Wednesday, July 16, 2014

* Certified penises only.

 including out-of-wedlock births  . . .
data indicate that 40.7 percent of all 2012 births
were out-of-wedlock . . ."

" I don't take orders from  a dead man's dirt."

I began attending my first college in 1964.  That was the year I stopped watching television.  The next year a new series premiered, The Big Valley "starring Miss Barbara Stanwyck as Victoria Barkley."

Fifty years, and four degrees later this June, 2014, I watched my first episode of The Big Valley on ME TV (My Entertainment Television; a kind of nostalgia channel of 1950's and 60's programs.)

 I was a half-century tardy.

I learned something from that episode : years before the Beatles and the musical Hair had sparked --or signaled -- the sexual revolution, adultery was busy being abolished by Barbara Stanwyck on The Big Valley .

In episode 1, Heath Barkley rides in to the Stockton Ranch in California looking for work as a ranch hand,  and is forced  into introducing himself  to his half brother Nick Barkley who  insists  on knowing Heath's origin after the obligatory  fistfight which men used like charging rams, to establish their superiority :"Just WHO are you?"  growls, Nick.  "I am your Daddy's bastard son." Heath snarls back ( skip to  2155 in video above)

Heath's father's wife (no relation to Heath), Victoria Barkley, overhears an politer elaboration of that birth origin conversation, from upstairs. 

Torn by the news of her deceased husband's infidelity and her new found loyalty to his previously unknown offspring, she makes this declaration-of-independence from the absurdity of a world twirling on the sacred  shibboleth of a scarlet letter, a declaration  which echoes down the sixties, seventies, eighties, nineties and into our twenty-first century where bastards are as common as babies: 

". . . if you were my son, I would say to you, 'Any son of  my husband has a right to be proud. So live as he would live, fight as he would fight.  And no one, no one, has the right to deny you your birthright.' " (video  3710 above)

No one has the right to deny your birth right.

Voila: The bastard is abolished, forever, in Puritanical America at least in celluloid America.

This reminds me that at that very 1965 moment, my mother was working as Assistant Registrar of Vital Statistics in the Hamden, Connecticut  Town Hall. 

One of her jobs was to provide citizens with a look at their original birth certificate before it was retyped in a copy, long before reproduction machines covered the world.

 My mother told me that occasionally with great embarrassment, she would be required to bring a certificate out of the vault and present it to its owner for viewing, a certificate  with an enormous red lettered word----"Bastard" ----stamped across  the document..

That is New England, 1965, Arthur Miller's adultery-obsessed New England of The Crucible and Death of a Salesman.

That same year my 45-year old neighbor, owner of a real-estate agency in Hamden, was arrested for being in a motel room with a man who was not her husband (he was my family's pediatrician however.)  A headline in the Bridgeport Herald read:  Hamden real
estate broker found in motel with local pediatrician. 

In 1949, sixteen years earlier, Willy Loman, in Death of a Salesman, tells his mistress in a Boston hotel room when someone is unremittingly knocking on the door, "Get in the bathroom. I think there's a law against it."

Indeed, there was a law against it: the cohabitation law.

It was against the law in New England to spend the night  in a hotel room with someone of the opposite sex who was not your spouse.

Just as Queen Elizabeth II in the stroke of a pen abolished primogeniture after its thousand - year phallocentric--and destructive --- reign in Europe, so too did another white haired regal woman---  Barbara Stanwyck--- abolish adultery after its dark and destructive reign over Puritan morality for centuries.

In a second episode of The Big Valley, a Stockton ranch-hand refuses to acknowledge Heath's legitimacy to give orders on the Stockton ranch, with these words, "I don't take orders from a dead man's dirt."

Today we are a lot  wiser as a culture because the white haired matriarch,  Victoria Barkley,   emancipated parishioners in the celluloid church of television from their scarlet chains  ---- the "dirt" of Nathaniel Hawthorne  and his European predecessors.

Over the next fifty years, the unchallenged reign of penises in the transfer of power and property would come to an end.

Apologies to the late Miss Stanwyck for my half century tardiness in recognizing her role not as an actress, but as a revolutionary. 

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