Mayberry and White America

When life doesn't imitate art.

Two seemingly unrelated stories in yesterday’s edition of the Washington Post intersected for me this morning.

First, columnist Jonathan Capehart‘s “Why I forgive Ralph Northam.”

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) said something in a meeting with The Post’s editorial board just before Christmas that still rings in my ears: “The eyes can’t see what the brain doesn’t know.”

According to the pediatric neurologist turned politician, that was a lesson he used to teach medical students and residents to help them better diagnose patients. But Northam said he applied that lesson to himself in 2019 after he became embroiled in what he called “the yearbook incident.” 

Even if you don’t live in Virginia, as I do, you’re likely familiar with said incident. Certainly, OTB covered it extensively.

If “the eyes can’t see what the brain doesn’t know,” then Northam didn’t know much of anything about race or the role of race in our nation’s history. He didn’t know the humiliation of blackface. He was ignorant of the violence of the Ku Klux Klan. He was seemingly oblivious to the 1889 lynching of Magruder Fletcher and the 1907 race riot that took place just outside his hometown on Virginia’s Eastern Shore. But he knows and sees clearly our history now.

Early on in his journey out of racial ignorance, Northam read Ta-Nehisi Coates and Alex Haley. Since then, Northam told us that Ava DuVernay’s powerful documentary “13th” on how that amendment to the Constitution led to mass incarceration of African Americans had a profound impact. So did Ty Seidule’s masterful book, “Robert E. Lee and Me: A Southerner’s Reckoning With the Myth of the Lost Cause.” But talking to Black people was the key.

“The most powerful experiences were listening to people of color talk about some of their experiences,” Northam said. “We traveled around Virginia and listened to a lot of folks; we learned more. As I said, the more we know, the more we can do. And we turned a lot of what we heard into action.”

Northam certainly did. The death penalty was abolished. The threshold for felony larceny prosecution was raised from $500 to $1,000. Suspension of driver’s licenses over unpaid court fines and fees was abolished. Recreational marijuana use for people 21 and older was legalized. All of these reforms disproportionately (and positively) affect the lives of Black Virginians.

When Northam talked about “the yearbook incident,” he did so with the refreshing humility of someone who has learned from a searing experience. Rather than mouth words of contrition and fade away — easy to do since sitting Virginia governors can’t run for reelection — Northam worked on himself and his state.

As I noted shortly after the incident broke, Northam’s transgressions were a forgivable sin. Even though he was a medical student from a privileged background and could have been presumed to know better, the fact that so many of his fellow med students were not only doing the same thing but willing to be photographed doing it and that neither the yearbook editors nor faculty advisors thought publishing said photos was a bad idea is rather strong proof that they didn’t fully realize the implications.

Still, one can easily read Capehart’s column as more about his satisfaction with Northam’s liberal policies—which did indeed amount to a stunning transformation of Virginia politics—than about Northam’s personal journey.

But the storyHow Ted Koppel’s trip to ‘Mayberry’ turned into one of 2021’s most striking moments of TV,” suggested by the sidebar, made me rethink that a bit. It’s longish but here are the relevant bits:

At the height of the coronavirus pandemic lockdowns, veteran journalist Ted Koppel was working out on the treadmill when he came across an episode of “The Andy Griffith Show” — it caught his attention because of something he heard earlier that day while listening to WMAL, a Virginia-based conservative talk radio station. A listener had called in to explain that they used to live in the Washington area, but couldn’t stand how “woke” it had become, so they fled to the South. They said something along the lines of, “We moved down here to the Carolinas, and boy, life is just wonderful. People are so lovely. They’re so neighborly. Everything is so nice.”

Koppel, 81, started thinking about how “The Andy Griffith Show” was also set in the Carolinas, in the fictional town of Mayberry, N.C. After his workout, he went online and discovered that the CBS comedy was an even bigger hit than he remembered; the series, starring Griffith as the good-natured sheriff and Ron Howard as his adorable young son, was one of the most-watched shows from its debut in 1960 until it went off the air in 1968. And, more intriguingly, while Mayberry was not real, the city of Mount Airy, N.C., claims to be the prototype on which it was based, and still draws thousands of tourists every year looking to relive their beloved show.

So Koppel, the former ABC “Nightline” host and now a senior contributor to “CBS Sunday Morning,” called his producer, Dustin Stephens, and suggested that they travel down to Mount Airy. Koppel was curious: What made the show so popular? And what was it about this community that makes people want to come visit decades later?

What started with those general questions wound up evolving into one of the most striking TV segments of the year, as Koppel was visibly taken aback by the fierce nostalgia for a time and place that literally never existed — and how it connects to the misinformation that has infiltrated America’s politics.

“People looking back at that program seem to confuse the program with what reality was like in those days, wishing that we could only restore some of the good feelings, some of the kindness, some of the decency,” Koppel said in an interview. “But what they’re really reflecting on is not what was going on in a particular North Carolina community. What they’re reflecting on is what was going on in the creative minds of a bunch of scriptwriters out in Hollywood.”

[…]

“The Andy Griffith Show,” a viewing experience that Koppel compared to “chomping down on a marshmallow,” was an antidote to everything going on in the world at the time, which never showed up on the sunny series: Tens of thousands of American troops killed in Vietnam War. Race riots throughout the country. Assassinations.

“If there’s any period that matches our current period in terms of how terrible things were and how difficult things were, the 1960s were it,” Koppel said.

The same is true—and more poignantly so—of the spinoff show, “Gomer Pyle, USMC.” Not only were all the fictional Marines in the show White but there was also no indication that real Marines were dying in droves in Vietnam. Indeed, as star Jim Nabors would later reflect, many of the real-life Marines that Gomer is shown marching and grinning with in the opening sequence would die in that war.

Kicking off with the cheerful, whistled theme song, cameras show the Andy Griffith Museum and a vintage police car and other replica hot spots from the series, including Wally’s Filling Station, the Snappy Lunch and Floyd’s Barber Shop — all packed with tourists. The piece takes its first hint of a darker, more serious turn as Koppel interviews one man who says our “godless society” could use a dose of the good old days. “Back when neighbors were neighbors, and they provided for everybody else,” the man explained.

“What you’re saying is true of certain people,” Koppel tells him.”If you were Black in the ’60s, things were not all that good.”

“That’s true,” the man admits. (The segment notes that in the entirety of the show’s eight-season run, only one Black actor had a speaking role.)

Koppel also interviews a Black family who had lived in Mount Airy for decades, and as of the early 1970s, were turned away from eating in certain restaurants. Yet the siblings had all returned to their hometown. “Somehow Mount Airy becomes more complex with each conversation,” Koppel said, adding that the town “is a place where fantasy and reality intersect.”

This segues into the segment’s defining scene, on a tourist trolley: Koppel decides to “wave the political thermometer across the forehead of Mount Airy” and asks how many people there thought the 2020 presidential election was a fair one. Only two out of about a dozen people raise their hands.

“I think there was a lot of voter fraud,” one tourist says. “I think it’s more the mail-in ballots. You don’t know how much of those were duplicated, triplicated, the whole bit.”

“Look how many dead people voted for Biden,” another adds, referring to a false and debunked conspiracy theory.

