The Emperor Has No Clothes

June 23rd, 2016 Posted by Susan's Musings 19 comments

On occasion, I astound my husband with a rather unimpressive talent I possess. We can be in a hotel room, turn the TV to ‘Nick at Nite’ and after viewing a few minutes of an ancient sitcom, I will relate the entire half-hour plot to him. 

The episodes were seared into my mind during childhood summers when I Love Lucy, That Girl, The Andy Griffith Show, My Three Sons, Family Affair and other cultural highlights (let’s not forget Green Acres, Leave it to Beaver and The Donna Reed Show!) filled my mornings before I headed out to bicycle and play outdoors for the rest of the day. 

While those shows portrayed moral uprightness and scintillating entertainment compared to what’s on TV today, no one would mistake them for Shakespeare. Yet, it wasn’t until years —and many hours of TV viewing —later that I realized how inane so much of entertainment is. 

My awakening occurred after spending a TV free year in Israel. Upon arriving back in America and turning on the TV, I was appalled at how shallow and uninteresting most sitcoms were. It took stepping away to really see what was in front of me. 

Perhaps the fact that I recently spent a week not reading the newspaper or following any part of the news served the same purpose. All I know is that returning to the news cycle after that short halt has me wanting to run in the streets shouting, “The emperor has no clothes! The emperor has no clothes!”

What have I caught up on and read about? In no particular order, here are a few of the items:

  • The Republican Congress has censured the IRS chief. This brings to my mind a group of elderly men slapping each other on the back while puffing cigars and congratulation themselves on how clever they are. I’m glad they’re happy but I’m waiting to understand why Lois Lerner and others aren’t in jail for using the power of the IRS as a tactical, political weapon. 
  • An Islamist terrorist commits a terror attack and a Republican dominated congress holds four votes on…..gun control.
  • An Islamist terrorist commits a terror attack and religious Christians get called on the carpet for it. 
  • The Justice Department censors and rewrites parts of the terrorist’s phone calls to downplay his Islamic involvement and Republican congressmen are talking about ….gun control.
  • A room full or reporters questions Attorney General Loretta Lynch about the terrorist attack and NOT ONE reporter asks about why the government is refusing to acknowledge that we do know the motivation of the killer.
  • Government agencies are stockpiling weapons and ammunition and Republicans in Congress are discussing…citizen gun control. (I knew about this for quite some time already but a Wall Street Journal article appeared so even GOP elected officials whose heads are in the sand should have heard about it.)
  • Hillary Clinton attacks Donald Trump as dangerous and reporters repeat her words without bursting into guffaws of laughter at the pot calling the kettle black.
  • Team Trump sends me a few fund-raising appeals without any humility or  explanation of why a candidate who spent months boasting about self-funding wants my money.
  • The GOP sends me fund-raising appeals despite presenting itself as incompetent and impotent (see above).

Sadly, my list could go on and on. The duplicity, stupidity, evil and immorality striking me in the face after my news blackout leaves me convinced that even a government populated by the citizens of another ridiculous 1960s sitcom, Petticoat Junction, would be a vast improvement over what we have today.

Here is my challenge to myself: Next week write about something positive and uplifting. It is easy to get discouraged and important to fight against that.

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James says:

‘Tis true, ‘tis lamentably true. A certain ‘progressive’ president once solemnly intoned: ‘We need no men of letters, we need no great, formidable intellects. We need obedient automatons educated just enough to work their jobs and to follow basic instructions, yet neither educated, smart nor bold enough to challenge their supervisors and superiors.’ Anyone recognize Woodrow Wilson? Since then the American educational system has been ‘progressively’ hamstrung, poisoned and diluted to serve such goals.
Decades of television exposure have done the rest. Canned laughter, plots and action inane and predictable have lowered our standards, diluted our consciousness and reduced our attention span (I have not even opened the Pandora’s Box of corrupted mores or morality). My wife, new to the US in the early 1980’s, was disheartened how all the women at work discussed Dallas or General Hospital or The Guiding Light. She used to say: ‘Don’t these people ever read a book?’
Ms. Susan, you are like the canary in the mineshaft, alerting us to the presence of poison gas!

