Saturday, February 26, 2011

The Oaf Factor

For a forty-something guy like me who will be a fifty-something guy before too long, YouTube has been a godsend. Without it, countless memories of my past would be just that—memories—and most of them long forgotten. But now, by merely typing in a few key words, I can unearth a combative and very possibly drunk Norman Mailer on the Dick Cavett Show, a vintage McDonald’s commercial featuring the grisly Willard Scott as the original Ronald McDonald, and the Nanny and the Professor opening TV theme—a mother lode of rather amazing stuff that was, not very long ago, lost to us all. Calling on the Museum of Broadcasting and combing through their massive archives was really all we had at our disposal to possibly unearth a Schaefer beer commercial, or the Cesar Romero, Jack Palance, and Phil Rizzuto appearances on What’s My Line?

But wouldn’t you know it—there’s a downside to such ready access to a seemingly bottomless treasure trove of good stuff from days gone by. Oaf is the word…is the word…is the word. Yes…oaf. The oaf is omnipresent nowadays—in our virtual faces 24/7. The Internet in general, and social networking sites in particular, have empowered him and her as never before. Oafs sound off on Facebook with unrestrained abandon. They comment on YouTube videos, disliking all sorts of things—some in fact that they have little or no knowledge of. They weigh in on news stories big and small. They leave reviews on everything conceivable from movies to restaurants to boxes of cereal.

This diverse breed of oafs is frequently ignorant and often crass. But that’s why they are called oafs, I suppose. They are sometimes preposterously politically correct and ask in all seriousness if the Beverly Hillbillies sitcom's Clampett family was a racist brood because old granny brandished a Confederate flag and thought that Jefferson Davis was still her president. At other times they are downright boorish, moronic, and even a bit scary, believing that President Obama is an Afrikaner and card-carrying commy seeking to transform America into Amerika.

Oafs of all stripes have been furnished bona fide platforms in this Information Age of ours, and we had just better get used to it. There’s no putting this genie back in the bottle. Oafs—young and old—are here to stay.

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