So long Andy Griffith
July 3, 2012 3 Comments
Andy Griffith is one of the most talented and hard-working individuals to have ever appeared on the American stage and airways. He is a giant and may his fame live long after him.
Since many are recalling the great accomplishments, which include some unforgettable comedic performances (“What it was was football” and “Hockey here tonight”), I thought the fictitious sheriff of the fictitious town of Mayberry would not object to a little social commentary and reflection. The benign depiction of law enforcement did a great deal of harm to a more correct understanding of reality.
Andy Taylor was a kindly gentle man who incorporated the highest standards in his professional life, right down to hemming in the extreme tendencies of his deputy, Barney Fife. Rural law enforcement in the rural areas, especially in the deep south, was anything but respectful and gentle to those considered even a little bit outside the social norms. I remember as a student at McGill high school (now McGill-Toolen) one of my American History teachers solemnly warned us that, if ever pulled over in small town Mississippi, to never under any circumstances mention the Bill of Rights. He also warned against letting them know we were Roman Catholic. There was a lot of prejudice in the late 60s (of course, all of that has been excised from the south and the nation and all may travel freely without fear of harassment).
The worst misrepresentation of The Andy Griffin Show concerns typical jail conditions., Surely nobody could possibly believe that a regular small town jail actually had curtains in the prisoner’s cells. There were, of course, no home cooked meals lovingly prepared by a sweet older lady. The bad guys ate bologna sandwiches with water. But criminals don’t deserve any better, do they? How about the people waiting to appear in court? The truth is that very many rural jails were complete dungeons.
“Pat, you’re an idiot! It was just a TV show!”
That’s true. It is also a sad fact that many people get their ideas on how the world works from the many unrealistic narratives presented on television. Viewers expect that every complicated problem has an easy solution, but it may be available only to one special person. The audience follows the cliché cues of the often predictable stories. We know the rules. Homosexuals are always the objects of persecution, people with distinct religious opinions are ignorant and hateful. Women are competent, men are muscular morons. These are the manipulative tools of a manipulative medium. The very worst idea convened by contemporary entertainment narratives is the incorrect and dangerous idea that justice always triumphs. Who could believe such nonsense?
So The Andy Griffin Show did some harm. That should not take away from Mr. Griffin’s fine legacy. Entertainers cannot simultaneously serve as social engineers and critics. That is why nobody should care what George Clooney things about anything, even if he is a wonderful actor.
Every bit of personal evidence, including his references to God’s grace, suggest that Andy Griffin was a fine man and a practicing Christian. That is an outstanding accomplishment in the entertainment business and he should be remembered in the most positive light. He was a giant.