I’ve been ill all week with a low grade fever so I’ve been watching a lot of tv shows on youtube again. Miraculously I have written about three thousand words and hopefully I won’t have to delete them. But after accepting that I’d watched ALL the Star Trek episodes I looked up the early sixties show, Bewitched. I remember this show from when I was a child even though we rarely had a television set. If you’re interested in 50’s Americana, it’s fascinating. It was shot in the early sixties, but everything still looks fifties and the characters…well, they’re definiately from the fifties including the rampant misogyny and patronising attitudes towards women…but with a clever twist. Underneath the veneer of typical suburbia the writers are actually mocking the standards of the day. The misogynists and patronising males always end up looking stupid. I never noticed this until I sat here and watched episode after episode. (Social Studies 101)
The show is about a mortal man who marries a witch (who can twitch her nose and make things happen…or cast spells) and the tension is often caused by the fact they come from different worlds. He wants her to be like him, so he’s made her promise (he didn’t really give her an option) not to use magic and she, being the dutiful house wife, promises that she won’t (though of course in reality she does almost every day)…but she insists that she wants whatever he wants…because she wants to make him happy. (Warning – you can’t ever make anyone else happy by subverting your personality or pretending to be someone you’re not – the outcome is always the same – a mental breakdown) Even when I was a very small child I never liked Darren (the mortal man) and I could never understand what Samantha (the witch) saw in him. On the other hand, I always loved her mother, Endora. The older woman held Darren in contempt and I always agreed with her…still do.
I still cringe when Darren is a pig, but I finally understand that the writers are actually trying to change the status quo by emphasising “the typical” male/female attitudes by making them larger and decorating them with bells, whistles and neon. Without even being aware, the viewer is learning that calling your wife at six and telling her that you’re bringing an important client and your boss and his wife home for dinner in half an hour without even bothering to ask if there is any food in the house…that, that is rude and stupid…and it makes you look like a selfish pig. Of course the witch can just twitch her nose and whip up a three course meal in seconds, but the real housewife would be up the proverbial creek. As a woman who grew up in the seventies and eighties I often forget that there were only a very few years seperating my birth from when women couldn’t do anything without their husband’s permission…or graduate from College. This week, I was looking something up and somehow came across the fact that Cambridge University didn’t award women degrees until 1948 (or about there depending on my memory). That makes me feel sad and disgusted, but it highlights the attitudes in Bewitched. It was a very different world and yet it was the same world.
Attitudes that create our individual cultures fluctuate, moving the moral highground. If you study history you’ll notice that there’s a cycle. I suspect that each individual culture has its own types of cycles and cycle lengths, but in America and Britian there appears to be a cultural pendulum that swings back and forth between severely conservative and severely liberal. The pendulum seems to swing every twenty to forty years back and forth between the middle ground (or moderation). I think we’re in another conservative era…by conservative I mean oppressive laws brought in by people who think they know best (people in power who feel secure in their moral highground and zealously try to force their morals onto other people). It doesn’t matter what political party hat they’re wearing or what their ideology is…it always has the same affect when that pendulum hits the bell on the severely conservative side all people lose freedoms and rights because a small group of people decide it’s for the best. You can disagree with me if you wish…but study history and start counting the years between extremely liberal eras and extremely convervative ones noting the short span of moderate years in-between. It’s quite bizarre!
It’s doubtless more complex then I realise, but the tv show Bewitched was at the end of a conservative era…the pendulum was already swinging into the severely liberal sixties and seventies. By the eighties the pendulum was starting to descend back towards the middle ground and then into the nineties where the thought police happily encouraged political correctness (otherwise known as the new moral highground – a mind controling monster. Who needs laws to control the people when you can persuade vast numbers of the population to point a finger at someone who uses words or thoughts the population has decided are bad and castigate them or even arrest them as they’re now doing in Britain?) How does this happen? Why does the pendulum swing? I don’t know, but we appear incapable of remaining in the middle ground. I find that bewildering!