Blog: Confessions of a Community College Dean

On a fancy, over the weekend, TW and I watched the Walter Matthau/ Jack Lemmon form of The Odd Couple. I don’t mull I had met it since high school when it was on tv, though I recollected liking it. It was constructed in the late 1960 ’s.


Parts of it hold up well enough. Walter Matthau ever epitomized “schlumpy, ” though I thought he did a better racket of it as he got older. A few of the lines still wreak.( “What are the green sandwiches? ” “Either very new cheese or very old meat.”) The theme song is catchy, though not catchy enough to justify playing it as often as they did.

But the women references, to the extent that they existed, were just embarrassing. I don’t remember peculiarly noticing that when I watched it in high school. They were one step above props. Even may be required for comic exaggeration, either they didn’t speak at all( as in the’ metropole cafe’ scene) or they didn’t speak like actual human wives, like the sisters at the end. They were either scenery or very weak plot devices.

The contrast to the male reputations, who were allowed pathos and some level of noticeable humanity, was striking.

To be fair, when I watched it in high school, it was on tv, and I don’t remember if I drew it to the end or not. But whatever the above reasons, it didn’t register at the time.

It’s even worse when we try to show movies we liked from the 80 ’s to The Girl. I retain picturing those movies when they were new, or at least new to cable. She grew up perfectly in this century, and has an excellent eye for sexism and intolerance. The John Hughes and Mel Brooks movies that we recollect so lovingly glance awful to her discriminate nose. And she’s right.

In some ways, that’s a sign of real progress. Casual ethnic stereotyping( anyone retain the Black security guard at the end of National Lampoon’s Vacation ?) and sexism were so commonplace at that point that they progressed chiefly unnoticed.( In my restraint security, even then, I contemplated “the Donger” in Sixteen Candles was pretty awful .) Some of what legislated as unremarkable at the time is striking now. Many shifts for fairness and dignity have moved the culture goalposts; frankly, they needed moving.

As a kid, I’d sometimes stumble across old-time floors or movies and wonder why people at the time didn’t see how abhorrent they were. I’m old fairly now to know the answer.

In some ways, that’s thoroughly horrifying. I hate to think that I used to miss things that seem so obvious now.

But it’s also a hopeful signed. Forms of erasure that were once so commonplace as to be regular now come across as offending. That suggests that people who grew up in one era don’t have to remain there, culturally. It’s possible for beliefs about what’s regular to change so dramatically that re-watching old nonsense, and retaining how it struck you the first time, may seem like a punch in the gut.

I’ve mentioned that to The Girl, and even suggested that when she gets older, some of what strikes her as appropriate now may humble her then. In happening, I hope it does. That is an indication of both progress and learning.

One of the mannerisms I admired in my grandfather was that he never fell into the trap of reminiscing about “the good old days.” He lived through times that I merely learned as record, but he was clear-eyed about how much things had improved. He remained open to learning. That impres me as the right way to get older. He applied know-how to sharpen his BS meter, which is a great use of know-how. And it started beeping whenever people turned heavily to nostalgia.

Grandpa never got to meet The Girl, but I think he would therefore like her. She inherited his BS meter, but her frame of reference starts during the Obama years. The Reagan administration is as distant to her as the Eisenhower one was to me. She isn’t amazed by Ghostbusters or The Breakfast Club. She has already noticed that Hamilton doesn’t relatively overtakes the Bechdel test. For a high schooler, that’s not bad.

As a movie, The Odd Couple may seem like a relic. But as a ethnic barometer, it was singularly reassuring. I’ll take that.

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