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Guinea pigs of television

Published October 05. 2013 09:00AM

A friend and I had an interesting discussion not long ago.

We came to the conclusion that, if you're a baby boomer, it's not your fault if you occasionally find yourself demonstrating a screwed up sense of values.

We were the original children of television and were influenced by outrageous role models.

Boomers were spoon-fed some very extraordinary concepts. In a sense, the TV shows of our day were bizarre.

We watched American family units who were far removed from reality, but presented as normal.

For instance, June Cleaver typically vacuumed her carpets while wearing a dress, pearls and high heels.

Now, really, did any mother of the 1950s or 60s wear pearls and high heels to vacuum the rugs?

We watched Tarzan swing thru trees almost naked. Yet that show wasn't even rated PG.

The Munsters and Addams Family advised us that all things strange are fine. It's perfectly normal to exhibit Halloween concepts all year long.

How about the Three Stooges? They were constantly hitting each other and throwing pies. Moe thought nothing of clubbing Curly on top of his head with a cast-iron frying pan. The Stooges episodes were most violent, but also the funny.

Role models came with all kinds of shortcomings.

Pinocchio constantly lied. Aladdin was a thief. Cinderella arrived home after midnight and never once phoned her stepsisters to say where she was.

How about hero Batman? He drove a muscle car thru Gotham City at over 200 miles an hour. Never once did he get a speeding ticket and he never voiced worries about the possibility of hitting pedestrians.

Snow White lived with seven men but we were led to believe she was pure as driven snow. I wonder if she drifted?

Popeye smoked a pipe and had tattoos. Plus, he had the worst diet ever. He ate only one food - spinach. It made him strong. But he guzzled the vegetable directly from an unwashed can. Yet he never once cut his lip or suffered botulism.

Actually, he and nemesis Brutus adored Olive Oyl. Olive was an unwed mother who forever was leaving baby Sweet Pea alone in the house. Sweet Pea would climb out the second floor window and crawl along the overhead electrical lines without harm.

Where was Child and Youth Services?

Like Popeye, friend Wimpy ate only one food. He lived on hamburgers, which made him plump. And he never had enough money. He offered to pay on Tuesday. But we never actually saw that happen. Wimpy taught us that buying on credit is the way to go.

Mr. Magoo had totally impaired vision yet drove a car without consequence.

Villains had foreign-sounding names. For example, evil people often had Russian names, such as Boris and Natasha.

Monsters often came from other countries, such as Dracula, Godzilla and Frankenstein.

People of color sometimes were presented in less than flattering ways, such as Buckwheat.

I've been rethinking the outlandish situations and propaganda we boomers absorbed over the years. Yet somehow, it doesn't really bother me. I enjoyed the characters we experienced as children. I wouldn't have it any other way.

Fortunately, as we mature, our thought processes evolve. We begin to see things as they really are.

Boomers, thankfully, learned to overcome stereotypes displayed before us.

We began to think for ourselves. We began to understand common humanity.

Eventually, the stupidity of bigotry and prejudice became a form of entertainment in itself.

For example, we learned to laugh at narrow-minded Archie Bunker.

We began to understand that small-minded thinking makes little sense.

My friend and I agreed that it's become fashionable nowadays to consider oneself a victim. So if you find yourself blurring the lines between fantasy and reality, blame it on a childhood glued to a TV that fed us unrealistic expectations during our formative years.

Back then, there were precious few studies done on what the effects would be on young minds.

We were the guinea pigs of television, all in the name of an emerging electronic communication industry. But we survived.

And that's entertainment.

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