The discussion continues as one person claims the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol was a “staged” event with “BLM people.” (“I don’t understand why they’re focusing so much on that one issue, when there are so many cities being burned down every day by protesters.”) Others chime in to call the media the enemy of the people and profess their love for Donald Trump.

Koppel and his producers just let the scene speak for itself. At one point, a tour guide jumps in: “This conversation about politics and division is what people come here to get away from. We don’t care what color you are. We don’t even care what your politics are. We just want to be good neighbors and treat everybody alike. And that’s why they’re coming here.”The tourists yell “Amen!” and applaud. “That’s what America should be,” one says. Koppel’s voice-over concludes the segment: “And when the script was written in Hollywood, that’s the way it was.”

I don’t think the point of this is that fans of “The Andy Griffith Show,” of which I count myself as one, are racists longing for the days of complete white domination of politics and the culture. But I do think there’s a huge swath of white America that pines for a golden era that never really existed.

The five “real” seasons of the show, which were filmed in black and white and co-starred Don Knotts as Barney Fife, all first aired before I was born. (There were three more, filmed in color after Knotts had left to make Disney movies; they’re seldom aired because the show just wasn’t without the Griffith-Knotts chemistry.) But I watched them a lot in syndication over the years. I was likely well into adulthood before it really occurred to me that there were no Black characters on a show set in one of the Blackest states in the union, much less that there was zero mention of racial strife despite taking place at the height of the civil rights struggle. With rare exception—almost inevitably solved by episode’s end—Mayberry was a place of harmony and homogeneity and it never seemed the least bit strange.

Northam is a few years older than me and came from more affluent circumstances. Schools were desegregated even in rural Virginia by the time he started. He was on the basketball and baseball teams; I would imagine there were Black players. VMI had only been integrated for a decade when he started but, again, I would imagine he had Black company mates. Certainly, he worked with Black soldiers, including fellow doctors, as an Army physician in the 1980s.

Still, White was always the default, “normal” option in his life and he viewed things through that lens. Wearing Klan robes for a photo—something it would never have dawned on him to do in real life because, after all, he wasn’t a racist—was just a harmless joke. Because, after all, his White buddies thought it was funny.

I’ve been to Mount Airy, having stopped there on a road trip with my late first wife 13 or 14 years ago. There frankly wasn’t that much to see and we didn’t do any of the tours; I doubt we lasted an hour. But I strongly suspect that the people that Koppel met there honesty “just want to be good neighbors and treat everybody alike.” And most of them probably voted for Donald Trump—twice—and see no contradiction.

As with the young Northam, they naturally see racism—and certainly the Klan and lynchings and all of the really bad stuff— as a thing of the distant past. Why schools were desegregated in 1954 and full civil and voting rights have been the law of the land since 1964 and 1965, for crying out loud. And all of the Black Lives Matter, Critical Race Theory, and the like coming from the lamestream media is just woke big city nonsense that has nothing to do with real life in Mayberry, USA.

FILED UNDER: *FEATURED, Popular Culture, Race and Politics, Society, US Politics
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Tony W says:

    This is why conservatives are up in arms over CRT and truthtelling about U.S. history.

    Education will disrupt their bubble, and they are so comfortable!

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  2. Long Time Listener says:

    “The most powerful experiences were listening to people of color talk about some of their experiences,” Northam said. “We traveled around Virginia and listened to a lot of folks; we learned more. As I said, the more we know, the more we can do. And we turned a lot of what we heard into action.”

    …And this is always seen as an exotic Eureka moment. Talking to black folk is equated as talking to ‘BLM People’. Folks want Mayberry, Ford 250s and the theme song from All In The Family.

    Apologies, this comes from reading too many ‘interesting’ interpretations of Matrix IV (they should have stopped at III).

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  3. MarkedMan says:

    I watched the Koppel piece and agree with you. One other takeaway for me: how much resentment there was over “people” looking down on them.

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  4. CSK says:

    When I was a little kid, I knew the difference between television and real life. All you had to do was look around you, ffs. Was any mother June Cleaver? Was any father Ward Cleaver? It was television. Fantasy. Who could believe any of it was real?

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  5. Not the IT Dept. says:

    The American Dream used to be wanting to be free. Then sometime after WWII it became wanting to be rich. Now the American Dream is to live in a dream of one’s own choosing forever and ever. The ultimate embrace of reality television. The impulse that led so many GOP voters to think The Apprentice was a documentary.

    There’s not another nation on earth that is wealthy enough to allow its citizens to indulge in this kind of delusional thinking and still somehow manage to feed and dress themselves every day. Did I say citizens? No, that implies some kind of connection to the country and their fellow Americans. No, let’s say viewers instead.

    There are so many options available to allow viewers to indulge in their dreams every moment of the day and spend the minimal amount of time in reality. Do other countries do this? Some, but on the whole they can’t because reality is too pressing and they don’t have the time or money to indulge.

    We are in big trouble in this country and I dread the next few decades. I have three kids, and two of them live in other countries for study or work, and are very likely to stay there. I am much happier about this than I would have been 20 years ago.

    Ben Franklin: “A republic, if you can keep it.”

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  6. Sleeping Dog says:

    Mayberry and similar nostalgia, is a symptom of the problems in American society that result in our low ratings of happiness and personal satisfaction compared to other countries. Our society is sick and has been for a long time, now that illness is apparent.

    Not that this problem is unique to the US, just look at the UK and France.

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  7. Kathy says:

    If I could request two things from an omniscient being, I’d ask two questions:

    1) How many American believe black people were better off under slavery?

    2) Of those who believe this, how many consider themselves racist?

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  8. @CSK:

    When I was a little kid, I knew the difference between television and real life. All you had to do was look around you, ffs. Was any mother June Cleaver? Was any father Ward Cleaver? It was television. Fantasy. Who could believe any of it was real?

    I would note that one can know it is not real and still have it affect one’s worldview.

    As James notes, it can help define what “normal” is.

    While people will readily admit that TV isn’t real, it affects the way they look at the world whether they realize it or not. Think about the dominant narrative of police shows (i.e., the police are almost always the good guys and they are just going after the bad guys). That influences pretty heavily the way people view law enforcement.

    And a lot of people seem to think of the 50s as some combo of Leave it to Beaver, The Andy Griffith Show, and Happy Days.

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  9. Not the IT Dept. says:

    Prophecy: by 2032, every presidential candidate will have been campaigning for votes from his own reality show, featuring his family (except the kids who can’t act) and select political allies, experiencing wacky adventures and alternating comic and sentimental heart-warming episodes.

    The argument will be advanced that we should replace the Electoral College with the Neilson Ratings as it will be more democratic because, hey, everyone has access to what used to be called television, and there won’t be any need for polling stations or the long lineups that we argue over today.

    Meanwhile, a Chinese force will invade the entire west coast – and Cuba will invade and colonize Florida – and we won’t even notice until ads start appearing in Mandarin.

    We are so doomed.

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  10. As I note on occasion, reactionary politics are linked with the notion that it is possible to recapture an imaginary past. Nostalgia can be a potent political tool.

