On this day in 1953, a reported 72% households with televisions tuned into watch the I Love Lucy episode, Lucy Goes to the Hospital. It was one of those real life meets art things. Kind of. Lucy had given birth by cesarean section a few hours before the show aired. The show was actually shot two months earlier. I know if it happened today, it would be criticized for it obvious cynicism.
I’m deeply divided on the whole thing. On the one hand, social cohesion is important. It is good when a culture can share something positive like a fake birth on I Love Lucy. It seems the only time we are expected to come together now is when we go to war. On the other hand, it is really great that we can all enjoy the things that speak to us personally, without it having to be diluted to be widely appealing. According to Wikipedia “scripts for the episode were reviewed by a rabbi, a minister, and a priest in order to make sure it would not be offensive.” I love that they cared enough to not want to offend, but it seems excessive.
What’s strange to me, however, is that even with an endless range of entertainment choices, people still tend to gravitate toward the most vanilla “mass appeal” spectacles like American Idol. What’s with that? Are people by and large just that boring? I fear that they are. At the same time, I don’t want our cultural bonds to be based upon popular entertainment. This is why I think public education is important.
We should be bound together by our shared history — with absolute clarity of the good and the bad so that we don’t exclude anyone — most especially African Americans and native peoples. And we should be bound together by our responsibilities as citizens. There should be some notion of what it is to be a good citizen — and a bad one. But not only do we not have that, we don’t even have I Love Lucy — which was always a fragile reed to hang onto. But it was something.