"You want me to do what?" - Susie Garret, probably.
I've talked at length about the power Punky Brewster had in teaching me how to navigate beyond my caste in society, but I completely neglected to mention the time the Punky Brewster writers got ravaged on hallucinogens at Burning Man and wrote the most horrific hour of television ever made - THE PERILS OF PUNKY.
"The Perils of Punky" was an episode of television, made for children, where Punky, her friends, the old man who found her living in a supermarket and Marla Gibbs' sister all go camping together in a national park haunted by the malevolent spirits of massacred Native Americans.
My understanding of the finite nature of human existence was cast in stone by watching helplessly as Punky Brewster's friends were trapped in a cave and slaughtered one by one.
Not only were the children brutalized, but they return mangled and monstrous to haunt Punky. Like all the final girls before her, Punky had to decide whether she was going to give up or fight through the pain of abandonment. Dogs die. Friends leave and you never see them again. Everything ends. Extreme horror demands us to confront the kind of person we are deep down. Are we a person who gives into sadness and despair or are we Punky Brewster, a person who leads with love despite the horror of living? Heady stuff for a Sunday morning!
Today, it's exactly thirty three years later and lingering questions abound. I'm choosing to believe that Punky is half Native American and this journey into the cave was her reconciling her personal heritage and responsibility to a people maligned and abandoned by history. By losing her friends and then having their ghosts taunt her to the verge of suicide, she comes close to experiencing what the Native Americans experienced.
Or, you know, the writers got bored.