Thursday, March 22, 2018


Not feeling very well this afternoon, I just stayed in the house and watched the very first episode of the old TV series, Bonanza. Talk about politically incorrect! Where does one even begin? I mean, they pretty much covered most everything in that single episode. It was, from an early 21st century viewpoint, offensive, astounding, and really rather refreshing.

Of course, for its time, it was not politically incorrect at all, in the sense in which we think of the term in our day. It was normal. In fact, it was perfectly correct according to the mores of the period. Rather, I'm certain that the writers' of Bonanza would have found the particulars of our own popular culture and attitudes quite politically incorrect, and largely inappropriate for TV viewing.

There is the sense as well (though it may just be in my imagination) that the writers were aware of those elements in the episode that did transgress against modern (1960's) censorious sensibilities, and inserted these intentionally as part of their effort to depict a prior time--the old West--taking for granted a general, civilized consensus regarding what is proper and improper, right and wrong. In short, they seem to have trusted not only the moral compass of the viewer, but his natural ability to separate the rudeness of the past from the more progressive realities of the present.  I mean, what kind of cowboys would you have if they all went around acting exactly like normal mid 20th century folk, parroting, in spurs and boots, the cultural notions of a society that did not yet exist?

It is a weakness we see often enough in popular film and entertainment--a weird, clumsy, undisguised superimposition of "the right ideas" on whatever story is at hand. And this, of course, is propaganda rather than meaningful fiction.

In any case, although Bonanza was rarely comedic, especially in the first season, I found myself laughing outright at the blatant parade of no-no's--tantamount to blasphemy in our time.

And so I leave you with the words of Ben Cartwright, regarding the fate of a captured scoundrel.

"If I'm not back by sundown, kill him."

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