In the Catbird Seat/Joe Kirkish
Who a few decades ago would even think about a couple of shows at the once thought of as staid MTU, where science and the arts mixed last week: one, an on-stage bra contest and the other, a one-man play about a German transvestite?
On the other hand, who can recall normal family life as revealed in the following magazine advertisements:
A smiling baby with the caption, “Gee, Mommy, you sure enjoy your Marlboro cigarette!”
A medical man smoking contentedly, saying with pride, “More doctors smoke Camels than any other cigarette!”
Happy Ronald Reagan, arms loaded with cartons, saying, “I’m sending Chesterfield cigarettes to all my friends the merriest Christmas any smoker could have!”
A cheerful husband and wife in front of their new food mixer, announcing that “The Chef blender does everything but cook; that’s what wives are for.”
Husband beams down at wife as she beams back at him, with the caption, “So the harder a wife works, the CUTER SHE LOOKS!”
“Show her it’s a man’s world!” is the caption for a hubby in bed wearing shirt and Van Heusen tie, with wife kneeling before him, offering up breakfast on a tray.
A hearty, cheerful man holding up a glass of liquor, saying, “For a double reason, you’ll prefer DOUBLE RICH Bourbon, the Cream of Kentucky!”
And last but not least: a happy family playing in bathing suits on a beach, with the caption that “They’re happy because they eat lard!”
Well, you get the point. Times change not all at once, of course, but slowly, over a period of very calculated years. The change sneaks up on us, breaking barriers so subtly at first that only those who will gain from it realize it.
Think of clothing. Back in the Great Depression of the 30s, people made do with printed flour sacks cum little girls’ dresses, and fancy dresses were also sewn by mothers; and boys wore short pants and knickers into their late teens – as long as the material would hold up – before graduating to “men’s” pants and then buying the one suit that would serve a lifetime for Sundays, weddings and funerals. Shoes rarely went out of style, lasting forever with new laces and soles. Longevity was what counted.
Food? Eating out was only for very special occasions. Mothers spent most of their time in the kitchen, making everything from scratch, and leftovers were made into soup. Holiday meals were an all clan extravaganza at one large dining room table (plus a few card tables for the kids), an easy traditional grouping, since all lived fairly near one another; acorns rarely fell far from the family tree.
Implements? Things were made to last, from home tools and utensils to the family car, until Henry Ford came up with the ingenious idea of planned obsolescence, and it worked so well it spread to other merchandise as well.
Language. Remember when “Gone With the Wind” created such a stir for permitting its hero to say, “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn?” Contrast that with what you hear regularly in entertainments, from the boob tube to general talk. No one blinks an eye at the profusion of profanity that’s replacing more accurate, less vulgar expressions. Same for pop music, which has run from “Heaven, I’m in heaven, dancing cheek to cheek” to “F*** the sh**, man, and pass the grass before I pass.”
And now we come around to morals, manners, and social obligations. Remember “Spare the rod and spoil the child” before Dr. Spock and the ridiculous plan to give children “self esteem” became popular – one fad after another? They removed the parental responsibility for teaching right from wrong, self improvement and thoughtfulness of others, thus permitting an entire society of youngsters to create their own definitions of right and wrong, to grow up believing that the self came first and that sacrifice was for the other person. As with the present “work ethic,” it’s another example of today’s tail now wagging the dog.
In politics it was a time when we thought that it was government of the people, by the people, and for the people. In a me-first society, that’s sadly been revised to “of the politicians, by the politicians, for the politicians.”
For better or worse, times do change. It’s highly likely we may be living in a totally different society in the near future – for better or worse, one that’s up to us, n’est ce pas?
Rotten Tomatoes averages: “Jack the Giant Slayer,” C; “The Last Exorcism II,” C-; “21 & Over,” D+