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  11. Michael Reynolds says:

    I don’t do nostalgia, certainly not as regards the south in the 60’s. I spent my first 6 years in LA and in the late 1950’s there were no Black people in Bellflower. That I happened to notice while toddling.

    I spent the next three years in France, in French schools where I was the minority population, l’Americain. I was 10 when my dad was stationed in the Florida panhandle and I was repatriated. (Surprisingly, still not exactly politically aware). Niceville, Florida in 1964 was Alabama. Hardcore Jim Crow. ‘Whites Only’ signs and convenient neon arrows pointing ‘Coloreds’ down the alley to the back door of the chicken shack.

    This is when I first noticed that Black people were a thing. My liberal Jewish mother tutored Black kids from the segregated High School in our home. . . until a shaken-looking landlord informed us that the KKK would like us to stop doing that. We relocated to an apartment complex dominated by military out of Hurlburt Field and Eglin AFB. It was effectively base housing and integrated. (My friend at the complex was a Black kid named Bubba Hipp who accidentally left his mark on me when we found a golf club in an empty field and I failed to see that I should not stand where the backswing was coming.)

    You know how when you’re a kid you’ll sense that something important is happening without quite understanding what it is? I remember being at the refreshment stand at a drive-in movie and heading for a drinking fountain labeled ‘Colored.’ Something passed between my parents, I felt the weirdness of the moment, and after some hesitation I was directed to the ‘Whites Only’ fountain. I knew in a vague 10 year-old sort of way that something shameful had happened that my parents were not happy about.

    Later I recall being in the car, being driven to school late, my mother driving, two Black High School seniors in the back seat. As we approached my all-white school I shrank down under the dashboard. My mother started to object, but one of the kids said, “No, I understand why, it’s OK.” That cowardice on my part burns me to this day.

    The old south wasn’t just brutal to Blacks, it made Whites complicit in an evil system. I have no nostalgia for that. Fuck all the Mayberry’s.

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  12. grumpy realist says:

    I remember looking at the death tolls from Vietnam every day on the front page of our newspaper. I also remember my father going back into campus in the evenings to help guard the laboratories from possible student rioting. I’m just old enough to remember the assassination of JFK.

    I have nothing but contempt for people who think that the image Hollywood put out is “the way it really was.”

    And yeah, it wasn’t until I moved to Chicago that I was in an area that has a sizeable percentage of African-Americans. (Chicago is…weird. The neighbourhoods are pretty heavily segregated according to class and what’s even weirder is that the boundaries between the “good” and “not-so-good” neighbourhoods don’t move, even when an entire neighbourhood undergoes gentrification.)

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  13. Scott F. says:

    But I strongly suspect that the people that Koppel met there honesty “just want to be good neighbors and treat everybody alike.” And most of them probably voted for Donald Trump—twice—and see no contradiction.

    These are the same “devout Christians” who see no contradiction between owning the libtards and “thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself” and “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

    Not only do these people pine for a golden era that never really existed, they imagine themselves as decent people who are really not.

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  14. James R Ehrler says:

    I am just confused how these “want to get back to when everyone was kind and neighborly” folks refuse and fight a vaccine that, even if they think they don’t need it, would help out their neighbors.

    Easy to be nice and neighborly when don’t have to do anything but drop into a black and white tv fantasy (that really was only white!)

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  15. CSK says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:
    When I had my first college teaching gig (at a crap college whose name I won’t mention) my colleagues in the English Department and I wondered why the students thought the story “The Most Dangerous Game” was more “real” than say, “The Snows of Kilimanjaro.” It finally occurred to me that it was because the former was more like television than the latter.

    That was the word they used: “real.” Real = television.

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  16. Not the IT Dept. says:

    @CSK: “Real = television.”

    I understand that completely. They see television with their eyes, simply sit back and take it in without anything going through some kind of filter or process where intellect can kick in and interpret. Whereas with reading, they have to think about it even as they’re doing it.

    21 century Descartes: I view, therefore I am.

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  17. grumpy realist says:

    @Not the IT Dept.: Our term for TV when I was in college was “chewing gum for the eyeballs”.

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  18. Jay L Gischer says:

    I don’t disagree, per se, but I have a more nuanced view.

    “The way things were” is quite possibly something that many of these people remember about how their lives were. I grew up in a small town, and I watched the show when it came out, and in early syndication. I can even name the County Sherriff’s Deputy that we might consider as an analogue to Andy. We knew him by name. I’m pretty sure I recall another peace officer being referred to as “Barney Fife”, or just “Barney” as a sign of disrespect.

    I can still talk to the other kids I grew up with, regardless of social class or standing. We had a connection. Yes, racial issues did not touch us much (though there were some issues with Native Americans, and exactly one Japanese-American family in town. I’m sure they can say things about the racism they experienced). The Vietnam War claimed the lives of a few young men, but not a lot of them. (It was less of a killer than covid is).

    One of the things they might be complaining about is atomization and alienation. I sort of walked away from that millieu on my own, but to some it was more or less taken from them in a process that isn’t all that different from gentrification. Growth is desirable, and also a giant pain in the butt.

    The way many, many people lived in the 60’s is not possible any more, both for better and for worse. That is a loss to some. They have scapegoated liberals, atheists, and the “woke” for this, and that’s a mistake. It’s just a consequence of growth. Things change in a way that nobody can stop.

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  19. Michael Reynolds says:

    @CSK:
    Back in 2007 a British critic accused me of writing books like movies or TV. Which is exactly what I was doing because it was pretty clear that was how kids would frame media. In middle grade or YA you have a page, maybe two, to grab them before they change the channel.

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  20. Slugger says:

    I was a junior in high school when JFK was murdered. It is a little strange to hear nostalgia from people two decades younger than I since their rose colored vision does not conform to my recollections. I wonder what an objective look at life in 1962 Mt. Airy would reveal. A quick Google shows that the divorce rate rose in the 1970s in N.C. as it did in the US as a whole, peaking in 1990, and then it declined. BTW, why doesn’t any celebrate the declining divorce rate? Yes, nostalgia means a comic show about the USMC with no one going to war; no Da Nang, no Hué. Goldie Hawn dancing in a bikini is all I remember of the sixties.

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  21. Kathy says:

    @Slugger:

    perhaps MASH, set in the Koran War, did a better job portraying some of the realities of the Vietnam War.

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  22. grumpy realist says:

    What few of those zoning out on nostalgia ever admit is that it was those kids who were brought up in the suburban utopia of the 1950s and Togetherness who became the rebels of the 1960s. I and my generation didn’t–we’re too late. We were the younger kids that our parents clamped down upon when they saw what our older brothers and sisters were getting up to.

    (And yeah, it’s not even nostalgia for a real time. It’s nostalgia for a marketed product, produced by Hollywood and TV studios which was pumped into people’s brains for 12 hours a day.)

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  23. EddieInCA says:

    Some quick facts about me:

    I was born in Los Angeles. At the age of six months I moved to NYC, where my grandmas house was directly under the 7 train on Roosevelt Avenue in Queens – stop before Shea Stadium. I grew up in an area of bodegas, traveling by train and bus almost exclusively, multi-ethnic food everywhere, multiple languages spoken on my block and all over the city.

