Sunday, October 5, 2008

Has Anyone Seen June Cleaver?


From October, 1957 to June, 1963 America was given a weekly vignette of wholesome, moral, secure, balanced suburban family life in a television situation comedy entitled “Leave it to Beaver.” This was a 30 minute chronicle of the life of the family of Ward and June Cleaver and their two sons, twelve year old Wallace (Wally) and seven year old Theodore (The Beaver) Cleaver. (This was their ages when the show started in 1957).

Ward Cleaver was a successful businessman who worked in an office at something that is not quite clear to the audience; whatever it was it was lucrative: Ward’s income took care of himself and three other people in middleclass suburban style. They lived in a big suburban house, drove nice family size sedans, and dressed well.

June Cleaver was always impeccably dressed, her hair well coiffured, and her string of pearls always around her neck. June Cleaver was in pearls and high heels, and wearing a party dress or a cocktail frock, even when gardening or doing the dishes. It seems that June woke up with her hair in place, already outfitted and ready to go to a cocktail party or be the hostess of one.

June was also impeccably behaved. June never disagreed with Ward Cleaver, for as we had already been told for a while by another television show, “Father Knows Best.” Ward never got on June’s nerves. He never acted in any way except the most noble and the most exemplary actions. June was never frustrated with Ward. She never felt like cussing Ward. June Cleaver was so content with Ward that she was probably the first “Stepford wife.”

Not only did June Cleaver never have any problems, she also never had any answers or solutions. Why should she need them? She was married to Ward Cleaver who did all the thinking and came up with all the solutions to any problems that might arise. June never lost her temper.

For June Cleaver there were no problems anywhere,
or at least she did not talk about them when millions of Americans were hanging off her every word. No, there were no outside problems for June Cleaver because her world was Ward, Wally, and the Beaver. And there were no problems on Maple Street or Pine Street in Mapleton, USA.

In June Cleaver’s world there are no African-Americans, no Hispanics, no persons of Asian or Native American ancestry, no Moslems or Buddhists, no human beings whose sexual preference is not heterosexual, no persons who are physically or mentally challenged, and of course there are no poor people. June Cleaver never has to face challenges about abortion because there is no premarital sex in her “cookie cutter world.”

June Cleaver was never challenged by unemployment, job outsourcing, inflation, rebellious children, balancing home and careing for elderly and infirmed parents, personal healthcare bills that she is unsure how to pay, or any of the problems that face real woman in a real world, even in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s.

June Cleaver lived in an insulated world. June was on television for six seasons: from the Fall of 1957 to the late Spring of 1963. These were the years that served as the seed bed for the revolutions in thought and behavior that would change America, but you would never know it by listening to June Cleaver.

Between 1947 and 1961 Jonas Salk and Albert Sabin developed vaccines to eradicate polio. With her precious Beaver being in the target age-range for polio you’d think that June would be concerned about this medical miracle. June never mentioned the polio vaccine.

Three years before “Leave It to Beaver” went on television, the Supreme Court handed down its landmark Brown Vs. Board of Education decision against the Topeka, Kansas School Board, outlawing segregated schools in America. In six seasons on television, June Cleaver never once mentioned this historic decision.

About a year before “Leave It to Beaver” began its six year run Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Montgomery Improvement Association successfully broke the back of segregated public transportation in Montgomery, Alabama. June Cleaver never uttered a word about it.

In 1960 doctors and scientist seeking to give women control over their reproductive health introduced the “birth control pill.” This simple medical miracle revolutionized dating, sexual habits, and marriage in America and around the world. It was never mentioned by June Cleaver.

In 1960 John F. Kennedy became the first Catholic to become President of the United States. June Cleaver never noticed.

The question is “why?” The answer is that June Cleaver and the other characters of “Leave It to Beaver” are not real people. They are invented symbols of what some one wanted American life to be; they are not a reflection of what American life is or was, ever! June Cleaver and her family are “symbols” or better yet, “projections” of some one’s ideas of what America was in their minds or what America should be.

Joe Connelly and Bob Mosher, the two white men who originated and wrote the “Leave It to Beaver” program were also writers of both the radio and television versions of “Amos N’ Andy” (from 1943 to 1960). (“Amos ‘N Andy” was originated by two other white men, Freeman Gosden and Charles Correll in 1928).

