I remember being vaguely horrified when I discovered Michael J. Fox was Canadian. He was OURS. How could he possibly be anything other than American? His role as Alex P. Keaton was so iconic: the conservative, hippie-parent-horrifying, greed-is-good believing teen who embodied and parodied Reagan-era culture. Although I’d rather hang out with his sister Mallory (Justine Bateman), I knew Family Ties revolved around Fox’s pitch-perfect, Emmy-winning performance as Alex.
I was such a huge fan of Family Ties that when Fox followed the show with big-screen stardom in Back to the Future, what I felt was pride.
No wonder then that in those years before I’d ever been out of my own country or met any Canadians, I felt so disappointed to lose any hold on him. I mean, I’d gone to see Doc Hollywood–in the theater. I’d suffered through The Secret of My Success for him. It wasn’t really a crush with me. (Even if I ever had one, I think those suspenders in Back to the Future would have ruined it.) I just admired him so much. His gestures, expressions, movements–always so true, so uniquely his, and so damn funny. And oh, the lines. No one can deliver a line more effectively than Michael J. Fox. I could listen to him ask, “Are you telling me that you built a time machine… out of a DeLorean?” on repeat. No wonder the guy can’t seem to walk in front of a camera without being nominated for an award.
When Parkinson’s forced Fox to leave Spin City, his costars couldn’t stop crying long enough to finish his final episode. They didn’t know yet that he’d find a second career in his illness as a guest star, even as the headliner of his own show. And most of all, as the representative for the disease that had claimed him. They didn’t know he’d write a memoir. Call it Lucky Man. Tell other actors on Inside the Actor’s Studio suffering from the same afflictions that he had it easy, with his advantages, that they were those who had courage and guts; they were the ones he admired. That he’d remain tireless and fearless in his pursuit of a cure, and keep on wowing his countless fans.
It took a while, but I finally lost my dismay at Fox’s being Canadian. Instead, I now feel gratitude toward his homeland: for sharing this fine of an actor, this caliber of a human being with the rest of us. And now if you’ll excuse me, I need to re-watch Alex P. recommending amoral business principles to children.
Be sure to check out the other entries in the blogathon! And I promise to return to classic film next week. I just couldn’t resist celebrating Fox.