    A place like Mayberry is fvcking alien to me. I, rightly, feel like a complete outsider when I visit places like El Reno, Oklahoma, or Waco, Texas, or Shreveport, Louisiana. The idea that “real America” is rural and white is antithetical to my understanding on the ideals on which this country was founded.

    I have no sympathy for people who want to go back to a time where blacks were lynched and Japanese citizens were held in relocation camps; their possessions and land stolen.

    No. Thanks.

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  24. CSK says:

    @EddieInCA:
    Hey, as Sarah Palin said when visiting some hamlet in North Carolina: “It’s good to be back in the real America.”

    I was born in NYC. I don’t know what the hell she’s talking about, either.

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  25. Grewgills says:

    I think there is an additional aspect at play that a Garrison Keilor bit on childhood (and pig slaughter) gets at. A lot of people pine for the perceived simpler time of their childhood without realizing that it was simpler and kinder because their parents were shielding them from the complexity and cruelty. It never penetrates their consciousness that their experience of that protected time was not an accurate representation of that time.
    Also, what a lot of people upthread said. People, in general, aren’t great at self-reflection.

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  26. Gustopher says:

    James Joyner:

    I don’t think the point of this is that fans of “The Andy Griffith Show,” of which I count myself as one, are racists longing for the days of complete white domination of politics and the culture. But I do think there’s a huge swath of white America that pines for a golden era that never really existed.

    […] I was likely well into adulthood before it really occurred to me that there were no Black characters on a show set in one of the Blackest states in the union, much less that there was zero mention of racial strife despite taking place at the height of the civil rights struggle. With rare exception—almost inevitably solved by episode’s end—Mayberry was a place of harmony and homogeneity and it never seemed the least bit strange.

    The Andy Griffith Show was a reactionary nostalgia fest even when it aired. It was very well done, and made few overt political statements, but what it omitted was the real charm. It was basically saying “life was so much nicer when black people weren’t a part of (white) society”

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    While people will readily admit that TV isn’t real, it affects the way they look at the world whether they realize it or not. Think about the dominant narrative of police shows (i.e., the police are almost always the good guys and they are just going after the bad guys). That influences pretty heavily the way people view law enforcement.

    It’s not just passively absorbing ideas of what-is-normal through entertainment, people seek out entertainment that will reinforce their ideas of what-is-normal and then believe it more strongly because they saw it on tv, so it must be real.

    (This is a less noxious pattern than trolls that say obviously false things to trigger the libs, and then start believing the obviously false things because they’ve heard intelligent people (themselves!) saying them.

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  27. Scott F. says:

    @EddieInCA: I grew up in small town Indiana, but the idea that “real America” is rural and white is antithetical to my understanding of this country as well.

    My parents were small town Hoosier born as well, but they exposed us kids to other cultures by passing down their passion for reading. Our family encyclopedia set and our library cards were passports to the rest of the world. Maybe we were just lucky to have open-minded parents, but in my experience maintaining a myopic view of “normal” that is based solely on familiarity is simply a choice. It has less to do with where you are born than a fear of “the other” you have to be taught.

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  28. CSK says:

    If I recall correctly, Happy Days was a seventies/eighties sitcom lionizing the fifties.

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  29. Jay L Gischer says:

    @EddieInCA:

    I have no sympathy for people who want to go back to a time where blacks were lynched and Japanese citizens were held in relocation camps; their possessions and land stolen.

    I don’t want to see blacks lynched. I don’t want to see Japanese held in camps. AND, there were other things going on in that time, things that weren’t so terrible. Things that I can see someone being nostalgic for. I’ve experienced that. There are few people in that group who want to go back because there is lynching, because the Japanese are held in camps. They are acting out of fear and loss and humiliation. One can see the humiliation they resent played out in the comments on this blog, though not necessarily what you have said.

    So, you find rural people alien. That is, in fact, one of the biggest problems we have in the US now. I guess for you, living in Queens, blacks and Puerto Ricans, etc, etc, aren’t alien to you. It is very challenging to develop empathy for a group you have little contact with. Very challenging indeed. Nobody in media seems to be doing any kind of decent job helping that way.

    Most of the articles have the sense of “I’m a tourist in a foreign country”. And everybody hates a tourist.

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  30. James Joyner says:

    @EddieInCA:

    I have no sympathy for people who want to go back to a time where blacks were lynched and Japanese citizens were held in relocation camps; their possessions and land stolen.

    But I don’t think very many people consciously want that. They want the good parts and not the bad, without quite realizing that some of the good was made possible by the bad.

    @Gustopher:

    The Andy Griffith Show was a reactionary nostalgia fest even when it aired. It was very well done, and made few overt political statements, but what it omitted was the real charm. It was basically saying “life was so much nicer when black people weren’t a part of (white) society”

    What’s your evidence for this? It was part and parcel of a general trend in sitcoms of the era, including “The Danny Thomas Show,” of which it was a backdoor spinoff. Hell, most of the writers and producers were New York Jews.

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  31. de stijl says:

    @Not the IT Dept.:

    Western Europe is just as bland and insipid as we are. Sometimes more so. Their media is as blind as ours is to stories of immigrants and outsiders. Sweden, from personal experience, was decades behind us on integration of new, non-native born voices. TV, news, movies were dominant culture centric.

    Obviously, it is here too.

    But it is not a US only thing.

    Actually the US is pretty good at music. We accept, adopt, and celebrate many voices. Have done so for a long time. Compared to rest of the world, we excel at this.

    Every developed country has a Mayberry, RFD problem. Faux-stalgia.

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  32. Jay L Gischer says:

    You know, it’s funny. A couple of weeks ago I was having the opposite conversation with the sister of a friend of mine. She was born and raised in Sacramento, but she now lives in a very, very remote part of Canada (in Haida Gwaii, formerly known as the Queen Charlotte Islands). As it turns out we took a lot of family camping vacations in northern BC when I was a kid, so we had fun talking about the places near her that I was familiar with.

    Then she got to the “Oh, Vancouver is so different now. There’s so much crime.” I gave an internal eyeroll, and replied, “You know, I get it. I come from a small town. I have heard other people I know worry about this, too. But I live in a big city now, and the thing I want you to know is that, yeah, there’s crime, but there’s also a whole lot of people who aren’t doing any crime.”

    This changed the conversation dramatically. With no further prompting, she told me about the crime issues they have in their tiny little town and how they deal with them (often, police aren’t involved. Yes, this is very different than how it works in a big city. But it can work.)

    The point of this is not “Jay is awesome”, but rather how just a little bit of patience, listening, and “seeing” them can shift the way someone relates to you radically. This is a tool, a skill, I hope to convince more people to learn and to use.

    So I’ll encapsulate it: I did not tell her she was wrong. I told her my own story. The story of how the media distorts a distant view of the city. But I didn’t mention the media, just the consequence – the millions of people who do their stuff every day in the city and don’t commit crime.

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  33. Gustopher says:

    @James Joyner: Look at America as it was at the time, and then look at what the show is depicting. It erases half of America and the issues that would be brought up by depicting them. It projects an idyllic, all-white society, at a time when desegregation and civil rights for Blacks was dominating the news, while being set in an area that would have had Black folks.

