Monday, November 14, 2011

Some of my best friends are monsters

I was watching America in Primetime earlier and saw the episode The Misfit. This is a very good series and you should try to watch it if you can, as it helps explain a lot of the things you might have grown up with.

While discussing it with Dan, we both got stuck talking about two particular groups of misfits--the Munsters and the Addams Family--and what they may or may not have represented.

This got kinda weird and academic.


The Munsters just want to fit in. They don't see themselves as unusual in any way (Marylin's "unattractiveness" being a running gag), and anyone who isn't like them is seen as a "poor dear", but they're genuinely nice people. They go to work and their kid goes to school, they play baseball, and they get involved with their community.

They also talk about the "old country". The Munsters are working-class (Herman builds coffins) and trying to build a better life for their son, Eddie.

However, they are still unusual. They will never be accepted by their community, no matter how hard they try to acclimate. They will never be fully integrated into American society, but they will make every effort to do so.

Still, as outsiders, as immigrants to this country, they want the American Dream for their kid. They're a subversion of the "Leave it to Beaver" family trope in this regard. They're kind, outgoing, and welcoming, but will always be "that monster family" on the block.

I can't argue this is an analog for the civil rights movement, but it hints at it in ways. For the sake of the argument, we can call the Munsters the "Martin Luther King Jr." version of monster rights. They don't want to stand out and should be judged on the content of the character and not the color of their skin (which was green, by the way).

The Addams family has no illusions about fitting in. None. They might have been weird, but that made them better than you. So there.

The Addams' were not working-class, but very wealthy. Gomez had made a killing on the stock-market (perhaps due to his ability to perform complicated calculations in his head) and frequent episodes involved someone trying to rip them off. Normalcy was pitied and mocked.

The Addams family wasn't nice the way the Munsters were, but they didn't need to. They didn't want anything from society, as they had everything they wanted. Hell, the kids were even home-schooled.

When they got involved in the local community, they made no effort to fit in. Going back to the Civil Rights analog, we could say these were more assertive, in-your-face, and in control of their culture.

What I think is kinda funny about both families is they lived in mansions. The Addams' had a manservant (Lurch); but, oddly enough, it was Herman Munster who had a title and breeding (5th Earl of Shroudshire). Dan and I both assume it was more title than property. Maybe Herman was a remittance man. He did fight in WW2.

When we were first discussing it, we thought The Addams Family came after The Munsters, as a response to the need to conform. It turns out they ran concurrently, so that blows that theory.

But what is interesting is both shows came out during a period of great change in the U.S.. Besides the Civil Rights movement, there was also the Woman's Rights movement, and the counter-culture (i.e.: hippies) was more in the public eye. I don't know if monsters are an easier way of tackling sticky subjects like the current political climate, but let me show you one last thing:

Make of that what you will.


Chris Sobieniak said...

I hear so many good things about that show too, have to watch it!

Unknown said...

You should've pointed out how Lily Munster was a working Mom, too. Lily even started her own business. Meanwhile, Morticia Addams didn't do any housework or work outside the home. What's up with that?

Anonymous said...

They're remaking "The Munsters", and by THEY I mean Hollyweird.

Someone help my feeble grey matter, but didn't it get a mid-1990s reboot which tanked in syndication?

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