JANUARY 26, 2020
EVERY WEEKDAY BEFORE the atramentous news, the CBS-affiliated approach in Macon, Georgia, shows reruns of The Andy Griffith Show. Aside from sports tournaments, breaking civic crises, or brutal acclimate forecasts, a distinct adventure runs at 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday like clockwork, guaranteed.
I grew up not so abundant watching the appearance as experiencing it in my home. My mother would be affable in the kitchen, the ambit awning active loudly, as she aerated up a pot of peas or collards, and in the active allowance would be the complete of Andy and Barney’s hijinks accompanied by the Douglass beam track. Our dog would insolate on the carpet, his eyes squinting in the astern afternoon sunlight advancing through the blinds, while the television played to no one and anybody all at once. With little variation, this was the arena every weekday afternoon.
I like to anticipate everybody in Macon to this day adventures the appearance like I did — as an basal allotment of activity in axial Georgia. I had already developed accustomed with about every adventure by the time I accomplished my boyhood years. My parents parroted jokes taken from the appearance at adapted moments. They would amateur Ernest T. Bass and bewail Andy’s accommodation to date Helen Crump in the average seasons. Aback addition we knew acted assuming and self-absorbed, we referred to them abreast as a “Barney Fife.” The ball was printed acutely into my attitude — how acutely I alone apparent years later.
If you were to ask me as a adolescent if I enjoyed the series, I would not accept accustomed how to respond. It was like air to me — a accustomed or an absolute. In retrospect, it seemed as inseparable from my acquaintance as my home or my academy or my family. Alone aback I larboard for academy did I reflect on the appearance and apprehend it wasn’t a accustomed or a fundamental. It was alone a television appearance from the ’60s about activity in a baby rural town, and gradually I grew to accede it a barbarian anatomy of entertainment. It represented backwardness, and no academy apprentice at a ample advanced arts university wants to arise astern to his peers. So I tossed it out of my apperception and alone remembered it aback I alternate home to visit.
During a aeon of self-imposed exile, I confused aback to Macon afterwards college. Active with my parents and my English degree, I marveled at how little had absolutely afflicted back I left. My mother still adapted the aforementioned Southern dishes, my ancestor still grew the aforementioned summer vegetables, and Sheriff Andy Taylor, portrayed blithely by Griffith, visited the home every astern afternoon.
At this point in my life, aback I accomplished the cool, blah adaptation of myself I had bogus in academy was counterfeit, I absolutely started watching The Andy Griffith Appearance — absolutely watching it with a analytical eye. And I abstruse about myself, my family, and the accompanying ideologies of advance and nostalgia, which accept generally been absinthian rivals — at atomic in the South.
The Andy Griffith Appearance was a cornball alternation from the beginning. It’s been advised a lieu de mémoire, a armpit of anamnesis whereby the South can anamnesis what has been absent with time. During its antecedent run, it affronted homesickness in admirers by depicting a asleep boondocks busy by citizens who collection ponton-style cars and talked on candlestick phones. Today the alternation serves as a affectionate of advised nostalgia, a aperture into a time aeon that absolutely didn’t abide in the American 1960s. Watching it, I realized, fabricated me cornball for a time that never existed. To put a circuit on an old idiom, The Andy Griffith Appearance is homesickness all the way down.
Though the homesickness agency affected the alternation from the beginning, allotment of the show’s success can be attributed to Sheriff Andy Taylor’s measured, blameless demeanor. He is neither advancing nor by the book. He doesn’t backpack a gun, nor does he get his accoutrement annoyed over accessory problems in the town. He takes his job actively but not at the amount of his basement values: caring for his son, allowance others, appetite to be good.
In the aboriginal seasons, Andy plays a barbarian constable with an aw-shucks disposition. He is generally the base of jokes and too abundant of a addle-pate to see the absolute actuality pulled over his eyes. His bluntness and down-home ethics usually win out in the end, but he at basal is a burlesque of the Southern barbarian that appeared in shows of the time like The Beverly Hillbillies and Green Acres.
By division two, Andy had undergone a change. He was no best the naïve barbarian amount Griffith had baffled during his aboriginal comedic training as a monologist. He had developed weary, hardly agitated by the townspeople, yet still accessible to action for them and accomplish the boondocks better. He was added accommodating to abide the boondocks gossips, like a accommodating elder, than to beam with them and accompany in their carrying-on. He seemed aloft the boondocks yet still actual abundant a allotment of it, anchored in its fabric, reared aural it. Conceivably he had appear to agreement with his job as a alone sheriff or with the achievability that he may never acquisition a accomplice to alter his astern wife (to my parents’ dismay, he eventually affiliated Helen Crump). It was as if he had abstruse of the amusing and political battles angry alfresco Mayberry in the astern 1960s and aloof didn’t accept the affection to acquaint his airy citizens, whose alone anguish was the big choir concert at the end of the anniversary or the ample addition of gold casual through town.
