You never know a person, even if you have been married almost thirty-five years.
She began watching the program while I was downstairs, but when I came up I saw the warnings: drug use, violence, foul language, sexuality. Hope is, like Jane Eyre, a free spirit, an independent woman, and so I waited to see what she had chosen: her screen, her choice.
It was The Andy Griffith Show evidently chockablock with drug use, violence, foul language, and sexuality. Amazon prefaced that episode, and most episodes of the old television show, with these warnings. We were warned, but like angels went where corporate suits fear to tread.
Andy did not even smoke a cigarette in the episode, so the drug must have been the general happiness of small town North Carolina. I have no idea what bad words he might have used, though “golly” was questionable with some older church women when I was a boy. I may have heard a “golly” in the episode. Don Knots did some brilliant physical comedy, but that did not seem violent, except to his spine. There was some hugging from Darlene Darling and Aunt Bee makes meals that stir the erotic soul: pot roast, taters, pie.
That was about it and evidently Amazon thinks we should be warned. They were promoting a piece of decadence in the commercial before the episode, but if I complain about that program, Weird Christian Twitter will be triggered. When they ask you, make sure to say that Jesus is literally not John Wayne (evidently you might think he was?) and that you are deeply worried about the potential for violence in Barney carrying a single bullet for his gun. Otherwise, you might be literally Hitler.
So thank God that Hope and I were warned, though we ignored the warnings, and were sadly entertained by some of the sharpest comedic writing in the history of television. There is probably some former homeschool kid, gone feral, that is traumatized by parents who watched The Andy Griffith Show and not something that their cool friends were watching. They will (undoubtedly) write a long form essay about this pain at The Atlantic, The New York Times, Vox, or some other venue that need not come with a warning about drug use, violence, foul language, and sexuality. One can undermine civilization without a warning.
Andy Griffith? He taught Opie that he should work for his allowance, that parenthood had responsibility, and that loyalty to a friend matters. As a civil servant, Andy played a character who thought everyone deserved equal justice before the law. He was not impressed with handbooks and procedures, but with the truth. Andy never dodged a tough situation by using undue violence or the procedure manual.
That might do violence to the spirit of our age. Discussions of telling the truth, even at great cost, might be foul language to tyrants. There just might be something overwhelmingly appealing to a peace, quiet, and a lawman who does not need a gun.
This is not a perfect show. There is a genial secularism under the surface that did not have the mental toughness to handle the challenges of the irrational forces of the late twentieth century. “Science” too often was conflated with “truth.” Why were there so few Black people in a town in North Carolina? All of this is very bad, but oddly not the bad that earns a warning.
The 1960’s liberalism of The Andy Griffith Show was inadequate, could not endure, and is the only fatuous element of a clever show. There is no warning that this could not endure. Nobody suggests that the civil religion of scientism might fail us. There is no warning that the industry making the programming was hawking product and undermining the values the show seems to promote. There are no warnings at all about the racism.
There is one element to the show, one shocking bit of practice, that may have provoked the warnings. The main characters go to church and are religious. Christian ethics control what they do or will tolerate. Perhaps this is why a modern viewer must be warned: the sight of civil servants motivated by unshakable goodness may do violence to our minds. Andy will not lie or use violence! Procedures are not followed! Government apparatchiks are mocked!
How foul, how seductive, how dangerous, a narcotic to the twenty-first century soul. . .