Friday, March 9, 2012

The Three Stooges in the New Age

As a boy, I recall watching The Three Stooges on local station WPIX, Channel 11. A genial host by the name of Officer Joe Bolton would introduce the shorts. Festooned in a police uniform, this affable authority figure would always tell us the stooges were only acting, and that we should definitely not poke our family and friends in the eyes or whack them over the head with hammers. I suppose there were a small percentage of kids who mimicked the stooges and slapped their peers’ faces with unrestrained force and blow-torched their backsides. The vast majority of us, though, knew it wasn’t real. Even at the tender young ages of six, seven, and eight, we had no problem distinguishing fantasy from reality.

A grammar school friend of mine had parents who wouldn't under any circumstances allow him to watch The Three Stooges. They thought Moe, Larry, and Curley (and later Shemp and Joe Besser) celebrated violence and encouraged bullying. In other words, The Three Stooges set a very poor example. My friend’s parents were—for lack of a better word—“progressives” at a time and in a neighborhood when that sort of thing was the exception to the rule. I’m not here to pass judgment on their parenting skills—one way or the other—almost forty years later. A case certainly could be made that The Three Stooges were definitely more suited for maturer audiences than second, third, and fourth graders.

When I watch The Three Stooges all these years later, I see them in a decidedly different light—a new light in fact. They are, really and truly, New Age. True, they aren’t for children in the new millennium—where fantasy and reality have become so blurred that even a contemporary Officer Joe Bolton couldn’t save the day. The Three Stooges nonetheless teach us so many things. We can live vicariously through Moe, Larry, and Curley. We don’t need to ever express our anger and frustrations with aggressive and callous acts when we have the stooges, who can do it for us. The Three Stooges are, I think, the quintessential New Age therapy, and we owe Moe, Larry, and Curley (and Shemp and Joe Besser, too) a monumental debt of gratitude.

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