Still, throughout the absolute series, Andy operates on a basal moral premise: the townspeople appear first. He is a case-by-case constable who eschews ample theories in favor of bounded solutions. He fights adamantine to accumulate the authority embodied in the hyperactive abandonment of Barney Fife at bay. Several recycled plots absorb outsiders advancing to Mayberry in adjustment to appoint some affectionate of adjustment on the town, alone for Andy to advise them his ways.
In the fourth adventure of the aboriginal season, “Ellie Comes to Town,” a new pharmacist played by Elinor Donahue is assassin to advice run Mayberry’s drugstore, and she refuses to bushing the medication for Emma, an aged hypochondriac, afterwards a prescription. At the end of the episode, Ellie caves and gives Emma the pills, which, she reveals to Andy, are absolutely placebos. Confused, Andy asks why she refrained from giving Emma the pills alive they were useless. “Because I’m a pharmacist,” she replies, “and there are assertive assigned rules I’m affidavit to follow.” Andy admits rules are crucial, but urges Ellie to bethink the bodies below the rules. Afterwards the conversation, Andy sees a car anchored illegally in advanced of a blaze hydrant. In a archetypal appearance twist, Ellie uses Andy’s argumentation of the “human equation” adjoin him. He shouldn’t address a ticket, she tells him; anticipate of the being who ability accept anchored agilely because of an emergency. Andy refrains, and Ellie, accepting bamboozled the simple but honest sheriff, hops in the car in catechism and drives away.
This authority appears time and afresh throughout the series, but best generally the amount apery the abstract argumentation of agreement is Andy’s deputy, Barney Fife. Played by the badly accomplished Don Knotts, Barney is both the comedic abatement and authoritative antithesis to Andy’s localism. Active gags are congenital aloft Barney’s trigger-happy agitation and accessible adulation of the Law, with all its bounden rules and jargon. He generally urges Andy to modernize, to embrace the latest crime-fighting methods and gadgets. Barney’s blemish — and what makes him amusing — is that he tries too adamantine to be a austere badge ambassador in a rural boondocks bright by adamantine crime. He quotes acknowledged codes to Andy, who either doesn’t apperceive or has abandoned them. Andy doesn’t charge to bethink the abstruse name for a accessory offense. He understands that townspeople, not codes, are the administering factor, alike if that argumentation sometimes backfires on him.
Watching this appearance as an earlier viewer, I came to apprehend that Andy and Barney betoken two aggressive agency of activity that struggled adjoin one addition in the 20th aeon and abide to do so today. Whereas I acclimated to accede Andy and the bodies of Mayberry simpletons in a whitewashed town, I grew attuned to the circuitous activating amid what Andy and Barney represent. I accustomed why my parents, in particular, were so fatigued to the series. What they see aback they watch the appearance is a glimpse into their own past, an circuit into the centermost trenches of memory. These were Southern characters that reminded them of their own family. My parents were aloft in Milledgeville, Georgia, in a time aback anybody in the baby boondocks knew the bounded law administration and anniversary other. I generally curiosity at the similarities amid my father’s acceptance of his banal accomplishments and the assorted ball situations Andy and Barney get themselves into. Ultimately, my parents watch the appearance because the apple Mayberry represents has vanished, and they witnessed it happen.
Several above amusing and political contest occurred before, during, and appropriate afterwards the run of The Andy Griffith Appearance — none of which are absolutely mentioned in the episodes. The appearance avoids the Cold War, civilian rights, the Kennedy assassination, and so on, but it does acrylic bureaucracy, which was revving up in the United States by the aboriginal 1970s, as a joke.
Three years afterwards the appearance was canceled, Supreme Court Justice Lewis F. Powell Jr. gave a announcement to the US Chamber of Commerce analogue a eyes of a absolutely deregulated business sector, one in which corporations could be chargeless to do whatever they appetite afterwards annoying leftists like Ralph Nader intervening. By the aurora of the 1980s, the chargeless bazaar became alike with democracy, and the authoritative authority aboriginal pioneered by the accumulated area advance its tendrils into every allotment of avant-garde life, from the accompaniment to the actual analysis of citizens. Health, law, finance, education, and the like became bureaucratized. A able authoritative chic took appearance to ensure basic flowed accurately and that bodies weren’t continuing in its way. The corporate-government circuitous drained the activity out of absolute towns, and power, generally abstinent in agreement of banking capital, became concentrated in ample burghal centers.
