Saturday, November 9, 2013

Wherefore art thou, Archie?

Occasionally, my mind drifts into thoughts that are not relevant.  Most of the time, those thoughts wind up here.  So, in keeping with that theme, here we go.

The old TV show "All in the Family" featured a dialogue between Archie and his son-in-law Mike over one of Mike's friends.  The dialogue drifted into Archie's ideas about England.  Without looking it up, here is my recanting of the dialogue:

ARCHIE:  This ain't England.  We threw England out of here a long time ago.  We want no more parts of England ... and for your information, England is a fag country.
MIKE: What?
ARCHIE:  Ain't they still picking handkerchiefs out of their sleeves?  The whole society is based on a kind of a fagdom.

There is no more relevance to bring to the discussion, other than the idea that the show was broadcast in
1971.  The part where my mind drifted came in when I started to think about whether dialogue like that, or even a show like "All in the Family" could be produced today.  With our penchant for political correctness and our desire to not [God forbid] offend anyone, no character in a television show could proclaim that any country was a "fag country" or "based on a kind of a fagdom" or even [God forbid] use the word fag.  I wondered if this is a step forward or a step backward.

While our standards on television have changed, to the extent that Al Roker is receiving a prostate exam on live television, gay couples are portrayed (although never seen in a physical relationship) and language has been loosened to the extent that we allow innuendo and language that otherwise would not have been allowed in 1971 ... certain words are not permitted to be used that were freely used in 1971.  It's an odd change of attitude that has occurred slowly.

If a character in a prime-time network television sitcom used the word fag or faggot in the sense that Archie used it, it would be front-page newspaper headlines, Twitter-trending, Internet comments ... the world would stop turning if [God forbid] someone used the word faggot on television.

What has changed so much since 1971?

Most of us who were alive in 1971 are still alive today.  However, we no longer use words the same way we used them then.  They used a lot of descriptive terms like kike, Polack, jungle-bunny and other such racially unacceptable epithets on that show.  It caused a bit of a stir back in the day, but all we had was TV and radio.

After the first season, a record album was released of the best moments of the show.  There was no YouTube, Twitter or even a VCR to document the thing, so we had to grasp onto what we had.  It required that we pay attention to television while it was being broadcast. That, in itself, is a foreign concept in a world where DVR time-shifting is commonplace.  Imagine having to be home at 8:30 on a Tuesday night, lest you miss the program altogether and have to wait until the summer rerun cycle to catch-up. Egad.

But I digress.  Network television was a legitimate entertainment medium.  There was no other choice.  You either watched one of the 3 networks (and PBS) or go to a movie.  Perhaps it is the advent of pay-cable and their free speech and nudity.  Making viewers pay for (so-called) bad language and nudity has made network television clean-up its act to the extent that programs like "All in the Family" would wind up on HBO if they were being produced now.  That doesn't change the content as much as it changes the audience.

People with access to pay cable can see programs about meth producers, foul-mouthed social misfits, and other such public oddities that would probably be relegated to film or viewer-supported PBS.  It's an oddity, since theoretically, the audience is the same.  Why can people say fuck on HBO but not on CBS?  Is it the commercial content that makes the difference?  Would the makers of Skippy peanut butter be offended if someone on "Two and a Half Men" said, "So, who did you fuck last night?"  Consumer groups would form an Internet-inspired blockade and boycott Skippy peanut butter.  Say the same thing on HBO and more people subscribe.  Go figure.

Perhaps it's the boundaries of marketing that make the difference?  Perhaps, if the makers of Old Spice sponsored a program like "Modern Family" where, instead of just having a gay couple living in a home together, the gay couple was actually seen kissing or fondling the way actual gay couples do, it would become more mainstream?  Perhaps, if products sponsored programs and did not care about the public backlash - which seems to be instigated by less than 10-percent of the actual public - perhaps we could see real-life dialogue and actions on television?


Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Our new (old) governor and other things...

Chris Christie was re-elected yesterday.  He won with 64% of the vote.  The newspapers called it a "landslide."  I suppose that's true, in a political sense.  In a sociological sense, 36% of the voting public thinks someone else should be New Jersey's governor.  To me, that's more like a marginal victory, especially when you do the math...

Vote CountPercent
CHRIS CHRISTIE50,44964.03%
BARBARA BUONO26,93334.18%

Let's take a look at the turnout, for a look at the mathematics...

Registration & Turnout
193,820 Voters
Vote Count
Election Day Turnout
Mail-In Ballot Turnout
Provisional Turnout

So, if you apply mathematics, you figure that 58.5% of registered voters didn't vote.  It sounds to me like Barbara Buono got hosed.  She should have been able to get the 110,000 registered voters who sat at home to come out and push a button.  She might not have been able to make up some of the landslide margin.  At least then, we would be able to figure out whether or not New Jersey voters were really happy with Christie.

It's kind of disgusting, really, that in a state with the population of New Jersey, only 78,791 people (including write-in's) of the 193,820 registered voters could be bothered to vote for the guy who is going to run their state.  41.5%, mathematically. That's why, when people complain about the state government, the first question you have to ask them is, "Did you vote?"  You stand a 59% chance that they will say, "No."  That makes their complain invalid.

But that's our system.  We require people to pay taxes.  We require them to register their vehicles, obey the laws passed by our state legislature, and obey laws enforced by the court system whose judges are appointed by the people elected to public office --- but we do not require them to vote.

The obvious answer is that we do not want uninformed people to vote.  But, how uninformed does one have to be to vote on one of our two ballot questions?  One asked if we would approve hiking the state minimum wage.  The other asked if we should allocate a percentage of our state gambling income to veterans.  One does not have to be politically active to have an opinion on those things. [the answer to both is "yes," by the way]  The not so obvious answer is something else.

The government does not encourage participation.  An informed populace is not necessarily their best friend.  So, they flood us with sporting events, entertainment, and secular holidays to distract us from the real issues.  If we knew what was really going on, we'd be horrified, but we are more inclined to vote for "American Idol" or "Dancing with the Stars" than we are for the guy who runs our state.  Go figure.

Those sorts of people are the government's best friends.  "Like" them on Facebook and follow them on Twitter - because that's what you want.

64% of 42% of registered voters think Chris Christie should be the governor.  Report that, and you'll only confuse people more than they are already confused.  Because they aren't paying attention.