    The writers might not have wanted or intended to do that — a lot of television at the time had the same problems — and they may even have tried to undermine that in individual episodes. But they had to work within the system of what would get aired on network television at the time.

    But ultimately, intent doesn’t matter.

    A lot of shows at the time depicted an idyllic, all-white America. But they mostly depicted a very narrow slice. Leave It To Beaver didn’t have Black folks, but it took place in a white suburb that was crafted by redlining, and focused on the family and close friends. Batman dealt with the niche world of novelty criminals (and when it did have any diversity… wow… Chief Screaming Chicken).

    The Andy Griffith Show is worse, because it doesn’t just focus on white people, it removes Black people from a situation where they should exist.

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  34. Lounsbury says:

    @Tony W: I am not aware of any nation-state population ever finding ‘truth-telling’ (however truthful it is in fact) about their own sordid humanity and human past particularly something they loved, although the Germans post Nazi had to swallow that medicine.

    The US Left intellos are rather fooling themselves in thinking ‘truth-telling’ about the common group mythology that is national history is something that is not going to be popular only with “conservatives.”

    Imagined pasts and communities are national myths… unless you create a narrative where a goodly part of your audience gets to identify with the heros, you are not likely playing a winning hand.

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  35. Gustopher says:

    @de stijl:

    Actually the US is pretty good at music. We accept, adopt, and celebrate many voices. Have done so for a long time. Compared to rest of the world, we excel at this.

    I’m not sure whether we do better at this, or whether we don’t really know what is happening in French music since it’s all in French and never gets any discovery over here.

    We do way better than Canada and England though. We have a lot of amazing combinations that then spark new and interesting things, while Canada has … Rush?

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  36. JKB says:

    @Kathy: 1) How many American believe black people were better off under slavery?

    Well, pretty much all of those who want to bring about socialism. Although, I’d bet it is mostly because they’ve never really faced the reality of socialism/slavery.

    Now, me, as an American, I don’t see it as my business to decide what’s best for someone else, we being free people an all.

    First, what is the best the socialists, in their writings, can offer us? What do the most optimistic of them say? That our subsistence will be guaranteed, while we work; that some of us, the best of us, may earn a surplus above what is actually necessary for our subsistence; and that surplus, like a good child, we may “keep to spend.” We may not use it to better our condition, we may not, if a fisherman, buy another boat with it, if a farmer, another field ; we may not invest it, or use it productively ; but we can spend it like the good child, on candy — on something we consume, or waste it, or throw it away.

    Could not the African slave do as much? In fact, is not this whole position exactly that of the slave? He, too, was guaranteed his sustenance; he, too, was allowed to keep and spend the extra money he made by working overtime; but he was not allowed to better his condition, to engage in trade, to invest it, to change his lot in life. Precisely what makes a slave is that he is allowed no use of productive capital to make wealth on his own account. The only difference is that under socialism, I may not be compelled to labor (I don’t even know as to that — socialists differ on the point), actually compelled, by the lash, or any other force than hunger. And the only other difference is that the slave was under the orders of one man, while the subject of socialism will be under the orders of a committee of ward heelers. You will say, the slave could not choose his master, but we shall elect the ward politician. So we do now. Will that help much? Suppose the man with a grievance didn’t vote for him?

    –Socialism; a speech delivered in Faneuil hall, February 7th, 1903, by Frederic J. Stimson

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  37. dazedandconfused says:

    Brought to mind a Jerry Seinfeld interview I saw. In it he described a moment during the first year when the writers submitted a script that wove in some real issues. He rejected it, and informed the writers there was to be no “preaching” on the show..EVER!

    “A show about nothing.” is it’s semi-official motto. One of the most successful sitcoms of all time. Mayberry didn’t quite follow that path… but is essentially the same.

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  38. Mu Yixiao says:

    @Jay L Gischer:

    “The way things were” is quite possibly something that many of these people remember about how their lives were.

    This. With the knowledge that history adds a filter.

    I grew up in “Mayberry–only in Wisconsin, not NC. I think we only had 2 police officers then, and one of them–while he carried a gun–carried only one bullet. He kept it in his shirt pocket. I am not joking. He was actually known as “bullet” because of this.

    With the exception of a year or two when a Vietnamese family lived a few doors down from me*, our town had 4 non-white people. Two (a black and an Asian) were adopted children of the most white-bread family you could ever imagine. The other two were a black couple that had a horse farm at the city limits–“Old Man” Newton and his wife.

    Vietnam was something happening on the other side of the world that Walter Cronkite talked about at 6:00; it didn’t affect us. Race riots were something that happened in Chicago–that was a “big city” problem; why would anyone hate someone like Old Man Newton? He’s really nice!

    I have no doubt that there was a dark undercurrent that my young self never saw, but the “Mayberry” template isn’t that far off of what I grew up in.

    ==========
    * I had a huge 3rd-grade crush on the oldest daughter, Beth. She was beautiful, friendly, fun, and “not from here”. We were all 9 or 10 and had absolutely no clue the horrors she had probably escaped from. We just knew she was cool and we wanted to be her friend.

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  39. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Gustopher:

    Dude, everything isn’t a teachable “Vive la résistance!” (which is, in itself, flatly exhausting) moment. The show looks as it did because it was, at its most basic, a vehicle for selling advertising. For making money. It was a product being sold. Television is a business.

    How many fewer viewers would it have attracted, for that matter how much shorter would it have been on the air at all, had it not depicted something that viewers wanted to consume?

    Of course it was a fantasy that didn’t depict reality. Reality doesn’t sell advertising and it doesn’t attract & retain viewers. If people wanted that, all they had to do was look out their window.

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  40. Gustopher says:

    @Frederic “Homer” J. Stimson:

    You will say, the slave could not choose his master, but we shall elect the ward politician. So we do now. Will that help much? Suppose the man with a grievance didn’t vote for him?

    I think Stimson has a point here, but he’s applying it far too narrowly. Too many politicians, especially on the right, put party over country and view politics as a matter of distributing the spoils of power to their supporters, with little effort to appeal to other voters.

    Say why you will about Elizabeth Warren (and please, say it elsewhere), the CFPB is designed not to help specifically Democratic voters, but to help nearly every American who might be shopping for a loan (you don’t need a degree in electrical engineering to select a good toaster, and you shouldn’t need a degree in finance to select a good mortgage). ObamaCare doesn’t help just the people in blue states.

    There’s a goal of lifting everyone up. It might not be a good policy, if you are in the market for a complicated financial instrument that will extract the maximum in fees, or you enjoy the thrill of risking bankruptcy for medical conditions, but the intent to help everyone is there.

    Meanwhile, Republicans spend their political capital on tax cuts for the wealthy, punishing blue states, and consolidating power through voter suppression.

    Stimson is connecting a very real problem and tying it to a specific group that he disagrees with, despite there being no reason for that tie. But, he didn’t have the advantage of seeing the last 120 years of history when he said that.

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  41. Mu Yixiao says:

    @Gustopher:

    Batman dealt with the niche world of novelty criminals (and when it did have any diversity… wow… Chief Screaming Chicken).