Connelly and Mosher were doing the same thing with the scripts for both programs: selling a message of what life in America ought to be. They had a central message for both shows: “This is who we are.” The “Amos ‘N Andy” program reinforced stereotypical bigotry while “Leave it to Beaver” reinforced a message of prosperity and greatness.

It made no difference to Connelly and Mosher that both messages were untrue; it was a message that helped sell products and solidify a nation. In other words Connelly and Mosher were using the media to shape a national consciousness. By their portrayals of ideal personalities, they invited people to either accept these roles, at the least, or aspire to them, at the most. Millions of Americans did both.

June Cleaver said, “Things are good. Your husband is your refuge. Your children are well behaved. There are no problems inside or outside of your home.” This was only true on Maple Street or Pine Street in Mapleton, USA, a make-believe house on a make-believe street in a make-believe town. In the real America people were catching hell everywhere. (During the six year run of the show, the Cleavers lived on Maple St. and Pine St.)

Sarah Palin is June Cleaver all over again. She tells us that all of America lives in Mapleton, and we are all married to Ward Cleaver. In her world there are no problems that a smile and wink can’t change. “There have been some mistakes with this war and with this administration,” says Palin during the debate, “as with all administrations,” never once admitting that the war in Iraq was wrong to begin with and that this administration has been eight long years of bumble and stumble, always going from bad to worse.

Sarah Palin, a.k.a., June Cleaver,
wants the world to believe that all is well with Ward, Wally, and the Beaver. This is not true. Mapleton does not exist, not even in Wasilla, Alaska, a place more than two thousand miles from main stream America. Ward is a drunk, and June Cleaver has no idea what her children are doing or with whom they are doing it.

Sarah Palin and June Cleaver are a marketing package. Those who made the package have little or no concern for the content, because there is no content. The package is empty, but it makes no difference as long as it is pretty and makes people feel good. It’s the package that is being sold, not the content. People look at the package, the outer wrapping that is June Cleaver and Sarah Palin, and identify with them, want to be them or to be like them, not knowing that what they are seeing really doesn’t exist. Even the package is make-believe.

There is no June Cleaver. Connelly and Mosher made her up just like the Republican handlers made up Sarah Palin on Thursday night. Palin was as much make believe at the debate on Thursday night as June Cleaver was in her high hills and pearls doing her gardening. Any serious candidate for a national office would know at least one landmark Supreme Court case.

I see June Cleaver every time some slick politician tries to sway my vote by zeroing in on a candidate’s religion, church, or its leader, or sell a package that says “Iraq has weapons of mass destruction,” or tries to convince me that his screw-ups are really “a mission accomplished.”

I see June Cleaver every time I see someone inaugurated to high public office who is not qualified to be county dog catcher, and who won the office because his/her team of magicians were able to distract voters long enough to pull a rabbit out of the hat.

I see June Cleaver every time some “nickel slick, shinny dime” high priced Madison Avenue political advertising machine picks up someone who is as dumb as a box of rocks, stuffs them full of irrelevant facts and figures, and trots them out like a show horse before adoring fans.

It seems to me that the mess that has inundated this nation as a result of eight years of George Bush’s “June Cleaver-like leadership” would be enough to break America from this silly notion that “the person in the office doesn’t matter as long as he/she has the right ideology and the right people around him/her.

It does matter, stupid! June Cleaver doesn’t have enough sense to change from a cocktail frock and heels, into slacks and sneakers when she is doing her gardening. How do you think she can run a nation?

Has anyone seen June Cleaver? No! Even the people who thought they saw her were only seeing the “make-believe.”

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2 Comments:

Blogger Don Burch said...

Clay- This post is astounding, thank you for writing it! While June and Palin are alike because they are both fake, June wasn't arrogant or hostile, just naive.

Don Burch

April 7, 2010 at 4:20 PM  
Blogger Don Burch said...

Clay- This post is astounding, THANK YOU for writing it! June and Palin are similar in that they are both fakes there is one difference, June wasn't arrogant or mean-hearted, just naive.

Don Burch

April 7, 2010 at 4:20 PM  

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