that made her feel that way. I think she was very moved by Augusta and loved the serendipity of Augusta being such an important woman and coming from the same place where she first heard her daughter's life beating. I loved that she took the time and effort to do the gravestone rubbing for her daughter's scrapbook.

rdh26 said...

Generally agree with all the pro-con here. What was left unsaid in the HH episode, however, was that some of the branches in the Hunt line of the tree go all the way back to some of the "first families" of early America. This includes Dwight, Dudley and Bulkeley. Quickly noting this, even if it had only been via a sentence or two in passing, might have provided the viewer with a more complete picture of the HH heritage and her very deep roots in the history of North America.

Jenny Jones said...

A lot of good comments here...esp about Ancestry being free for a bit after the show. But I agree, some more "how-to" is definitely necessary with WDYTYA. My opinion is the Helen Hunt episode was the epitome of the worst of that...documents appeared from thin air! I, too, found her difficult to understand. The history side was interesting, though.

Jo said...

I really enjoyed this episode also. I thought Helen Hunt was admirably reserved and I appreciate that in a person. I teared up myself several times during this episode. We have such an amazing history in this country and so much of it is unknown to the descendents. If nothing else, WDYTYA helps to showcase that history which I think is incredibly important.

Absolutely Literate said...

I liked that Helen was honest about her ignorance and was open to the journey. I got the feeling that she needed to process everything she learned.

I think the challenge of the show is that it is hard to pack all the detail into an hour. Thus documents appear out of thin air and they leap to simplified conclusions. Jerome Bettis seemed shocked that his ancestors were illiterate and chalked it up to slavery. I would have prefered a more complete discussion about literacy and how education was a luxury and the working class, agricultural labourers both free and not were often illiterate. But, I am a history geek.