Badass Women: Better Things' Pamela Adlon on The Importance of Healthy Debate
Badass Women spotlights women who not only have a voice but defy the irrelevant preconceptions of gender. (Not to mention, they are exceptionally cool.) Here, Pamela Adlon—creator and star of FX's Better Things, which is currently airing its second season—discusses the benefits of healthy disagreement.
Reactivity is off the charts right now, especially when it comes to politics. We’re all a bunch of raw, jangly nerves, and people are listening only to the sound bites they want to hear before attacking. It’s happening constantly on social media, with everyone making personal, ethical, and moral decisions based on bumper-sticker tweets. Have I ever had a real debate on Twitter? No f—ing way!
So in this knee-jerk, shoot-from-the-hip environment, it might seem as if there’s no point in talking. But we need to. For us to come together as a country, we have to start hearing one another—and I mean really listening, not just waiting for someone’s lips to stop moving before it’s your turn to speak.
I like it when others disagree with me, because it’s an opportunity to ask questions and strengthen my own beliefs. I respect the people in my life who will throw down their opinions and are maybe not yummy and cozy. I remember visiting my brother after the presidential election in 2000 between George W. Bush and Al Gore. I’m a Democrat, he’s a Republican, and it was a very hot time. We were at a beautiful sit-down seven-course meal, and I brought up the fact that Bush had abandoned the Kyoto Protocol. We just went at it, and neither of us finished dinner. But he made his points, and I made mine. We drove home together in silence, and when we got back to the house, he looked at me and said, “Hey, I’m really proud of you. Dad would have been really proud of you too.” (Our parents were both fighters who encouraged us to be fearless.)
So in the end, even though we had totally disagreed on everything, we listened to and respected each other. That’s the key. Ever since then, my brother sends me emails that challenge my political views, and I do the same for him. That’s our way of sharing our opinions and having the debate in the ether without anybody getting hurt. Because ultimately, it’s not about who’s right or wrong. It’s about being able to have different opinions without attacking or freaking out and running in the other direction. Once it’s not a dialogue anymore, it’s over.
With the holidays approaching, some intrafamily debate is to be expected. Don’t be afraid to say something polarizing as long as you do it with kindness. And try not to rant or get too emotional. If you’re screaming “F— you!” it’s emotional, not rational. A debate should be thoughtful; it should never escalate into a fight. A disagreement can and should be uncomfortable, but you’ll learn from it. I’ve always been in awe of people who have strong opinions, whether I share them or not.
—As told to Samantha Simon