    Eartha Kitt would like to have a word with you.

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  42. Gustopher says:

    Speaking of Mayberry, I wonder how Tyrell is doing these days.

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  43. Gustopher says:

    @HarvardLaw92: Just because the entire industry was pushing an all-white idyllic vision of America doesn’t mean that an individual show is any less worse because of that.

    It was popular in part because it was escapism from the troubled reality of America at the time.

    As reactionary nostalgia fests go, it was very good. Probably one of the best designed shows in history, despite taking place in an alternate universe where life is practically perfect and there is not a minority to be seen. There’s probably some dark history in universe that would explain this, but which is never mentioned.

    “Opie, I don’t want you playing by the old mine.”

    “But why, poppa?”

    “Well, let’s just say that there are things you’re better off not knowing.”

    @Mu Yixiao: Totally fair, I was just trying to think of an absurd example of another show from roughly the same era. But, yes, in Batman, anyone could become a novelty-themed criminal, even if they apparently do away with their predecessor. It speaks well of Batman’s color blind society that he didn’t even seem to notice that Catwoman had changed race, although it does not speak well of his detective skills.

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  44. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Gustopher:

    I fully agree. I’m just saying that complaining about it having been unrealistic is, in itself, being unrealistic. It was as it was precisely because that’s what people wanted. The fact that it was a smash hit that stayed on the air for years vividly underlines that point. It sold a product that people wanted to buy, which is 1000% all that it should have been expected to do. People (at least most people anyway) don’t watch television to be lectured. People do not generally like being lectured. What they like and want is to be entertained.

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  45. de stijl says:

    @Gustopher:

    If there was cool stuff happening in France (or wherever) our hipsters would have picked up on it long ago and die trying to flag it and flog it for a broader audience. It is their job, after all.

    Northern Europe is really good at dark metalesque stuff. Korea and Japan (and now China) is really good at pop – group harmonized especially.

    India is really interesting. Not Bollywood bullshit, real India. Hard metal and post-punk. A lot of kids who are very pissed off and want a new new, a not crappy job, and not being pissed upon by family and society.

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  46. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Why schools were desegregated in 1954 and full civil and voting rights have been the law of the land since 1964 and 1965, for crying out loud.

    Coming late to this and I just wanted to say, BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA…. Not at you James, I know you’re just parroting the white washed history. It’s just that my school wasn’t desegregated until ’74. I remember things getting a little ugly.

    One thing I’ve noticed about white people is that by and large they have no idea what it’s like to be in the minority and will do most anything to avoid it. Over the years I did a lot of side jobs in East St. Louis and north STL and people I knew thought I was a bit out of plumb. They just couldn’t wrap their heads around the fact that it wasn’t a big deal.

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  47. EddieInCA says:

    @Jay L Gischer:

    there were other things going on in that time, things that weren’t so terrible. Things that I can see someone being nostalgic for. I’ve experienced that.

    Tell me Jay. Like what?

    Seriously. Like what?

    The Boy Scouts?
    The local VFW?
    The local businessman who ran the town?

    Tell me what was so good… Pleas.e

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  48. de stijl says:

    @Gustopher:

    I like Tyrell. (Let us assume he is real.) We would not get along politically, but a pretty decent cat.

    Often argues for faux-stalgic solutions, but not a bad person. A naive reactionary.

    Btw, I agree with you that Mayberry was a bit reactionary. A soft focus warm and fuzzy reaction to real world events that conspicuously ignored the real world.

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  49. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Scott F.: Christianity has always been more aspirational than it has been reality, as is true of most other religions, at least if I can rely on reports that I read and hear from co-religionists of other faiths. Additionally, entire sanctification has been a thing longer than I’ve been alive and most of the people who think they have been blessed with this second work of grace seem to be people who know no other people so blessed. Current behavior and practice among some evangelical and fundamentalist Christians is simply another curve in the road. As I have often noted, this whole “you are the only Jesus most people will ever meet” thing has always seemed to be a bad idea. I finally have to resolve that the world seeing me–and probably significant numbers of others–at our sociopathic best would not result in the kind of world I would want to live in, so I just keep on keeping on.

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  50. wr says:

    @HarvardLaw92: “It was as it was precisely because that’s what people wanted.”

    Actually, it was as it was because — as you suggested in an earlier message — that’s what the sponsors wanted. And in the sponsorship system, the viewer was never the customer — the viewer (well, the viewer’s attention) was the product, and the consumer was the sponsor.

    Which is one reason television stayed to generally juvenile and mediocre for so many decades.

    Back in the earliest days of commercial broadcasting, when it was just going from hobby to business, the question came up of how broadcasters would pay for programming. It was suggested that a tax be put on every radio tube, and that money would be used to create programming — which is what was done in Britain and how the BBC was created.

    But this is America, so I’m sure you can figure out what happened to that idea. It was labelled “socialism,” and thus was killed.

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  51. Grewgills says:

    @wr:

    But this is America, so I’m sure you can figure out what happened to that idea. It was labelled “socialism,” and thus was killed.

    Lucky we dodged that bullet, otherwise we could have ended up with a population that were virtual slaves to the television (as JKB could tell you, along with a tangential quote from the early 1900s).

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  52. Gustopher says:

    @HarvardLaw92: You can look at a period of history from the popular art present at that time, and see what people wanted to tell themselves.

    And you have people working within that system who try to change things. The Andy Griffith Show, on the other hand, embraced the status quo in entertainment to the point where it was unrealistic.

    Why was a show about an idyllic all-white town in South Carolina popular during the civil rights era? And who was it most popular with? These are probably questions that better people can answer better, but the obvious answer would be that it was a well written and produced show that appealed to a wide cross section of America (and maybe that people were looking for escapism and just wanted to brush racial strife under the rug).

    A few years later, we have Star Trek, with a Black woman on the bridge; and Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner winning Oscars, despite being about an inter-racial couple. Both were a bit lecturing though.

    The firsts are always going to be seen as lecturing. But they also have to be good to make up for that.

    That said, I would cringe at a realistic reboot of the Andy Griffith Show where Sheriff Taylor is filling in the swimming pool so the town of Mayberry doesn’t have to let colorless swim with whites.

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  53. Gustopher says:

    There’s a story in Ray Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles where all the blacks in some Southern town get a rocket and go to Mars, leaving all the white folks behind.

    I like to think that is the secret history of Mayberry.

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  54. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Gustopher:

    Not for nothing, and I legitimately adore Nichelle Nichols, but Uhura was basically a secretary. She answered the phone. I’m sure we can dive deeply into whether that was because she was African-American or female, and in fact I’d wager it was a little of both, but I’m not sure that it was what I’d call groundbreaking. Star Trek TOS only lasted three seasons, though, and its ratings steadily declined every year.

    No argument on GWCTD, but I’d point out that TAGS began in 1960. GWCTD didn’t come along until 1967. The world changed a great deal during that time, and it wasn’t IMO because of television. Turns out the world didn’t need television to change, I guess.

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  55. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @wr:

    Sponsor is another term for advertiser. How long do you think any of them would have sponsored a show that, say, alienated and offended their customers (another term for viewers)? At the end of the day, what the viewers wanted to see is what drove the decisions I’d think.