The Andy Taylors of the apple were ousted from their positions. They were too aboveboard and apathetic to accomplish protocol. Aback accumulated bureaucrats invented paperwork, the Andy Taylors had either laughed it off or did the bald minimum to amuse the state. Best of the time, there would be no charge to book a address because Andy knew anybody in town.
But corporations offered Mayberry the future. The townspeople were promised bigger advantageous jobs at the new startups that confused in. They were absorbed by the accessories the companies awash to them. Aback the Mega Marts buried their multi-acre-spanning structures at the bend of town, the citizens of Mayberry all bought new cars to drive to them. And the superstores had everything: produce, meat, toiletries, clothes, you name it. And they were accessible 24 hours a day. The bounded abundance in boondocks bankrupt at five.
The Andy Taylors of the apple were aloof too abaft the times. What about an app that predicted bent behavior? Well, Andy would accept laughed that off too. They didn’t accept adamantine abyss in Mayberry.
But aback the jobs abolished because of accessible barter amid Mayberry and every added burghal in the world, the citizens angry desperate. The baleful aggregate of white flight and decree painkillers widened the gap amid the haves and a anew basic abiding underclass. Mayberry bare an administrator, addition who advised business seriously. They bare a able man who knew the rules and activated them, addition who promised to able bottomward adamantine on all the abomination and whose neurotic, rule-obsessed behavior abounding mistook for accelerating leadership. Addition who dreamt of agreement advancing to Mayberry and who was the aboriginal to point Andy Taylor to the aperture while accepting endless of accompaniment money to accounts wiretaps, cameras, and military-grade weaponry. The accumulated accompaniment capital Barney Fife in command. And the people, admitting conceivably afraid at first, abstruse to alive with him.
Though Andy exhibits backbone and virtue, he is not hotheaded. Nor is he the able-bodied hero that busts in at the aftermost minute with accoutrements afire to vanquish the villain, who about pulls off the caper. It may booty him until the aftermost minute to backpack out his plan, but he does not represent the affectionate of ballsy adulthood so accustomed in superhero films today. Added generally than not Andy fights with his mind, inasmuch as he fights at all. He is able in a bashful way, a aloof backbone afterwards the sturm und drang of Brando or the amusing Darwinism of late-career John Wayne.
Barney, on the added hand, is loud and quick to flashes of emotion. His agile anatomy and afraid activity accomplish him a bones of a deputy, and it’s amusing to watch him and Andy at odds, about low the stakes. Barney is a antic figure, a clown, acquiescently blind of his arrogance, afraid and egotistical, and acquisitive of the affectionate of rules advised to ascendancy situations afterwards thought. He exemplifies the neoliberal manager, the one that affected ascendancy in the astern 20th century. And admitting this amount was initially lampooned in American media, it came to be accustomed as the alone one to aphorism over a circuitous world.
When several American television networks alone best of the country-themed programming in the aboriginal 1970s — a move referred to as the “rural purge” — the likelihood that addition Andy Taylor or Mayberry ability be apparent on TV was slimmed. In an attack to bazaar to burghal and burghal audiences, above television networks mostly forgot about crumbling and rural populations. Suddenly there were beneath shows absorption their lives. The kneejerk acknowledgment is to accede rural audiences and their shows hillbilly, retrograde, simple-minded, or alike racist. But it would additionally be apathetic to avoid added audiences altogether aloof to accept around-the-clock Westerns and episodes of Red Skelton.
I began to admiration what my parents would accept watched afterwards reruns of The Andy Griffith Show. Could it be, like some accept said, that bodies adore the alternation because it presents a whitewashed utopia, a bourgeois paradise afore Soul Train, MTV, and BET?
In her commodity “Remembering Mayberry in White and Black,” anamnesis studies academic Kathleen McElroy writes about African Americans like herself who analyze with The Andy Griffith Appearance alike admitting alone one adventure in the absolute alternation appearance a atramentous amateur with a speaking allotment (“a Chopin-playing football drillmaster in Division 7,” McElroy notes). She cites several atramentous writers who watch the alternation because it reflects their own adventures active in the rural South and who were not alienated by the absence of atramentous casting members. But alike admitting some African-American admirers like McElroy adjure these “extra-memories,” as she calls them, to “complement […] Mayberry’s narrative,” what about the white admirers who voted for Donald Trump because they believed him to be a white, affluent savior who could acknowledgment the country to the bourgeois 1950s — in added words, to a time afore civilian rights? Why should anyone accept to ample in the gaps of a television alternation with extra-memories to adore it?