Peter says:

Hi Susan:
One of my favorite shows in the ’60s was the Rifleman where single dad Lucas McCain (played by Chuck Connors) modeled heroic masculinity for his adoring son in a weekly contest between good and evil. I’ve seen the show recently on cable and found it just as entertaining today as I did back in the day.
When the series Friends was all the rage back in the ’90s, I don’t think I took the time to watch a single entire episode. For one thing, it violated my “no canned laughter” rule (even though it may have been a live studio audience responding to an electric “APPLAUD” sign). Looking back at Friends today, I can see how it helped influence a generation to reject the values of their forebears in order to embrace and enjoy – well – the next mega TV phenom to come after it said it all: Sex in the City. I think we’re seeing a pattern here and it’s not a good one.
Like the middle aged couple riding along a two-lane country road in their classic but aging pickup truck where the wife, gazing at the horizon out her passenger side window asks her husband: “Charlie, whatever happened to the good old days when you and I used to ride along so happily, just two lovebirds riding cheek to cheek”. Charlie paused for a minute before responding: “Well honey … I haven’t moved”.
And neither do we have to move away from our good Lord and His wisdom, the source of all that is good, and decent, and honest in this world.

What an amazing quote!

You are right as to how many shows used to embody great values. Then there are shows with brilliant writing (All in the Family, Friends) that did exactly what you say – moved the culture. It’s a fascinating conversation whether The Rifleman and other shows with good values, inadvertently did harm simply by the medium of TV.

Lora says:

I understand that feeling, a mix of two things: you recognize that the emperor has no clothes, and yet you wonder if you will even be heard should you announce it. That second part isn’t addressed in the old fairy tale. Perhaps you could write a post about keeping hope in the face of despair.
And I hope this helps- you are not alone, your voice matters, and others hear your words even if they don’t come to your site. I read some of your posts out loud to my family! These are teens who listen and then discuss. Please know you are doing a great work.

Lora, this makes me feel better. Sometimes I wonder if I’m preaching to the choir. Knowing that a Musing might open a discussion with young people is fantastic.

Nancy says:

Speaking of no clothes, I tried to watch the Wolf of Wall Street the other day. The black boxes employed where an exercise in futility and added to this exasperation similar to what you have expressed here in this musing. Multiple Oscar nominations used to be an indication of quality where “sexy” was linked to at least some semblance of class, a skill that Edith Head perfected masterfully in her dress designs. Okay, so, the acting may have been a bit “stiff” back then but that may be accounted for in the use of moral restraint rather than the “let loose” attitude of today’s attempt to “keep it real”, which only resulted in the camera following actors into the bathroom and a depiction of how the world reeeeaally stinks. Thus, the shift in the industry’s perspective of highlighting the good with a hint of the evil to glorifying the evil with good as if it were only an afterthought. However, exposing evil is one thing, if the purpose it to eliminate it. And since that does not seem to be happening, I conclude that there must be some sort of incompetence occurring that only resulted in the espousing of it.

I just finished reading an article in the NRA magazine about Hollywood’s increased campaign to promote gun control. Very scary and far from The Rifleman TV show mentioned by Peter.

Jean says:

One of the more interesting episodes of The Rifleman had to do with, of all topics, gun control. It featured a fill-in sheriff who decided that to keep the town in good shape, he would confiscate all of the guns the townspeople owned. That way they wouldn’t get into shooting matches at the saloon. Of course, Chuck Connor’s character refused to give up his gun and chose to stay out of the town limits. During this interval, three desperadoes came through, discovered that the townspeople were unarmed and began to wreak havoc. They blindsided the sheriff and stole all of the confiscated guns as well. The only person able to get things under control was Chuck Connors, because he was still armed. I can’t imagine anything coming out of Hollywood today that would be similar.

That is fascinating. I wonder if it’s available for viewing.

