The Good Ol’ Days of Slapstick


I grew up watching the 3 Stooges, Popeye, and Bugs Bunny most Saturday mornings. Fridays, I gamely tried to stay up for ‘Fright-Night’ on ABC’s Buffalo affiliate Channel 7; but rarely did I manage to keep awake past the late show’s opening credits. J

I did outgrow these things; truth be told, I became a teenager; the excitement of rising with the Sun and keeping early Saturday-morning vigil with the ‘Indian’-head test pattern  was replaced with sleeping in until noon J.

All of these shows used ‘slapstick’ comedy to elicit laughter: slaps, punches, pokes in the eye, knocks on the head, hair-pulling – remember those handfuls Moe used to routinely obtain from Larry’s head? Only this morning I watched an episode where Moe clobbers Larry on the ol’ pate –hard -even for slapstick; Larry moans in pain for a few moments,  then says: “Okay fellas. Let’s stop all this clowning around. We’ve got work to do…” Slapstick relies on us viewers to ‘suspend our imaginations’ -to forget these things actually hurt –so that we can be amused by them. We know repeated blows to the head can lead to permanent brain damage; but in slapstick, none of the characters are ever traumatized past the point of ‘ouch.’ The victims are fully recovered in time for the next scene, and so they are never really victims…

As for the horror films: I did, on rare occasion, manage to stay up well into the Friday night spook – but please don’t tell my mom J. Unlike in slapstick, characters appearing in horror movies were being killed, not just receiving a knock on the head; but in the Hollywood offerings of 50+ years ago, people were mostly being killed by monsters – things I already knew were, à la cartoons, the stuff of imagination and not at all real. People didn’t do that to each other in real life; monsters did that to people on tv. I would therefore suspend my imagination gleefully just for the fun of being scared; but I don’t recall being shown the coup de gras, when it was delivered, all that often –it was almost always accomplished off-camera – leaving the details – save for the outcome J – to the imagination of the viewer; however, when it was done on camera, you didn’t see gushing blood or heads  being pulled off of their shoulders; you didn’t get a cheap human anatomy lesson. Those things belong to the creative toolsets of highly unimaginative movie makers.

In the earlier days of Hollywood, greats like Alfred Hitchcock developed all kinds of imaginative techniques to enhance our viewing experience; his objective was to trigger the imagination of the viewer, forge a personal connection between the story and the viewer – to facilitate engagement. Watch a movie from the ‘30s, ‘40s, ‘50s, ‘60s – compare the output from those decades with the modern cinematic versions of horror and war. There is little left to the imagination these days, in all too many cases. But in others, you can see the legacy left by the greats of nascent Hollywood has not been wasted. We need more art, even at the cost of a little less profit; because art is the highest expression of the creativity of the human spirit, and the penultimate level of human achievement in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.

The Saturday morning offerings of my childhood were replaced, over the years, with animated shows which were sanitized for violence in every form. The rationale behind this was the notion that kids mimic what they see.

Mine was the last generation where ‘spanking’ and the ‘strap’ was okay – even our grade one teacher occasionally had us line up to receive a tap with the strap on the nethers -one so light we couldn’t feel it; but you didn’t know that until it was your turn; after that you walked back to your desk with a wtf? that didn’t hurt at all! –look on your face. J Very likely our dear grade one teacher  was herself a student, and a very attentive one at that, of Alfred Hitchcock -for á la the greatest cinematic suspense director of all time, she achieved her objective – if you had known the precocity of us 6-year-olds, her successes were miraculous on the order of the parting of the Red Sea J -without a full blown frontal assault on our young imaginations. Miss P did not ignore our imaginations; she used them to obtain her objective, knowing that we would motivate ourselves. Ah, no miracle here after all. JFor us kids, the threat of violence was quite enough, and artfully accomplished; thank-you very much. J

We the class of 1960 had eventually put away our pea-shooters, spit-balls and stink-bombs. The next cohort of teenagers, having graduated from this ‘new age’ Saturday morning curriculum of sanitized cartoons – these being the ‘creations’ of modern society’s patently unimaginative and unresourceful social engineers  –  was producing young souls prepared to use knives and guns to settle disputes with their classmates – but hey, social engineers, mission accomplished! You did get kids to stop using peashooters and stink-bombs…

Children of today are having to make decisions long before life experience and family socialization[i] has the opportunity to adequately prepare them for the life-changing consequences of their choices. When your weapons are no longer spitballs, these choices are often game-changers with no option to restart the level you are on, should you choose badly.

We adults receive daily exposure to violence of the most heinous kinds; more graphically presented than ever before –leaving nothing to the imagination[ii] – there is a television monitor playing 24-hour news wherever and whenever people(including little kids) gather and wait for something – a doctor’s appointment or subway train, say.

