Thursday Roundup: The Meaning of Andy

July 4th in St. John • Deconstructing Andy Griffith and the meaning of Mayberry • Drought in the Midwest • More on the Dilbit Disaster pipeline spill


AP deconstructs Mayberry: 

Griffith was a far more complicated figure than he appeared. As Sheriff Taylor, he effectively acted as a cultural interpreter for a fast-urbanizing nation reared on, and comforted by, Norman Rockwell imagery. Griffith’s take on a post-Eisenhower “Our Town” made him, to television, what Woody Guthrie had been to music two decades earlier — a popularizer who came from authentic country roots, polished it all up, then fed Americans back a more digestible version of rural culture. It was an approach that coincided with a musical folk revival in which rural songs were being popularized by mainstream musicians like never before.

During the run of “The Andy Griffith Show,” more rural and rural-urban sitcoms had emerged — broader, city-mouse-country-mouse affairs such as “The Beverly Hillbillies,” ‘’Petticoat Junction” and “Green Acres.” The market for rural-themed comedy in America had grown so glutted by the dawn of the 1970s that there was actually a “rural purge” in which the networks scrapped most of their country comedies as irrelevant and out of sync with the more urgent times. The Griffith show’s sequel, “Mayberry R.F.D.,” was one victim, cancelled after three years.

And, here, the New York Times’ Neil Genzlinger writes:

You could argue that the defining issue in the culture and political wars that dominate American life isn’t health care or big government or religion. It is whether small-town is smarter than urban, or vice versa……

Small-town mores are, of course, largely identified with Republicans these days, which shows you how good Mr. Griffith was as an actor: in real life he tended to support Democratic candidates, and he was once urged to run for the Senate against Jesse Helms. But never mind party allegiance; what would Andy Taylor have made of the deterioration in tone since he sat behind the sheriff’s desk in Mayberry?

Even the urban sophisticates who brushed up against Sheriff Taylor would have admitted that the fellow was always cordial and self-deprecating, never holier than thou. He knew he was smarter than they were, but he never let that register as a lack of respect. Andy Taylor, fundamental as he was, could never survive today as a character; he was too damn nice. Too bad.

And here is an editorial in the Boston Globe, under the headline, “Andy Griffith made rural values universal”: 

The town of Mayberry, N.C., offered millions of television viewers a vision of America in its perfect state — even as real-life Southern towns roiled with the turbulence of the civil rights era. Andy Griffith, who played the part of the wise Sheriff Taylor on “The Andy Griffith Show,” which ran from 1960 to 1968, was a warmly reassuring figure at a time when some folks in rural America may have needed a pushier role model.

But look a little closer and Griffith’s show, and its star, did more than attest to the goodness of small towns. Money and resources may not have been abundant in Mayberry. But a surfeit of friendship and trust more than compensated. Everyone from the mayor to the town drunk participated fully in the life of the town.

• The courthouse in Dayton, Tennessee, where the 1925 “monkey trial” took place has been restored. There is a Scopes Trial museum in the basement and on July 20-21 the town celebrates the anniversary of the trial. 

The Trial of the Century concerned science teacher John Scopes, who went on trial for teaching evolution in the public school. The trial was made into a movie in 1960. “Inherit The Wind” starred Spencer Tracy as attorney Clarence Darrow.

• The drought is widening in the Midwest. Especially hard hit is the territory where Illinois, Kentucky and Missouri join. Corn and soybean prices are rising on expectation that crop yields will be down.

• The federal government is seeking a $3.7 million penalty against the oil pipeline operator Enbridge Inc for the 2010 oil spill in Michigan that closed 36 miles of the Kalamazoo River for nearly two years. 

Elizabeth McGowan and Lisa Song have been covering this spill, which came from a pipeline carrying oil sands oil from Canada. See a story about the fine here, and then look on the page for the complete coverage. 

This would be a record fine for a pipeline spill. The largest parts of the fine are for failure to address corrosion in the pipe.

The spill dumped 1 million gallons of diluted bitumen, the tar sands oil from Canada. 

• Geoffrey Skelley, writing for Sabato’s Crystal Ball, sees Virginia as a microcosm of the country when it comes to the presidential election.

Democrats will try to win big in the cities, just as Republicans will try to run up the score in rural areas. They will fight it out in the suburbs and exurbs. 

Lots of maps and numbers here

• More proof that boomers are returning to rural communities: Developers are building million dollar homes in the country south of Des Moines.