Thursday, October 28, 2004

Sometimes the Chiffon's too Crinkly

My boss's race-car-owner husband, Bill who is also our CFO, skulked into the office yesterday to ask if I knew where we kept the samples of "crinkly sheers" (he was on a mission for his wife). He seemed a little embarrassed to be asking such a fey question, so I took the opportunity to point out that when he said "crinkly sheers" he sounded just like Paul Lynde from Bewitched. He shot me a beer-can crushing glance and went to look for the sheers, which he found all by himself. On his way out, he stopped and said in his most serious tone, "I think Paul Lynde was FABULOUS." Though Bill is Republican, he, thankfully, is not homophobic. Despite his chrome-loving persona, I think he actually enjoys handling the occasional soft good, and I applaud him for it.

I agree with his estimation of Paul Lynde. Somewhere in my childhood memory he was asked why Hell's Angels wear leather. His response was, "chiffon is too crinkly" (or something like that, hence the earlier memory jog).

Thinking of Bewitched reminded how much I identified with that show as a kid. I find it remarkably relevant even today.

You know the plot. Darrin (high strung or just uptight depending on which Dick was cast) is a mortal who falls in love with Samantha, a high-born witch trying to adjust to suburban life by pretending to be someone she isn't. Samantha's mother Endora, by far the most worldly and best-dressed (caftan anyone?) character tries to respect her daughter's choices but refuses to let her cave to what she sees as the provincial and unnecessary expectations of the mortal world.

Endora and the rest of Samantha's relatives, including Lynde's Uncle Arthur, conjure spells that have effects on humans (usually Darrin) as absurd as the unforgiving yoke of mortal behavioral codes Samantha is required to wear.

Formulaic fun or cultural comment? How about both? The show is, among other things, about repression. Darrin is a metaphor for loving but ignorant humans, while Samantha stands in for marginalized populations (people of color, women, glbt people). They love and are committed to each other, but Darrin has a hard time accepting Samantha for who she is while Samantha has to work to understand the world Darrin comes from (Darrin has the longer row to how evidently). Endora and Sam's other relatives (an earlier generation of gay culture?) subvert the norm as a coping mechanism for surviving in a world where they are feared and, historically at least, killed if discovered. It is no wonder that practical joking Uncle Arthur is Sam's "favorite uncle." Humor is the most valuable subversive tool there is.

Gladys Kravitz, the deliciously nosy neighbor, represents the least tolerant of people, the most fearful and the most committed to catching Samantha screwing-up, which for Sam usually happens when she is trying to hide someone or something connected to her real identity. Gladys's anxieties about what she doesn't know causes her cerebral cortex to short circuit and her unnecessary moral outrage produces trouble for everyone. Abner, her disconnected husband couldn't care less what Samantha does or doesn't do. He stays pleasently removed from everything, minds his own business and tries in vain to get his bored wife to do the same. His dismissive attitude may give us a clue about why she is so frustrated. Ms. Kravitz herself seems to be trapped in the small world of Morning Glory Circle. Perhaps her attempts to peer into Samantha's life are misplaced desires to escape her own.


Blogger littlepage said...

You really are a good writer, Troy. You ought to try for publication in a zine someday...

I like your interpretation of Bewitched. I loved the show growing up, too, and now understand why I may have identified with it...

6:23 PM  
Blogger Troy said...

Thanks for the compliment lp. I don't know that I'm disciplined enough for zine writing. Besides, who would ever let me write about 60s fantasy sitcoms? (smile)

8:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I will never forget Paul Lynde on Hollywood Squares, long after Bewitched had gone off the air. The question was: "What two words in the English language are hardest to say?" Paul Lynde's answer? "Grandma's dead." I giggled about that for weeks. I'm sorry.

Can we talk about the Rockford files next? - Kris

7:09 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home