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  56. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Gustopher: “Totally fair, I was just trying to think of an absurd example of another show from roughly the same era.”
    May I suggest F Troop, First episode: Sep 14, 1965?

    ETA–@Grewgills: 😀 😀 😀

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  57. Gustopher says:

    @HarvardLaw92: Black Secretary for the white captain? There’s ground being broken there, just not as much as we would like. It was pushing the bar as much as they could.

    (And the first interracial kiss on tv being done because of alien control? Similar half step of groundbreaking.)

    Agreed about the early to late 60s though.

    As to the relative success… that’s really mixed and you could argue either way at this point. Certainly the world of Mayberry was more successful at the moment, but Star Trek wins in the long run.

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  58. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Gustopher:

    No argument, and I don’t fault TOS for doing what it could, which wasn’t and isn’t insignificant. I just don’t see it as necessarily being a Rosa Parks moment.

    I also don’t think anybody churning our TV content at the time was too focused on “this franchise will last forever”. I think they were more focused on “how do we get butts in seats in front of their TV’s on Friday night”? 😀

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  59. de stijl says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:

    From the era when native Americans were played by southern Italian / Sicilian actors in brown face.

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  60. dazedandconfused says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:
    “Hogan’s Heroes” glossed over a few things as well.

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  61. Monala says:

    @EddieInCA: I’m with you. I grew up in the 70s and 80s in a black neighborhoods in a Midwestern city that was under a desegregation order. So even though my neighborhood was segregated, my schools were not. Being in multicultural urban environments is normal for me (and also for a majority of Americans).

    And I’ll repeat something I shared recently: when my daughter and I lost our home to a fire last year, our neighbors in our multicultural urban community rallied around us. This included the bystanders that night, such as the young black man who caught us when we jumped from the second story window, and the white woman who is a nurse’s aid who gave us water, blankets and an inhaler. After the fire, it was the many people who helped us to rebuild our lives. It’s offensive to assume that only in small towns do people care about their neighbors.

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  62. becca says:

    @EddieInCA: Well, there used to be free air at gas stations and convenience stores.
    That makes all the difference, now, doesn’t it?

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  63. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Gustopher:

    (And the first interracial kiss on tv being done because of alien control? Similar half step of groundbreaking.)

    People put their careers on the line for that show. What have you risked for racial justice?

    Every step is a half step unless you define the length of the course. Talking about half steps is facile, though it does have the ring of virtue.

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  64. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Lounsbury:
    From time to time I take a ride on this hobby horse, making the point that we’ve clasmed too many icons and failed to come up with anything like a national narrative to replace what we’ve torn down. Which is not good for a nation that sees itself as a heroic narrative. My favorite of all virtues is truth, but I write fiction and I believe we need a realistic but optimistic narrative to explain who we are, why we’re together. It would be very helpful if the Left could tap into some vein of patriotism.

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  65. Mister Bluster says:

    @dazedandconfused:..Hogan’s Heroes

    One of the brothers of a former girlfriend of mine enlisted in the US Army during the Vietnam Era. He is about my age. (I was born in January of 1948.). He ended up serving his hitch in West Germany and met and later married a woman native to the Federal Republic of Germany. Before they married she visited his very small Central Illinois hometown in the ’70s and had the opportunity to see Hogan’s Heros reruns. She thought that the show portrayed German soldiers as buffoons and that it was not funny at all.
    After they wed Jack and Helga lived in both Germany and the United States as he had a job with a German company that had an international market. While they lived in the US one of their children was born. My ex was recruited to be the kids godmother so her and I traveled to South Carolina for the christening.
    Helga’s parents flew in from Germany for the baptism and I got to meet her father who as a teenager was a German soldier and a prisoner of war captured and held by American troops. He spoke some English and related a little about his detention. It was near the end of the war and he said that not only was there no food for the prisoners the American guards didn’t have any food either.

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  66. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @dazedandconfused: Yeah, but Hogan’s Heroes had Ivan Dixon, so it’s a different category of selective vision.

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  67. Bob@Youngstown says:

    @Kathy:
    Instantly reminds me of another: China Beach.

    Recalling the episodes makes me wish to never return to that experience.

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  68. Gustopher says:

    @Michael Reynolds: I think you misunderstand me — half-steps are good!

    The groundbreaking elements of Star Trek are massively oversold in importance, but I think it’s actually more impressive that the people involved were willing to stick out their necks as far as they could get away with, even though the most they could do was half-steps.

    Plus, we’ve just identified two half-steps — that’s like a whole step!

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  69. Kathy says:

    @Mister Bluster:

    She thought that the show portrayed German soldiers as buffoons and that it was not funny at all.

    That was the whole point.

    She must not have liked “The Producers,” either.

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  70. Gustopher says:

    @Kathy: I think I’ve shifted towards the “don’t make the Nazis into buffoons” camp — something about having people far too close to Nazis marching in the streets these days.

    Back when the Nazis were defeated, it was funny to portray them as bumbling, even if there was a touch of lovable bumbling in there, because it was safe.

    When I see a movie like Jo Jo Rabbit, it makes me a little nervous because it is minimizing the danger by using the Nazis as the butt of jokes. It’s a funny, well done movie, and sure the Nazis do some evil things, but it still makes me a little nervous.

    That said, I thought Look Who’s Back was a really good Hitler Returns comedy, because the comedy comes from everyone underestimating how dangerous he was. Hitler appears in modern Germany (random sci-fi reason never mentioned after it happens), and everyone assumes he is an edgy performance artist.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rUZi67BmY_M

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  71. Kathy says:

    @Bob@Youngstown:

    I knew about it, but never got to see it.

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  72. Gustopher says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    From time to time I take a ride on this hobby horse, making the point that we’ve clasmed too many icons and failed to come up with anything like a national narrative to replace what we’ve torn down. Which is not good for a nation that sees itself as a heroic narrative.

    Sure. But we have Susan B. Anthony, MLK and Thurgood Marshall. And we should have Harriet Tubman and Sojourner Truth, but they are basically unknown. Same with Joe Hill.

    If you want a musician, we’ve got Woody Guthrie and Bruce Springsteen. If you want a writer, I’m pretty sure we have Vonnegut. We definitely have Joseph Steinbeck, Upton Sinclair, Sinclair Lewis and clearly there is an opening for someone with the pen name of Lewis Upton. And don’t forget Mark Twain.

    My favorite of all virtues is truth, but I write fiction and I believe we need a realistic but optimistic narrative to explain who we are, why we’re together. It would be very helpful if the Left could tap into some vein of patriotism.

    We are a country founded by deeply flawed idealists, who created a country founded on ideals of freedom, opportunity and equality for all, and we have been striving to meet those ideals for the past 250ish years, growing ever closer. That’s a pretty good message — patriotic, acknowledges the past, and gives us in the present a role in making America always better.

    We can see this story on the human scale in Abraham Lincoln, a man who was very racist by modern standards, but strove to be better than he was, and redefined America, setting the groundwork for the civil rights movement a hundred years later.

