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Hitting the wrong target

Spurred on by this comment, I’m finally getting around to clearing out another one of those long-open tabs.

How Right-Wing Characters Become Sitcom Sensations

In spite of all the worst intentions of Hollywood shitlib producers and/or writers like Norman Lear, who thought he had himself a horse of a very different color in his overbroadly-drawn, intentionally-insulting caricature of what clueless pricks like him think your average Joe Lunchbucket is really like, that’s how.

Y’know, kinda like when a hoplophobic Leftard who’s never knowingly been in the same room with a firearm starts in regurgitating the nonsense they’ve gulped down about projectile weapons to some gun-savvy 2A individual, thereby unwittingly making a complete fool of Zhim/Xhrr/Theyselves without ever even realizing it.

If you’ve ever seen the television show Friends, you know that it’s about six young people in Manhattan, navigating romance, career, and friendships. Or is it? Maybe it’s actually about a homeless psychotic woman—the character of Phoebe, played by Lisa Kudrow—who peers into the window of the hip coffee joint and imagines the lives and adventures of the personalities she spies on, with herself as a beloved member of the group of friends. It’s all in her mind, all 10 seasons, and the theory is given a little bit of ballast by the series finale, in which the other characters move out of Manhattan and leave Phoebe alone, like the unmedicated schizophrenic she is.

According to this particular fan theory, anyway. Probably not what the creators and executive producers of the show had in mind, but if you think about it long enough, it starts to seem possible—maybe even preferable to the original.

Google the words “alternate interpretation of” or “fan theory for” and then insert the title of a popular movie or television show, and you’ll get a cascade of hilarious and often very dark results. It seems that people who love a show also love rethinking it from an entirely unexpected point of view.

If your show is indelible enough to inspire lunatic speculations from superfans, that’s what we in show business call “a high-class problem.” One of the ways you know you have a hit show on your hands is that your viewers quickly take ownership of the series. The characters become their characters, and whatever point the creators were trying to make, whatever message they were trying to send, utterly evaporates in the face of that kind of devoted fandom.

If you’re really lucky, this happens while your show is still on the air.

I noticed the same odd phenomenon in my own show-biz career: a fan would painstakingly explain to me after the show all about how the lyrics of a song he or she absolutely loved meant this, or that, or the other thing…and the interpretation would be at wide variance every time with what my actual intention was when I wrote the damned thing.

Eventually, I learned to just accept it and nod, shake the person’s hand, and mumble “Thagsverrmudge” in my best Fat Elvis voice, then move on to the next in line. Whatever a song was supposed to have been in the beginning, once it’s been released into the wild and audiences get hold of it the song is no longer exclusively your intellectual property—it’s now shared between you as the songwriter, the band you perform the song onstage with, and the audience, all of whom are assuredly going to exercise their right to make of your creation what they will.

I wasn’t at all bothered by this puzzling development myself, just considered it one of those strange, bemusing knuckleballs life tends to throw at you as a working artist in The Biz. You just gotta roll with it; who knows, the audience could well be righter about it than you know. But in the case of shitlibs like Lear, it can come back to bite ‘em on the ass in ways they never imagined it might.

In the early 1970’s, All in the Family captured the tumultuous controversies of its time. The show’s main character, Archie Bunker, was a reactionary bigot always mixing it up with his progressive, liberal son-in-law, Meathead. The show was designed by the producer Norman Lear to be a form of left-wing agitprop that would expound on the virtues of the younger, modern, and open-minded generation while exposing and mocking the petty small-minded prejudices of Archie. He would rail weekly against the changing American culture using scandalously edgy language that today is utterly unthinkable. Archie Bunker was supposed to be the butt of the joke, the dinosaur heading to extinction, a symbol of everything that was wrong with America in 1970.

The fans, though, refused to see it that way.

Archie Bunker caught fire with audiences. He became a national sensation, his catchphrases on T-shirts and lunch boxes and used in Johnny Carson monologues. The progressive writers and creators of the show may have thought Archie was the bad guy, but the audience saw a hard-working veteran who paid the bills and put food on the table—Archie held down two jobs!—all the while being forced to listen to his ultra-lefty layabout jobless graduate-student son-in-law tell him what a terrible person he was, often with his mouth full of a pork chop Archie had paid for. If Archie occasionally refers to Jews, African Americans, and homosexuals with hateful slurs, well, hey, the guy pays the mortgage. He’s earned the right to rant a little.

It helped that Archie was, by far, the most hilarious character on television at the time. Comedy writers, even really really liberal ones, naturally want to write for the character who brings the most heat to the screen. The more talented the writer, in fact, the more likely it is that he will sell out his principles for a really solid laugh. Still, it must have rankled Lear and his team to see Archie embraced by the audience, to realize that the character wasn’t theirs anymore—that the fans preferred their own version.

Had Google existed back then, and had you Googled “insane theory about All in the Family,” you’d probably be directed to something like this: “All in the Family is a show about a guy who dreams of being an empty-nester with his devoted wife but who instead is forced to support his married daughter and her lazy, super-woke husband. To get them to move into a place of their own, he does everything he can to drive them away, including loudly emitting a fusillade of reactionary notions. But the kids, especially his worthless son-in-law, are too lazy to move.”

Hollywood liberals keep making the same mistake. They try to create a right-wing villain and end up writing an audience favorite.

And you just know it’s gotta burn their asses up but GOOD. Sure hope so, at any rate.

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1 thought on “Hitting the wrong target

  1. Might fine, Mike.

    “…and the interpretation would be at wide variance every time with what my actual intention was when I wrote the damned thing.”

    As I have noted previously, I am somewhat inept musically. My hearing is exceptional but my ability to understand the words is not as good. I often look up the lyrics to songs I like and then wonder what was meant by them. I try to guess and then look up what the writer had to say. It is often a case where the writer has never explained it, but when they do it’s usually different than my imagination came up with.

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