“Little House on the Prairie” is a classic television show for a number of reasons. Fans enjoyed watching the characters and the situations they found themselves in. However, it was more than just watching early American life that grabbed the hearts and minds of viewers. Little House was a look back to a simpler time. It was a time far removed from when the show first aired. At the time, three huge and ongoing events loomed over the country – an oil crisis, a recession, and the Watergate scandal. So, Americans welcomed the escape they found in “Little House on the Prairie.”
Currently, the show is rising in popularity again. It may be seeing a resurgence for the same reason that made it popular in the first place. Americans are looking for an escape. Many are craving a simpler time. Last year, Melissa Gilbert talked to CBS Sunday Morning about her time on the show, what made it popular, and why it is becoming popular again.
Currently, America is dealing with three huge issues that all kicked off in 2020. We are dealing with a pandemic, quarantines, and civil unrest based on racial inequality. In the interview, the CBS host notes that three episodes of “Little House on the Prairie” mirror those issues.
“Little House on the Prairie” Dealt With Our Current Issues
In one episode of “Little House on the Prairie,” Walnut Grove is stricken with an outbreak of typhus. The plague rips through their little town. Pa Ingalls, Doc Baker, and Reverend Alden have to work together to tend to the sick and dying. However, more and more sick people flock to Walnut Grove from surrounding areas. So, the men have to find the source of the outbreak if they want their community to survive.
Another episode sees the entire town of Walnut Grove going into quarantine. The neighboring community of Elmsville is dealing with an outbreak of mountain fever. Isaiah Edwards is immune to the fever because he had it once before. It killed his first wife and their daughter. So, he recruits Doc Baker to go with him to assist the people of Elmsville. While there, he comes in contact with an infected woman and carries the disease home. His daughter becomes infected. Before the deadly virus can spread, Walnut Grove goes on lockdown.
The third episode they discuss deals with race relations. A young Black child named Solomon travels to Walnut Grove. He is the son of poor sharecroppers. To avoid the life of hard work that sent his father to an early grave, he offers to sell himself to the Ingalls family in exchange for an education. During a talk with Charles Ingalls, he asks, “Would you rather be Black and live to be a hundred or white and live to be fifty?”
Melissa Gilbert on Moving Forward
In the interview, Melissa Gilbert points out, “The question itself is intense enough. But, Michael Landon’s reaction is that he has no answer and that’s where we are.”
Gilbert also shares some thoughts about the show’s resurgence in popularity as well as where we find ourselves as a nation today, “Little House on the Prairie reminded people of what we went through when we started this country and how difficult that was. I think we’re at that place again. If we could have done what we did in the 1800s and the 1970s, we can do this. The keys are going to be compassion, community, faith – whatever that faith looks like-, and love. That’s it. That’s all that matters.”
Compassion, community, and love for your fellow human being. Those are things we can really get behind. She may be on to something.