    We have events that can and should be celebrated. The emancipation of the slaves, women getting the right to vote, the end of separate but equal, and ensuring everyone has more than a nominal right to vote with the civil rights acts.

    It’s an incredibly patriotic story.

    There are other versions of the story of America that are likely as good.

    What we don’t have on the left is anyone stitching this story together into an easily consumable narrative. Know any writers up to the task? That wife of yours doing anything these days? It would be fine if it was told from the standpoint of an otter or something.

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  73. Monala says:

    @Gustopher: I just want to say ditto to all you wrote!

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  74. James Joyner says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: I started 1st grade in Houston in 1972 and, so far as I recall, schools were in fact integrated. We moved to Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri for 4th grade and then Kaiserslautern, West Germany for 5th-7th. I know we had Black kids in school throughout that period but my memory of my time in Houston is vague, indeed.

    But, yes, my Dad would always cite 1954 (at which time he would have been 11) as though it was an instantaneous turning point. Not until I was studying Con Law in college in the mid-1980s did I understand “all deliberate speed” and the various resistance tactics employed in many locales that delayed that considerably.

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  75. Lounsbury says:

    @Michael Reynolds: It is simple pragmatism. If you paint a significant portion, let us say 40 percent or more, of the adult voting population out of the Hero side picture and have a narrative that by ordinary reading[*] paints them as Bad Guys you are in a political loser position. Perhaps morally superior ground, but loser. Of course much of the commentariat here rather adores taking such positions.

    Nothing specifically American about this. I see it with my dear French side and the Maghrebine history.

    I would rather myself for achieving change go for allowing for a path of mythologising where the majority gets to identify with being the heros. Of course it’s not going to be Truth Telling as academics love, but truth telling is not how one succeeds in making political progress with actual human beings who are not intellectual abstractions operating and reacting in idealised intellectual fashions.

    (Meaning by ordinary reading being the populist and general public, for which arch Lefty intello explanations of what X really means [see the sterile Defund police, the CRT] whether correct or not are completely useless and usually self-harming egg-headism that merely confirms the populists reaction).

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  76. Lounsbury says:

    @Gustopher: “deeply flawed idealists,” in short, founded by actual human beings, not intellectual abstractions.
    “What we don’t have on the left is anyone stitching this story together into an easily consumable narrative. Know any writers up to the task?”
    Presumably for similar reasons to those that explain why on the Left in USA land you have such a dominance of what one of your Democrat side politicos called “Faculty Lounge” (as I recall) politics – perhaps Uni Campus politics to be more broad. Too much Intello oppositionalism and unpragmatic self-indulgence in Truth Telling, and rather too little pragmatic retail political instincts in communication. Too much ‘Special Subject Activist’ and too little broad Trade Union Organiser instincts.

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  77. SC_Birdflyte says:

    My hometown calls itself a “City of Character,” among which it lists virtues such as Truthfulness, Integrity, and Compassion – all virtues absent from the character of TFG. It voted for him twice by hefty margins.

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  78. wr says:

    @HarvardLaw92: “Sponsor is another term for advertiser. How long do you think any of them would have sponsored a show that, say, alienated and offended their customers (another term for viewers)?”

    Well, yeah. That’s exactly the point. Advertisers traditionally desire shows that will be popular with as broad a section of the audience as possible, which means sticking to stories that represent the majority and can never offend anyone.

    If you contrast what could be found on American networks in the 60s. 70s and 80s with the — admittedly never perfect BBC — you find the British service, while offering up plenty of broadly appealing shows in all genres, also taking great artistic risks, commissioning writers like Dennis Potter to create short-run series that would not necessarily reach a broad audience, but would be incredibly important to those it did. (And eventually Potter’s work did start reaching broad audiences with Pennies from Heaven and The Singing Detective.)

    American TV was also mired in a system that demanded long-running shows with seasons of 39 (later marked down to a more economical 22) episodes per year, which also limited the kinds of stories that could be told, while the non-sponsored BBC was able to air series that could tell a story in ten or eight or six hours, if that’s what it could support.

    I find it really interesting that now we have a non-sponsored alternative TV market in the streamers, their output looks much more like that of the BBC in the 1970s than any period in US TV history.

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  79. SC_Birdflyte says:

    @dazedandconfused: Although it added “I know nothing!” to our lexicon of everyday phrases. My POW father did not find it amusing.

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  80. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @wr:

    I got that. You’re talking about what could have been, and I don’t really disagree with you. I was more focused on what actually existed.

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  81. HellWorld! says:

    I grew up in a small town in upstate NY, and my dad said in the 50’s when he was growing up the Irish and Black knew not to come into an Italian neighborhood or they would get beat up, Italians couldn’t go to black neighborhoods, etc. Additionally, FBI data shows more child abductions occurred in the 1950’s that occur today. The old west also never existed. What I get out of this is that society is pressing forward even though we think it is not. The ebb and flow is there but moving us forward. HNY.

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  82. wr says:

    @HarvardLaw92: Got it. Sorry if I got pedantic. I’m in the middle of writing a book on the history of TV writing, and this stuff is just coursing through my brain…

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  83. Matt Bernius says:

    @wr:
    That was a super interesting post. Definitely excited for that book when it comes out.

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  84. wr says:

    @Matt Bernius: Thanks! It’s going to be a while, though — when I say I’m “in the middle of it,” I really mean I’ve got another month or so to go on the book I’m writing before it, but that I’m full into the research stage…

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  85. dazedandconfused says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:
    In a way, yes, but casting a black soldier in WW2 as someone who held a high technical grade and being second of command anyplace there were white soldiers is more evidence the show was utterly uninterested in reality, everything glossed over so they could have a nice, light hearted comedy show for the majority of Americans.

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  86. Paine Wolfe says:

    There was an interesting, thoughtful, and super in-depth editorial about Ted Koppel’s visit to Mount Airy and the Mayberry world that was published on a Mayberry fan page in early October. Here’s a link: https://tagsrwc.com/the_ebullet/a-koppel-of-goobers/. The point of view and conclusions of at least this one Mayberry fan might surprise many readers and viewers. The editorial even has some much needed humor, which we can all use more of.

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  87. John30 says:

    @Kathy: If I could request two things from an omniscient being, I’d ask two questions:
    1) How many American believe black people were better off under slavery?
    2) Of those who believe this, how many consider themselves racist?

    A: Answer to #1 is-All Democrats. Only now they call slaves the “beneficiaries of the Socialist Welfare state.”
    Answer to #2 is: See answer to #1, above.

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  88. Grewgills says:

    @John30:
    Are you really so profoundly ignorant that you believe that nonsense?
    Given the choice of being chattel or living off of welfare, I’m sure you’d struggle to choose for yourself and your family.

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  89. john430 says:

    @Grewgills: The only difference between the two choices is that one is physical forced enslavement, the other, run by today’s Democrats is more subtle: telling them they have it good and it will get better if they stay with Democrats. Just all lies.

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  90. grumpy realist says:

    @Gustopher: Remember, these were the same TV series producers who were panicking about Spock scaring all the women in the audience.

    I find it suitably ironic that Spock had the greatest sex appeal of all of the actors (regardless of the situations the writers kept writing Captain Kirk into.)

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