Rachel Dretzin Goodman: We were always interested in issues around adolescent sexuality. That was one of the first things that brought us down to Conyers. But, very quickly, once we arrived, we became interested in broader issues around growing up, being a teenager in suburban America today, because in the months it took us to get access to some of the kids direclty involved in the outbreak we met lots of other kids. And we were struck by how widespread the kind of anomie, and loneliness, and hunger for structure and experimentation was, among kids all over the community. And so we started talking about doing a much broader program which would maybe use the syphillis outbreak as a jumping off point.
Barak Goodman: Clearly, there was something much broader going on here. That, of course, had its own problems. I mean, how do you do a show about all of these issues -- there's just one on top of the other. There are so many causes and so many . . . And it became really the biggest challenge we faced: how to do this story in a kind of coherent way in the time we had to do it.
RDG: So, structurally, how to focus the show so that the syphillis outbreak didn't dominate it, didn't overly dominate. That was very, very difficult. Just because of the nature of the story, it's hard not to have it dominate the whole program. Syphillis, sex, all the rest of it. And we were determined to try to move beyond it. And so, the decision was made to start with the syphillis outbreak and quickly leave it behind to go into the inner lives of the kids. And then move outside the group of kids who had been involved into the wider community.
BG: We didn't want to make any hard and fast conclusions. There is no easy answer to any of this stuff. And we certainly didn't want to start, you know, toting up on a blackboard where the problems are. The problems are extremely complicated, with all sorts of sources and problems and. . . and solutions. So, you know, that was a little vague by itself. So, our problem was really vagueness. And I think our solution ultimately was just to be honest, just to let the kids tell their stories.
RDG: I suspect that this is not going to be an easy program for many people in Conyers to watch. And it is not easy to be singled out, which, inevitably this community is, as being the hotbed for all of these things. We hope that it's clear in the program that Conyers is exemplary; it is not an aberration. It's a community that is representative of many communities. And this happens to be the community in which decided to focus our lens. But it could've been any one of a number of communities.
BG: We hope the conversation will be about getting back involved in kids lives. Not so much, you know, their success or failure-- that all, people are paying attention to that -- their scores, what college they get into, all that stuff. But their inner lives, their moral lives, their spiritual lives -- which, in our experience at least, going unheeded.
is this story isolated? |
the syphilis outbreak
more about rockdale county |
resources for teens & parents
tapes & transcripts |
pbs online |
New Content Copyright © 1999 PBS Online and WGBH/FRONTLINE