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Gidget Goes to Washington?!

September 8, 2008

Ever watch the 1965 sitcom Gidget? No?

Oh, c’mon, admit it. When there was nothing else to do at 3 am in the morning [because you were abstaining from sex] you surfed the internet, hit the “100 top rated sitcoms,” and shazam there was Gidget, that irresistible, unflappable, perky teenager who knew more about life than just about anyone else, especially the writers in Hollywoodland who missed the fact that America was at war, poverty was systemic, and civil unrest was a series of fires raging across the South.

In February 1965 the year Gidget premiered on TV, President Johnson had just sent 3,500 Marines to Vietnam. By December 1965 there were 200,000 U.S. troops there fighting Charlie for Uncle Sam. For those not familiar with code talking and cliché, “Charlie” was the North Vietnamese.

In 1965 civil unrest was growing across America as the poverty levels were skyrocketing. Those who earned less than $3,000 a year were considered living in poverty. If you want a good contrast to watching Gidget, Google the 1965 Poverty in Rural America footage where a rural farmer talks about earning $3500.00 yearly, of which $3,000 must be plowed back into his farm. He and his family were literally surviving on $500.00 a year.

Yet in TVland’s Gidget, reality didn’t exist. Nor does it exist on television today, although some would argue that HBO’s new series True Blood can be read as reality TV. The plucky telepathic waitress played by Anna Paquin represents the America worker. The blood sucking vampires represent the Bush-Cheney-axis-of-evil all the while claiming they fight for injustice.

But I digress.

In the Gidget sitcom, there is a “professor-father” played by Don Porter, often a prop for scenes that show off Gidget’s quirky personality, and Anne Cooper, Gidget’s older sister, played by Betty Conner [who can forget Betty Conner]. Sadly, Anne had married the wrong man and her marriage is frequently the reason she’s at home with her Dad and Gidget, interfering in their lives. From a kind of twisted 3 am-in-the-morning perspective, you can see why I love Gidget. I mean, I like her. I really, really, like her. Watching Gidget this past summer was a wonderful distraction to the community organizing that my neighbors, Jacki Rand, Sandy Mayhue and I were involved in after the neighborhood shooting. [More about which previously here and here]. We formed the Westside Neighborhood Association to combat violence in our neighborhood in the small town of Ada, Oklahoma. So imagine my surprise when I learned that John McCain had chosen Gidget as his Republican vice presidential running mate. I near fell off my bar stool.

I know, I know, Sarah Palin isn’t Gidget, but she sure looks and acts like the 1965 TV character. Nothing gets her down. Period. Not rising U.S. unemployment rates, or Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae going down the tubes with 5.3 trillion in mortgages. . . that means investors who owned common stock in both companies will be wiped out, or the woes of disadvantaged children across America who have zero health care. I can just hear Gidget, I mean Palin saying, “Let them eat cake.”

But it’s no surprise why Americans were cheering for Gidget the night she rose to give her acceptance speech at the RNC. She’s just so darn adorable even though she’d investigated banning books as mayor of Wasilla, Alaska. The perky moose killer could be heard saying, “Who reads books anyway?”

For those who say I don’t care if Sarah Palin is against abortion “under any circumstances” including rape and incest and potential death to the mother. One could retort, “Let the 12-17-year-olds worry about that.” Besides everyone knows the vast number of women supporting Sarah Palin went through menopause decades ago. Sarah’s support base represents the1950s, and for insight into what that means pick up David Halberstam’s The Fifties to see how a conservative generation spawns future revolutions.

For those who say I don’t care that she didn’t really say “no thanks” to the $223 million dollar “Bridge to nowhere.” One could retort, “Details. Details.”

For those who say I don’t care that Sarah Palin as Governor of Alaska has consistently opposed fishing and hunting rights for Alaska Native peoples who want to practice their ancient customary and traditional practices. This should be argued in federal court and not part of the state’s governance. And what does Gidget know about indigenous rights? Nothing. For me, Sarah Palin isn’t just the incarnation of Gidget, she’s a throwback to white privilege of the 1960s era.

And just in case you missed the early re-runs I’ve listed a few episodes and their descriptions that began on September 15, 1965:

First episode: “Gidget falls in love with two things: surfing and her surf boy Jeff. Life’s swell until Gidget’s protective older sister Anne, reads her diary and assumes her highly imaginative confessions are true.” Hum. . . let’s see, what would Palin’s highly imaginative confessions be as Gidget? You decide.

Next: “Older man dates Gidget.” The program aired on September 29, 1965. I can’t bring myself to narrate the images for you. Just watch it.

And finally: “A hearse, a hearse, my Kingdom for a hearse” aired on October 20, 1965. Gidget buys a hearse. Why would Gidget need a hearse?

If you think all the world is make-believe, [according to pop culture expert Dustin Tahmahkera there are those who do] Gidget and her Dad are running for the highest office in the land against Homer Smith and Josiah Bartlet. On November 4, 2008 in the great American drama, the voters will decide who are the better actors to run our country. While I like Gidget, she’ll not get my vote. Neither will her dad. I’m voting for Homer Smith, the lead character from the 1963 film, Lilies of the Field , played by Sydney Portier. If you haven’t seen the film, it goes something like this. Smith, a black man, inadvertently stops at a farm in the Arizona desert to replenish his water supply. The farm is run by a group of East German immigrant nuns who escaped over the Berlin Wall to come to America. They believe that Homer Smith has been sent by God to help them build a chapel in the desert for the nearby townsfolk. Although Smith is from meager beginnings, he’s a heroic character, and one that just might make a great president.

Still I like Gidget, I really, really like her.

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