CSotD: In which I dissent

Tony Dow’s death inspired Ruben Bolling to repost this Tom the Dancing Bug from 2012, which I liked then and I like now, not only because it pokes holes in the rightwing objections to liberal reform, but because it treats the original sitcom with more respect than it usually gets.

“Leave It To Beaver” did have some very silly episodes, like the Beave getting his head stuck in a wrought-iron fence, but its intention was to model good parenting.

Despite the brickbats now thrown by wiseasses and hipsters, the show made it clear that the Cleavers were well-off, though not wealthy. June had grown up privileged, but Ward came from a less fortunate background and was consequently more determined that their boys be aware of other people in other circumstances. The show addressed topics like poverty and alcoholism.

Furthermore, as Beaver got old enough that little-kid hijinx were less likely, attention shifted to Wally, Eddie and Lumpy, who featured in the show’s most memorable episodes. In those, Lumpy played the fool and Eddie the inciter, with Wally often reminding them that, after high school graduation, they’d be expected to behave more responsibly.

He wasn’t a killjoy, but he often functioned as a reminder that, in those days, kids were supposed to become adults. This was before the beer companies realized their fortune lay in promoting perpetual adolescence.

Ward Sutton also reposted a Beaver takeoff, this one from Mother’s Day 2014, in which he updates the traditional family values of the 1950s to the modern day, leaving open the question of whether families changed in response to the way they were depicted on television or if TV had become more realistic?

“Leave It To Beaver” was special. If you look at that era, you’ll find not only the cotton-candy nonsense of “Ozzie and Harriet,” but also “Father Knows Best” in which patriarch Jim Anderson was sometimes frustrated but never wrong and “Make Room For Daddy,” in which Rusty Hamer’s role consisted of making loud, obnoxious comments to infuriate his short-tempered father.

And, of course, there was “Rebel Without A Cause,” featuring three sets of incompetent parents and their dysfunctional offspring.

For my part, I tell myself that, while contemporary hipsters like to mock the Cleavers, it’s not because they’ve never encountered real, functioning families but because they never actually watched the show and are just riffing off each other’s pop-culture misapprehensions of what it probably must have been.

Dammit, ya little punks, if you’re going to mock the show, act as if you’ve seen it. Even better, do as “The Beaver Papers” did and act as if you’ve read a few things and have some background for posing so smart:


 Let me explain how you feel

I like Graeme MacKay’s commentary on the Pope’s penitential visit to First Nations people, because he shows to whom the Pope needs to apologize: The children of Canadian residential schools, living and dead, though also their parents and their descendants.

Not to you unless you fit in one of those categories.

I’ve seen cartoons in which people with no standing in the indigenous community criticize the Pope, and the Church, for what they have done and for what they have failed to do, and my response is that, if you are not an enrolled tribal member, you need to STFU and trust them to speak for themselves without the help of White Saviors.

My response being colored in part by my dislike for stupid faux-philosophy posted on social media along with photos of Indians who never said anything like that, and my knowledge that even speeches reported on more or less at the time have mostly turned out to be bullshit made up by romantic outsiders.

My reading of native history and of first-person memoirs by native sources, plus my contact with tribal historians and more casual personal contacts within various communities has left me willing to report what I have heard and learned, but not to pretend I can speak for native people. It’s a matter of respect.

Besides, it’s clear they don’t all agree on a response. They’re a diverse group, which brings us to my next dissent:


I also can’t speak for the Latino/Hispanic community, but I can still object to La Cucaracha (AMS)‘s misrepresentation of Jill Biden’s speech.

She didn’t say Spanish-speaking people were breakfast tacos or that they were like breakfast tacos. She said that the Spanish-speaking community is diverse, such that you have Cubanos in Florida noted for their flowers, Puerto Ricans in NYC shopping at bodegas and Tejanos in San Antonio, where breakfast tacos are popular.

Prove her wrong, if your contention is that there is only one Latino culture and that people from Mexico, the Caribbean and Central America are indistinguishable from each other, but quote her accurately as you do so.

