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|August 7-13, 2008
Wha’choo talkin’ ’bout, Former Racist Me?Sometimes I like to perform sociological experiments on myself. These experiments usually start out with the phrase “I wonder what would happen if I…” For instance, “I wonder what would happen if I ate nothing but bacon for three days.” Or “I wonder what would happen if I told people I sang backup vocals for Hall & Oates.” Or “I wonder what would happen if I watched all my favorite childhood television programs in chronological order.”
by Dale Bridges
Until recently, this last experiment was impossible. Once in a while I would catch an A-Team marathon on Spike or a few episodes of Little House on the Prairie on TV Land, but I had difficulty finding my other favorites, such as ALF, Airwolf, The Wild Wild West and Manimal. But then one day an amazing thing happened: The Pop Culture Fairy alighted on my doorstep and told me about this amazing new company that sends DVDs right to your door every day. Every day!
“Thank you,” I told the Pop Culture Fairy. “Would you like some bacon?”
It turns out the Pop Culture Fairy is a vegetarian and a huge Hall & Oates fan. She kicked me in the junk and flew away, and I haven’t seen her since.
Netflix is the perfect solution for misanthropic assholes like myself who are obsessed with movies and various other pop culture bric-a-brac but hate going out in public. On average, I watch between seven and ten DVDs every week. I check my Netflix account at least six times a day. Currently I have 227 DVDs in my Netflix queue. (I also love the fact that they call it a queue.) According to my calculations, I have already watched more than 320 DVDs in 2008. I love everything about Netflix, from the red envelopes to the little DVD jackets, but what I love most about this particular company is the way it acts as an entertainment time machine for nostalgia junkies. Netflix is one of those rare entities that has altered the way we consume art without actually doing anything artistic (other examples include the Internet, iPods and Bono). In other words, it allows me to take on the role of revisionist historian in my own life.
About two months ago, I began the incredibly difficult, quasi-narcissistic process of watching all of my favorite childhood television shows. So far it has been an extremely eye-opening experience, and one that I would not necessarily recommend to you, Hypothetical Reader. It’s kind of like starting therapy — you go in expecting to figure out why you can’t keep a girlfriend and you end up learning that your uncle once touched your wiener.
From my Netflix experiment, I learned that I used to be a hick and possibly a racist. Allow me to explain. When I was a child, my favorite television shows were The Dukes of Hazzard and Diff’rent Strokes. I never missed an episode of these programs, ever. I watched them with the same intensity that I now watch porn and that video of a drunken David Hasselhoff eating a Wendy’s cheeseburger off of the floor.
The Dukes of Hazzard was a show about two Southern boys named Bo and Luke Duke who liked to drive recklessly on dirt roads, shoot flaming arrows at gas tanks and scream YEEEEHAAAW whenever they did something particularly idiotic. When I was a 6, it was the greatest thing in the world, and I idolized those inbred daredevils. I didn’t know why there was a Confederate flag on top of a car called the General Lee, and I didn’t care.
Watching this show as an adult is a lot like going to your high school reunion and realizing that the head cheerleader you were in love with actually looks like a broke-ass, cankled version of Reba McEntire. The acting is laughable, the writing is embarrassing and the Confederate pride is downright noxious, y’all.
However, in many ways the blatant racist symbolism in The Dukes of Hazzard pales in comparison to the subliminal neo-con message in Diff’rent Strokes. This was a television show about a rich, white dude (Phillip Drummond) who adopts his black maid’s children (Arnold and Willis Jackson) after she dies and raises them in his swanky penthouse. The comedic drive of the show centers around the socio-economic disconnect between the Drummonds and the Jacksons. Like all sitcoms, the plot of each episode is kind of irrelevant. What’s important is the miscommunication between the two main entities that can be exploited for laughs. At the end of almost every episode, Arnold (Gary Coleman) expresses his confusion by saying, in his cute “ghetto” slang, “Wha’choo talkin’ ’bout, Willis?” And then everyone laughs and laughs. Basically, the entire show is like an educational film to teach black people how to be more white.
I have no idea how this affected my fragile, young psyche, but I imagine it wasn’t good. However, I’m hoping the experiment takes a positive turn next week when I watch Bosom Buddies and Baywatch.
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