The evolution of our media, both the information and entertainment brands, are a reflection of society’s values and objectives; these being properly defined by the people and managed on their behalf by society’s leaders; among whom our social engineers are included. Giving them the benefit of the doubt: they were thinking to censor the violence of slapstick as part of a broader social initiative to exorcise violence from the toolset of human social interaction. The social engineers who chose this particular route could not discern their arses from a hole-in-the-ground; for if they could, they would not have sanitized kids shows and cartoons for violence of the slapstick variety, leaving kids with nothing to mimic.  After all, most of what we learn as children, we learn by mimicking  people who are older – from the time you are born until school age, you will learn many life lessons from mom and dad– and even from your older sister. You will learn values from parents; from your big sister you learn something that will save your life every now and then: to wit: never aggravate someone who is bigger and meaner than you are just for the fun of it, because that kind of fun is going to earn you a whack with a shovel on the top of the head J. Some of what we are mimicking are the tools we need to get us through life; most especially in the area of conflict management. Nowadays, some kids, because of the exposure they receive to the brand of violence on the news and internet, are mimicking those examples. The opportunity to learn from this sort of ‘life experiment’/mistake does not exist; neither for the perpetrator or for the victim. But hey, we no longer have to worry about peashooters and stink bombs.[iii]

All energies toxic to the human spirit, we need to vent -among these: anger, frustration, impatience, jealousy, fear, sadness; some kinds are best vented by exercising; others by crying or talking or keeping a journal, say. The modern phenomenon of substituting lengthy talk-tos for corporeal violence is interfering with the system Nature provided us for to properly manage toxic spiritual/emotional waste, our own and other peoples.’ Our current mode of conflict management accomplishes little of lasting value; perhaps even takes things the other way; further entrenching, rather than resolving, conflict.

During my tenures in public school, high-school, and university, I never saw anyone use anything but their fists in a fight. The dirty fighters might also kick or gang up if their guy was getting the worst of it – but nobody would tolerate that. With few exceptions, the kids on recess would only gather to watch; and no one else interfered except for to end the proceedings. And in those days, nobody, but nobody, hit a girl.

Just look at where we are only one generation later:

…some kids have put away their pea-shooters and pulled out handguns.

…women are often being beaten, violated, and murdered by the males of their species. BY THE MALES OF THEIR SPECIES. The perpetrators flatly deny the charge our creator places on every male of every species: to protect the female and her offspring from harm; to function as ward for the ‘queen bee’ who is the family’s  leader, as Nature intended[iv] – and to whom god has given the charge of being the life-bearer – at least, this was how the Native folk singer in Red Rock put it during an intro to one of her songs. I cried when she said this because its truth resonated in my soul.  I prayed that my three daughters, the youngest of whom happened to be sitting on my lap and enjoying the folk music, would meet such a man when they grew up and were ready to begin families of their own. From the species’ point of view, what can any male of the species possibly do which is of more importance to the species or is able to promote his life to greater value?

Where we are today is the other side of the world from where my generation grew up. Judging by the results, the social initiatives our ‘engineers’ imagined were ill-conceived and ill- applied. Has their objective in any way been achieved? We are further from the non-violent society nowadays, than ever before. And it is because we insist on acting in defiance of our own natures.

Very fortunately, only humans are affected, since no other species created by god has ever found it necessary to revise its modus operandi from the way the creator imagined it.

Our behaviour today is most unnatural. Our young people increasingly resort to guns, knives, and cyber-bullying to vent their post-pubescent angst. You could be just as likely to show up at the hospital, if not the morgue,  after a fight at recess as at home with your jeans scuffed and a bleeding nose.

These days you could end up dead or missing after going out on a date; or have your date shame you on the internet.[v]

We need to take a few steps back, social-engineering-wise, and try to fix some of these things. What kids and adults are able to see on television, the internet, and public transportation is a good place to start. We need to revisit our societal vision, and by extension, that of global society; and we need to be ever vigilant that our social engineers are taking up the initiatives that will lead us towards Canadian and global society’s goals.

[i] Family socialization, a process which is integral to the production of cohesive societies because it provides the skills we need to form lasting relationships, is also under attack by society’s social engineers and going the way of the dodo with the child’s imagination and human creativity for company – all thanks to modern social engineering. Maybe these people would consider doing less social engineering and spending more time with their families; and allow society to ‘engineer itself.’ We couldn’t end up any worse off, could we?

[ii] What do social engineers have against imagination anyways? Ps: think about the answer to this question….send an email with your answer to admin or contact email on this site with your thoughts on this subject. Hint: my answer has something to do with ego J

[iii] I have to observe that Trump and Putin and Un talk about tossing nukes at one another the way we shot spitballs and peas. Does anyone not think the world would  be a whole lot better today if these three world ‘leaders’ had learned from Curly, Larry and Moe?

[iv] Not the male; who is the family’s protector.

[v] Whatever is said or shown about you by these types, the real reason they attack you is because you make them feel bad; because you get better grades than they do, are more bookish than they are, use bigger words than they can… or maybe it is because you are not the type of ignoramus who derives pleasure from tearing down people who are softer-natured and exactly the kind of person our creator had hoped we would all be like…instead some of these kind young souls end up taking their own lives because of individuals who are trying to offload their own personal shame upon somebody else…