RHETA GRIMSLEY JOHNSON: Silly sophomoric porn stands with stupid TV writing

By Rheta Grimsley Johnson

Andy Griffith is dead, and the medium at which he excelled, television, is today mostly an embarrassment. Or, as my wise and succinct friend Joyce Park put it recently: “We used to have ‘Father Knows Best.’ Now we have ‘Jackass.’’’
The writing is the difference, of course. Stupid reality shows like “Jackass” and “Pawn Stars” and “Jersey Shore” and “ The Real Housewives of Timbuktu” are cheap to produce and require no real writing. The audience doesn’t seem to know the difference.
Andy Griffith did a lot of his own writing for the simple, profound “The Andy Griffith Show” that was hilarious, heartwarming and never saccharin. The characters were family. We knew them well because the words they were given to say were always “in character,” and the actions they were directed to do made perfect sense. That was no accident. It was good writing.
I can watch Andy and his pals again and again, and the humor never seems dated or strained. The comic timing was perfect, and Andy Griffith wasn’t even scared of silence, the pregnant pause.
The acting was good, too, of course, but having seen Don Knotts, brilliant as Barney, on the later insipid show “Three’s Company,” I rest my case. Writing is of primary importance.
On good days, I think maybe the dearth of intelligent fare on television is the fault of the industry, of executives worried about the bottom line who substitute outrageous premise for writing.
On bad days, I decide the content is a reflection of the culture and not the other way around, that TV moguls are giving us exactly what the majority wants. They dumb down the shows because nobody watching television reads much anyway. They put it down where the hogs can get to it. There are some exceptions, of course, mostly on PBS and HBO. Not to mention, nobody’s forcing us to watch television. We can always read.
Which brings me to the latest books to make it to the apex of cultural recognition, No. 1 on The New York Times Bestseller list. “Fifty Shades of Grey,” the first of a steamy romance-on-steroids trilogy by E.L. James, a woman, has created the perfect storm of interest. It’s being passed both around the beauty shop and legitimate book clubs, a la “ The Help.” Suddenly, everyone’s reading it.
The usual suspects are calling for censorship of the book, its central theme being sadomasochism. I don’t agree with censoring any book, or any TV show for that matter, not for subject matter or stupidity, but I find the popularity of this one amazing. I will say its primary audience is interesting: young men and older women. I read enough of one book to determine that it is weak writing, silly, sophomoric porn, hardly worthy of the “deep” discussions about how it can enhance marriages or ruin them – take a side. The books are 50 shades of stupid.
Men will be amazed to know that their middle-age wives have been waiting all this time for a little bodice-ripping and torture in the bedroom. Or at least the tantalizing idea of some.
The movie, of course, is in the works.
It is a cultural tsunami. I can envision the television reality shows for next season, based on “Fifty Shades.” Somewhere sweet Aunt Bee is blushing, but, if you must know, satisfied and smiling.
Rheta Grimsley Johnson lives near Iuka. Contact her at Iuka, MS 38852.