Lyna says:

I second the “hope in the face of despair” suggestion. It is vital to clearly see what is true and eternal, and what is factual and temporary.

Nancy says:

It would be interesting to know exactly how one could claim social responsibility while, at the same time, shirking personal responsibility. This would be an excellent example.

Peter says:

I wish Hollywood and the MSM were incompetent. Quite the contrary, they fully understand that entertainment develops taste as much if not more than it satisfies it. They conditioning the audience’s appetite for more and more evil — by design.

Nancy says:

That might be applying too much credit, thinking of them in terms of the antithesis of wisdom. I received much need consolation, just today,that healed the wounds inflicted by see that monstrosity of a movie in a showing of The Pursuit of Happiness, five stars when it brings tears glimmering with hope, as it was also based on a true character. I think it no coincidence especially that I just began a course in finance and speculating about prospects in the industry. And also, my calendar’s verse of the day is Psalm 119:35, “Make me walk along the path of Your commands, for that is where my happiness is found.” There is no question, here, of unmistakable design.

LJ says:

Dear Susan and friends, during the Summer 2015, I started to choose not to click on news articles on the internet. I do still read news stories online, however, I limit my use of it. My family and I also use our local library for most books and DVDs and we’ve only had cable television one-time in our 24-year marriage for a sports event in 2006. Though we do have a big-screen for movie watching, we still have a pair of rabbit ears and we watch most sporting events in Spanish because it’s the station that comes in well. We also feebly attempt to listen to the games in Spanish, a small bonus to sharpen our Spanish-language listening skills.
We have discussed plans to offer alternatives to the entertainment status quo. We are aware of the difficulty with this task. The competition is steep and many voices fail, too often, to interest the mainstream culture. We hope that ‘The Eventyr Series’ (a new fairy-tale adventure series) will be the first story of many creative works by author Ellias Quinn.
Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin’s ‘Buried Treasure’ partly helped to inspire this author, along with a few other exciting works and some other authors. I would not typically mention the series in this venue, but reading all of the comments on this post encouraged me to mention it here.

Lynn Perrizo says:

I stopped watching TV news several months ago and to my surprised life went on rather nicely without it. I’m sure my B/P is doing better also. If I had my way I would not have a TV. Great Muse Susan. Looking forward to next weeks edition!

Thanks for your kind words about Buried Treasure. I think a lot of us cut back on news, but it’s always a challenge to not stick our heads in the sand by doing so. There is so much going on that affects us.

We never had a TV (except a small one in a closet that came out on rare occasions) as part of our married life. What I haven’t totally assimilated yet is how the computer, which we do have, became a sneaky way to bring many of the things we didn’t want in our lives into them.

LJ says:

It can be challenging to avoid the lure of distraction in our lives, especially it seems today. Yet, I’m sure that it has always been the same for people thousands of years prior. I am reminded of Susan’s previous post (paraphrasing here), ‘Religion, opiate of the masses?’ The ‘wake-up call’ is an important message to get from it. It is difficult for me to listen to the parrots in our media today because I’m trying to stay on the path that is life. There was a zombie movie years ago called ‘Shaun of the Dead.’ It portrayed the lives of the masses as zombies, but its overall meaning was that we needed to fight them with our strength and that was it. The message of it is that we can fight the urge to become zombies along with our friends. In the end, I guess friendship was the meaning of the movie and one of the zombified friends is shown tied up like a pet in the shed because the main character loved him; it seemed like a sad and worthless ending to me. We’re fortunate that so much creative technology allows us the free time to be able to do frivolous things (like watch movies without good reason to do it), or to watch TV shows for that matter. I, too, can tell the plots of various sitcoms and other popular television shows (including My Three Sons) of the 1970s and 1980s; there were the afterschool cartoons, too! We must be able to reasonably discern what to expose our minds to with our scarce time. Thankfully, today I like to read more than I like watching programs. But avoiding our exposure to poorly written materials is just as important as avoiding bad films and the like.

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