[trigger warning: manipulation, incest]
When I was younger, my brother and I would watch That 70s Show together. I remember that Fox moved the show into another, later time slot, and since I had to go to school in the morning, I couldn’t watch it. So my brother recorded episodes for me.
One time, there was this episode about Eric’s cousin who suddenly visited him after years of not seeing each other. And guess what? She wasn’t Eric’s Cousin anymore, she was now Eric’s Hot Cousin. (That’s actually what the episode is called, by the way, which is a problem in of itself).
Now, this entire episode revolved around this conflict of Eric thinking that his cousin was hot, and wanting to fuck her, because bahahaha incest is funny, and of course, when it does happen, it’s always between consenting adults. You rarely see pop culture portrayals of incest as this fucked up thing that involves huge power imbalances between children and adults.
Here’s the interesting part— when it got to the part in the episode where Eric and Penny (his hot cousin) were in this awkward, almost-sexual situation, my brother stopped the recording. I still remember watching this on the tape player and being really confused when there was this huge gap and then suddenly the episode was over and Eric’s Hot Cousin had left.
I suddenly remembered this a few days ago. I thought it was a little weird at the time, but I figured it was just my brother “protecting” me from seeing inappropriate things, as my mom occasionally did by covering my eyes during a “bad part” in a movie, etc. But I found the synopsis for that episode, and it turns out that Eric and Penny have a conversation in which it’s implied that what they were doing was wrong.
Of course, my brother couldn’t have known this would happen later in the episode. But maybe he purposefully blocked me from watching something that he noticed was treating incest as abnormal or wrong…maybe because he held some self-interest in keeping me in the dark on that issue.
This makes me wonder— in what other ways was little kid me manipulated into ignorance, or believing that what was happening to me was “normal”? When you’re little, and that’s all you know, it’s hard to escape it— even when the situation is dangerous. And if I was influenced in this way, are those influences still coming out even today, in my every day adult life?