Tuesday, October 19, 2010
June Cleaver: What's Wrong with an Ideal?
Frazier Moore, the television writer for the Associated Press, has a column on the late Barbara Billingsley (June Cleaver) that I think is worth reading.
Barbara died over the weekend at the age of 94 -- yet another television icon gone from a bygone, more innocent era. In his column, Moore penned an insightful observation, which leads me to make one of my own. But first, here's Frazier Moore:
The original "Leave It to Beaver" series premiered in October 1957 and aired through September 1963. A curious thing: This glowing, picket-fenced vision of Americana ended two months before President John F. Kennedy was assassinated.
An age of disillusionment had begun. And in TV sitcoms, the perfect nuclear family with the perfect stay-at-home mom was an endangered species.
In its place, "All in the Family" with addled doormat Edith Bunker came along. And raucous Roseanne Conner on "Roseanne." And raunchy Peg Bundy on "Married ... with Children." These were moms tailor-made for a different world of viewers. It was a different world of parents who weren't seeking escape by watching TV parents who were better than they could ever hope to be. They were seeking jagged reassurance from parents as hung up, or more so, than they had ever feared they could ever become.
This isn't the only time I've seen the downward spiral of television family entertainment — not to mention the decline of morals and traditionalism — linked with the demise of "Camelot." I don't know that Mr. Moore intends to say that the death of Kennedy caused the downward spiral, but many commentators view that time as when the nation became more jaded and questioning of traditional values.
I think it has more to do with the sin nature of human beings. It has more to do with what happens when a nation forgets God. It has more to do with what happens when society is drawn to (and glorifies) the coarse, irreverent, perverse and vulgar.
And what's with all this notion of people watching television "seeking escape?" Again, I've heard this many times before. To me, it's only so much psychobabble. I never watched television or any movie "seeking escape." I just watched it for entertainment. I didn't view things I watched as an electronic psychiatrist's couch or prescription anodyne.
Many people make fun of the 1950s, at least in the chattering class and entertainment world. Instead of creating wholesome, uplifting fare, they'd rather "push the envelope" and be "edgy" (read that to mean vulgar, crude, profane etc). And all the while, they continue to contribute to the downward spiral.
Yes, they make fun of the 1950s and the popular shows that were prevalent then. But truth be told, I'll bet a significant hunk of the American population wishes we were back in those halcyon days. What's wrong with an ideal mother and an ideal family? Isn't the whole point of an "ideal" something to be pursued, strived for and attained? What's wrong with an ideal?
Nothing at all.