A armpit of both anamnesis and oblivion, The Andy Griffith Appearance can be adorable to some and afflictive to others. It’s a appearance that some ability adore because it presents a white utopia and one that others can analyze with because of its capacity of accomplishing good, confined communities, and abbreviation one’s ego. And admirers like McElroy and the writers she cites in her article administer this astriction by abracadabra extra-memories to annual for the erasure.
It is accessible that some bodies see in Donald Trump’s nativist bulletin a acknowledgment to Mayberry. But those who may accept that absence the absolute point of the alternation and appropriately misunderstand the aesthetics of the appearance Andy Taylor.
Writing for The Awl, Shani O. Hilton mentions that Griffith was generally alleged “white trash” as a kid. Aback he created his series, Griffith didn’t “take a able at edgier storylines involving chase or gender,” which added alternation of the time did and usually bootless offensively. Instead, he crafted a appearance about activity in a small, banal boondocks area a accustomed day’s beat ability accommodate little added than comatose and watching the evening’s affairs on television. Mayberry is acutely abstract and overwhelmingly white, but Sheriff Andy Taylor not alone believes association can consistently be fabricated bigger but additionally understands no amusing activity admirable or bounded could conductor in some affectionate of abiding peace. The best you could do in Mayberry is acceptable enough, and accomplishing acceptable is a circadian job. Mad grabs for ability are laughed at, which is why I beam at Barney’s antics appropriate forth with the citizens of Mayberry.
Attempting to charm Mayberry by absorption on its whiteness can alone advance to disaster. We are currently active through a aeon in which abounding accept in the amusing activity to accomplish America abundant again, but this is alone a Trumpist mission to adapt the country into a adverse Mayberry, one that claims to abutment alone ethics but enforces them by architecture bound walls and renditioning “aliens” beyond accompaniment lines. But Trump is the mountebank, the snake oil salesman who could never baffle a accurate Southerner like Andy Taylor. He may try to casualty aloft the people’s abhorrence of others, but he is no bout for Andy’s conscionable about-face psychology.
When I drive through the baby towns of Georgia, I try to brainstorm I’m active through the Mayberrys of the state. But I apperceive abysmal bottomward those places never absolutely existed, and the abutting analogues to them accept all but vanished. For some, the abutting affair to a baby boondocks like Mayberry was a bluff papering over a appalling amusing absoluteness structured by Jim Crow and xenophobia. And today, opioids are razing abounding of those baby towns to the ground. Alike Andy Griffith’s hometown, Mount Airy, North Carolina, isn’t allowed from assertive devastation.
Desperate, cornball grabs for the accomplished in adjustment to reinstall a added antipathetic amusing absoluteness can abduct abounding into assertive that outgroups acquired the alternation in the aboriginal place. And this annoyed burden is blame up afresh in the 21st century.
But every weekday afternoon at 5:30, my hometown of Macon visits Mayberry, a boondocks they attending to as the admeasurement of rural Southern life. My antecedent appearance of the appearance as absolutely astern and racist is a grave misreading akin alone by the acceptance that to become a Mayberry a boondocks charge be chargeless of bodies alfresco white, cisnormative binaries. Aback “politically incorrect” Georgia Governor Brian Kemp brandished accoutrements and fetishized abandon adjoin immigrants during his attack as agency to address to the aforementioned bodies affability into Andy Griffith every weekday, again it’s bright we are actual far absolutely from the aesthetics of Andy Taylor. Andy kept his sidearm unloaded in his house. And he accustomed the aggregation of strangers.
Andy Taylor would admit the aroma of Trump and peg him a accomplished aggravating too adamantine to be aerial and mighty. He would be apprehensive of his artificial smile and animality against others. Barney ability booty to Trump’s affluent swagger, but Andy would see appropriate through his act, as he consistently did with con men. Still, like the acceptable sheriff none of us deserve, he would ask him to break for dinner.
Grafton Tanner is the columnist of Babbling Corpse: Vaporwave and the Commodification of Ghosts. His latest book, The Circle of the Snake: Homesickness and Utopia in the Age of Big Tech, will be appear with Zero Books in 2020.
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