September 27, 2021

Schmigadoon

It’s back to the grind tomorrow. It’s been nice to have been off for a few weeks and had a chance to do some fun things and to rest up, but there are people to care for and bills to pay and house calls to make and all of the other usual chores of my workaday life. I’ve been spending this last day making sure I have all of my tasks and deadlines for the next few weeks ready to go. Three lectures to write -check. A show to audition for – check. Two signing events to plan – check. Various social invitations responded to and entered in the calendar – check. My next door neighbors are in the process of a major remodel. Usually, this isn’t a problem as I am rarely home during working hours but today, a day that seems to have involved workmen pounding on the shared wall most of the time, when they weren’t using power tools with various dissonant pitches, I was getting a little frazzled. At least they knocked off for an hour at lunch when I had a zoom call – a brief reading and Q and A about the book for a local civic group.

I decided to drown out the cacaphony from next door with some television turned up high and put on Apple TV in order to catch up with a couple of streaming series that have made a lot of stir in my social media circles but which I had not yet seen. The first was Schmigadoon, the send up of the golden age Rodgers and Hammerstein type American musical. I enjoyed it as I had no problems recognizing all of the tropes, visual, musical, and characterological, that the makers were lampooning. From the orchestration of the overture (right out of Oklahoma!) to deft parodies of Marian Paroo, Og the Leprechaun, Billy Bigelow, and Daisy Mae, I was smiling throughout but was rarely bowled over with laughter. It was cute and was clever but it was missing the thing that those shows all had, which was a solid emotional core. Ya Gotta Have Heart! and it was missing. I couldn’t figure out at the end who the audience for it was supposed to be. Most people under fifty or sixty wouldn’t recognize the references and the numbers of theater kids and theater queens are quite small when compared to the total population. I guess that’s a bonus for this new model of streaming services. The ability to create shows for niche audiences that need not have the best ratings.

Ted Lasso

I then turned to Ted Lasso. I haven’t finished it yet, being only on episode four, but I quite like it. What is amazing to me about the show and the character is that an example of goodness and empathy, which would have been a fairly standard type in the programming of not so many years ago is now, in the age of Trump, being seen as something of a novelty. Ted is a fish out of water, not well spoken, puts himself in ridiculous situations, but is at the center such a decent and moral person who sees his mission as helping others become their best selves, that you cannot help but root for him and the joy of the series is watching the transformations in the other characters (surrogates for ourselves and our society) grow and change under his presence. It’s the perfect antidote for these Trumpian times and it’s no wonder it cleaned up at the Emmy’s recently. Perhaps more flawed, but empathic and generally good characters will enter our pop culture consciousness and help nudge the pendulum back a little bit from the selfishness and negativity that seem to be the order of the day.

Speaking of selfishness, time to return to the Covid wars. The CDC produced a very sound scientific study of schools yesterday showing that schools with mask mandates were far less likely to have Covid breakouts than those without. It’s one of those water is wet studies whose conclusions seem relatively obvious but it is nice to see some science behind the common sense that can be used with recalcitrant school boards who feel that owning the libs is more important than protecting the health of children. The current Delta wave is going to create a huge bill to pay in terms of children’s issues in the future. The deaths are spiking and many of the dead are relatively young adults between 25 and 50 who are leaving orphaned children behind. I don’t know that anyone is tracking the number of minor children who have lost one or both parents to Covid so far but I’m sure it’s in the thousands, if not the tens of thousands. In the original waves, before vaccination, it was a tragedy but now, with the disease being more or less preventable, at least in its fatal version, these parents are choosing an idea based on fallacies and cynical political opportunism over the love and needs of their own children. When the kids mature enough to understand that MAGA was more important to their parents than they were, what is that going to do to their mental health and to their understanding of their place in the world.

War and opposing political philosophies have always created orphans but usually, those sacrifices have been made in the name of something positive, something better – a freer society for the children, protection of the populace from invasion. The current conservative philosophy as espoused by those who would deny science and public health doesn’t appear to stand for much, at least to me. It’s rooted strictly in being in opposition – to progress, to a more equal society, to benefits flowing down the socioeconomic ladder rather than up. This is my major objection to much of the current rhetoric on the right. Tell me what you want for the country and how you want to get there. I’ll listen. Throwing a tantrum at every suggestion just makes me want to put you in the corner for a time out. There seems to be some idea espoused that they want to go back, ostensibly to the America of Leave it to Beaver and Sally, Dick, and Jane. A time that never actually existed other than in carefully crafted cultural items designed to lull the developing Baby Boom into a false sense of security. You can’t go back, ever. Time doesn’t work that way. You can only go forward. The only thing that seems to motivate the way forward is entrenching a minority rule through selective legislation. You may be able to do that in the short run, but it’s rarely a successful long term strategy for societal stability.

If I have to choose between an America as embodied by Ted Lasso or an America as embodied by a horde of screaming suburbanites invading the local mall food court because they’ve been asked to do something as simple as wear a mask, I’ll take Ted. I’ll bet he keeps his hands washed, wears his mask, keeps his distance, and got his shots publicly in front of the whole team as an example.

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