The Addams Family RevisitedPosted: November 9, 2009
We have recently fallen prey to watching just about anything on Netflix Instant Streaming. Occasionally I see something that sparks a note in me related to education.
So in light of this, we watched the very first episode of the Addams Family. We were surprised at how irreverent this show was, and that it was a thinly veiled expression of bohemian views of the time. The first episode was tailor made for my blog. It involved a truant officer coming to the Addams mansion, because the children reportedly do not attend school. This was likely written as a first introduction to the characters on the show. What you get it some seasoned acting and some very good television writing.
As the truant officer enters the home, he is introduced to Wednesday, the 6 year old daughter in the family. She shows him her Marie Antoinette doll. This small child goes on to express her knowledge of the French Revolution and Ms. Antoinette’s fate. What impressed me most, was the richness of the home environment the Addams children lived in. Every bit of wall space is occupied by some form of history, anthropology and geography.
The man is then led to The Conservatory where Morticia (Carolyn Jones) is raising carnivorous plants. The whole time I am watching this I am thinking ‘what a wonderful home-school environment”. The only thing lacking in these children is socialization.
But now the dialogue gets juicy. The truant officer is introduced to Gomez (the great John Astin), the father of this odd clan. He is in his study playing with trains. The truant officer points out that the trains are about to crash when Gomez blows up the bridge. The truant officer says, “you’re going to blow them up?” and Gomez answers, “yeah. Why else would a grown man play with trains?” Twisted logic, but it somehow makes sense.
Truant officer: The children have to go to school. Everyone sends their kids to school.
Gomez: That’s ridiculous. Why have kids just to get rid of them. I’m opposed to the whole nonsense.
Truant officer: But don’t you want them to learn?
Gomez: Learn you say? (he shows the man a box.)
Truant officer: Spiders!
Gomez: Pedigree! Did you ever know a child who could raise thoroughbred spiders?
Truant officer: No. But I was referring to more formal learning. Reading?
Gomez: What is there for a 6 year old to read?
Truant officer: But someday she’ll be 26.
Gomez: See ya then!
Gomez should be a modern day education reformist. But what I see in that first episode, before the characters were downgraded to laughable eccentrics, is a family with a very rich and colorful relationship to the world. A house is filled with old books, animal heads and skins, medieval armor, a dungeon, a graveyard, a conservatory, a butler who can play Mozart on the harpsichord etc. etc. My thought would be that those kids would be extremely bright, if not a little weird. Probably more compassionate as well.
I have noticed that this kind of hidden expression at irreverence and counter culture thinking no longer pervade our media. They have been washed out by the corporate media. Doubt about long standing institutions is not allowed. It is swept under the rug and even portrayed as dangerous and marginal. I will give another example, but I am exposing myself here.
We also viewed the first episode of “V” on Hulu.com. This is a remake of an 80’s TV show which in its origin was not very good. But ABC (Disney) needs something to fill in the gap because their popularity is in danger. So They have release this glitzy miniseries. V is the standard rehash of every alien sci fi ever made, mainly Independance Day and To Serve Man from the Twilight Zone. The aliens come down on us like a Scientology sermon, telling us they are here to help us. It is clear that their intentions are not good. But for my argument, I will focus on one of the many undeveloped characters here. A priest.
The priest doubts the intentions of the aliens and expresses this to an older reverend. What the network cannot say is what is really happening with this priest: he is having a crisis of conscience. A crisis of faith. Of course to express this on prime time network TV would send outrage to the many deluded followers of the church as well as rankle the sponsors. But I have heard and have known first hand, preachers who have many doubts about their role in the church, their effect on people, and whether the life they live really makes any sense. The show as I see it, is thinly disguised right wing propaganda.
Some time ago, the design firm I work for was hired to create a video for a Catholic Mission at a local university. The videographers ironically were orthodox Jews. The question to the priests that kept coming up again and again, was about their ability to stay celibate. One priest said “Oh, I used to have trouble asking girls on a date, but now, I have like 30 girlfriends!” Now I do not know about you, but this comment made me very uneasy. This man was working at a youth center. Turned out, he was arrested on molestation charges one year after filming that comment. It had to be edited out of the video, which was meant to recruit young priests.
Mainly I stay away from television. We do not have one and what little we see, we watch on the computer. But I have to say that we probably would be better off without it. If you really want media, there are many ways to get it. But television has become a brain dampening device. The Addams Family was written and produced at a time when our nation was questioning the validity of our national institutions. There was an anti war movement. There was a lot of experimentation going on. And much of this national questioning came from the fact that our population was educated. And this viewpoint crept into many of the shows that were popular then. But that is no longer the case. We as a nation have fallen a long way down. And we were not that highly perched to begin with. We have a long way to go. Health care reform is just the first notch in the belt. And that will take years to develop in the right way. A way that serves the people. A way that will make us happy to live here again. And education is still, to me, the central way to effect any positive change in society. And I sure wish I had Gomez and Morticia as my teachers.