I am not much of a television watcher but when I do watch TV, I choose programs that do not require me to think too much or have to follow a plot line, figure out “whodunit” or enter into someone’s contrived reality. I like resolution at the end of a program which is probably why I like home make-overs and food shows.
When I climb into bed, I log into programs on my iPhone that don’t require me to think. I connect, turn the volume down, and before the program is even five minutes in, I am asleep. When I awake during the night, my phone is asleep, too, because the episodes stop at a certain number, waiting for me to tap “continue.” I, instead, go back to sleep, the program having accomplished its mission assignment.
Lately, I have found some favorites, episodes of individuals cruising British canals in their narrowboats … and the Andy Griffith Show. Yeah, no hard thinking here.
You did hear me correctly, the Andy Griffith Show. I unapologetically watch those old black and white episodes of the Andy Griffith Show. I’m not so enamored of the episodes in color because some of the nostalgia of the time is lost for me, but I will also watch them from time to time.
I do, however, have an issue with the show and it’s probably not what you would think.
I am well aware that if any black people or people of color lived in Mayberry, they had no ties to Andy or Barney or Aunt Bee or Helen or Thelma Lou or Floyd or Goober or any of the other residents of that small fictitious North Carolina town. There weren’t any visible black kids or children of color in any of Opie’s classes. If they lived in the area, they probably had their own stories of joy and sorrow on the other side of the tracks.
I do recall one episode where a Native American was integral to the plot and in one of the colored episodes (no pun intended), there was a former professional football player who came on the scene to coach Opie’s football team. Yes, I know, he was made more palatable to the viewers because of his history and what he brought to the community, his athletic prowess.
Yeah, I do not watch the show to see people who look like me. There are no main characters who look like me; heck there are no characters who look like me though I think I once spied a black man walking down the sidewalk as two of the characters had a conversation.
No, the absence of black people or people of color does not bother me; it is a sign of the times. It is, rather, the comfort and simplicity of the episodic story lines that remind me of a time when life seemed simpler maybe because I viewed it through the lens of a child under her mother’s care in a small town.
What irks me about the show is how Barney Fife, Andy’s know-it-all deputy, is allowed to continue in his delusions of grandeur and no one checks him or calls him out. Episode after episode his ego (dare I say narcissism) leads him into ridiculous situations from which he has to be rescued.
He makes an ignorant assessment of a situation and off he goes on a Barney tangent and Andy has to bail him out. He makes a dumb decision that turns into a victory, again because of Andy, and he is allowed to take credit for that victory. In his attempt to appear knowledgeable, his ignorance is on full display and no one says a thing. In one episode when a prestigious club invites Andy to a meeting of the good old guys, Andy brings Barney along with him. Barney, in full Barney mode, keeps his foot in his mouth throughout the evening. When the invitation is extended to Andy but not to Barney, when Barney is informed by Andy that only of of them was chosen, Barney immediately rants about how could they not accept Andy as a member. Pure Barney perspective that it’s always about him. Though it is apparent that he does, from time to time, recognize his shortcomings in some episodes, he refuses to be less than the blowhard he really and truly is. His insecurity is cloaked in a braggadocios flow that everyone allows to run unchecked even when they are trapped in its undertow.
Yes, that Barney character gets on my nerves. But, wait, what about the Barneys in our lives today? Do we have the courage to redirect their thinking, to challenge their choices and to love them back to reality? Do we allow them to continue in their delusions of grandeur without calling them to accountability for their own actions? Andy and all the others did not want to hurt Barney’s feelings so they covered for him, rescued him, time after time, from his own foolishness. I wonder, if this were real life, how this impacted Barney’s progress in life, especially when he found himself surrounded by those who left him to his own devices, stood on the sidelines and laughed at him and his shenanigans.
Here is the irony of one of Barney’s pet sayings, “Nip it, Nip it in the Bud.” No one ever took the steps to nip Barney’s antics in the bud!
I wonder whose lack of growth are we enabling in friends and family when we do not call them back to reality or allow them to learn the lessons that are rooted in failure? Who do we need to tell, “Nip it, nip it in the bud!”
When I have my Barney moments, will I accept the counsel and wisdom of a friend?
I’m just wondering.