Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Andy Griffith and the Two Sides of American Democracy

Andy Griffith died this morning. He was a fine actor, a man who came out of an era and with an approach--a subtly (or not no subtly) stylized kind of faux-authenticity; think Marlon Brando or James Dean--that is, for better or worse, mostly absent from film and television performers today. The fact that he was from the backwoods of North Carolina--and milked his intuitive knowledge of how the rural poor are presumed to think, speak, and act by metropolitan elites throughout his career--didn't hurt him either. Through television and film, he managed to etch character moments which, frankly, absolutely nailed both sides of American democracy as it moved out of 19th-century presumptions and into the big corporate, big media, big government world of the 20th-century. On the one hand, there is the presumption that American citizens will be responsible, and will resist the temptation to abuse the rules, when they wield the democratic power to govern themselves:

And on the other hand, there is sinking realization that, often enough, American citizens will rapidly run into the hands of anyone who uses the power of the media, the economy, or the government to promise them entertainment, distraction, and profit, just so long as it means they don't have to think for themselves:

RIP, Andy. Wish I could believe that we saw more of the former around us than the latter.

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