Lalo Alcaraz may disagree with me. Gustavo Arellano does not. 

Don’t look now, but that’s — horrors! — a sign of diversity.


But, just to show I don’t disagree with everyone, I’ll echo Tank McNamara (AMS)‘s observation that, yes, player salaries have increased markedly, particularly now that college athletes are permitted to share in the money generated by selling their likenesses and replicas of their jerseys.

I once spent a week at a county fair booth near Clete Boyer and we had several conversations, including one about how salaries had changed in Major League Baseball.

He was more amazed than bitter, but there he was, after 16 years in the big leagues, selling photos at county fairs and running a burger joint down the street from the Baseball Hall of Fame.

By contrast, the other day, Arizona QB Kyler Murray signed a contract that guarantees him $105 million, aside from his annual salary and incentives like making the playoffs.  Part of me asks what you even do with $105 million, but another part says he deserves a fair share of the profits made from his talent.

But then another part asks why the average price of an NFL ticket is about $800, though you can get into a game that is sure to suck for under $100.

Or why workingclass hero Bruce Springsteen is charging up to $5000 for tickets on his current tour.

But, hey, it’s not like the seats go empty.


8 thoughts on “CSotD: In which I dissent

  1. Good insights on “Leave It to Beaver.” When Barbara Billingsley appeared as the “jive-talking woman” in the movie “Airplane,” she did a lot of interviews. (Sorry I can’t find any exact quotes, so this is all just what I remember!)

    She said that early in the series, she and Hugh Beaumont talked with the writers and asked that Ward and June not be overly strict as parents, more willing to talk with their kids and even apologize to them if they made mistakes.

    That does seem to have been the overall tone of the show, that when Ward punished Wally or the Beav and later found out he’d misunderstood them or didn’t have all the facts, he’d apologize to them. For all its corniness, a very humane show indeed.

  2. I have been living in Miami for 17 years and this is the first time I read about the city being linked to flowers.

    Miami has been associated in popular culture and folklore to many things, not all of them positive by any means.
    But blossoms?
    This is a first time for me, I must admit.

    I also would like to say that while we are used to witness politicians’ performances aimed at connecting with an audience (and sometimes see them fail in the process), the tacogate was much ado about almost nothing.

  3. If I’d been writing the speech, I’m not sure how I’d have differentiated three American communities with differing Latino concentrations, particularly since the task was to also make differing comparisons — “as distinct as the bodegas of the Bronx, as beautiful as the blossoms of Miami, and as unique as the breakfast tacos here in San Antonio.”

    I might have gone for coffee or sandwiches in Miami, then mariachi music in Texas and kept the bodegas — a word I never heard in 13 years in Colorado. Still as you (and Arellano) say, it was making a mountain out of what shouldn’t even have been a molehill.

    Here’s the whole speech, by the way. Very disappointing if you’re looking for a reason to be offended:


  4. And, Paul, if you’ve never heard young hipsters reference Leave it to Beaver as a benchmark for mediocre out-of-date Americana, I’d normally suggest you expand your contacts, but it comes across more as a curse than a suggestion.

  5. “…if you are not an enrolled tribal member, you need to STFU and trust them to speak for themselves without the help of White Saviors.“

    Amen, brother. Amen.

  6. I loved Leave It to Beaver as a kid in the 70s, and I still love it. I found it kind of mischievous, and always very funny.

  7. In the paragraph where you give examples of sitcoms less worthy of respect than “Beaver”, all of them were parodied in the “Twilight Zone” sketch from the Rick Nelson-hosted SNL in 1979 – along with a number of other shows from the era. The sketch did point out the (relative) sameness each “black and white TV family home” but rode mostly on recognition laughs as the show and the audience grew up on those programs.

    Of course, “Ozzie and Hariet” was the main one as the premise was Ricky Nelson getting lost on his way home, and “Beaver” was the 1st sitcom referenced. It was a real tour-de-force for the cast, playing so many characters. And one of my favorite SNL sketches.

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