Like most people wandering the planet during the 1980s I use to watch the at times cheesy and occasionally groundbreaking Miami Vice.Cheesily groundbreaking… like the invention of macaroni and cheese!
I digress. Whoops!
Anyway, it was quite the big deal — staying up late with my dad on Friday night to catch the latest adventures of Crockett, Tubbs, and Edward James Olmos’s glowering moustache.
There’s been a lot of important study like thingies conducted by a lot of important scholarly people type thingies dealing with how media shapes the minds of impressionable rugrats. Speaking for myself I was an impressionable child growing up in a small town. My parents didn’t allow the glass teat to raise us but I did take a few lessons from it.
And everything Miami Vice taught me was complete bullshit!
LESSON I: Life Will Provide You With A Zany Sidekick
Outside of sheer absurdity, Vice would provide laughs by occasionally inserting the characters of Noogie Lamont and Izzy Moreno into various episodes. Hilarity always followed in their wake.
It never really hit me when I was a kid just how clichéd, stereotypical and even outright racist these two characters were (I didn’t even know what two of those three words meant and only had a vague understanding of the other one). I only use to think how nice it was that when things got heavy a moronic joker or maybe two would show up to help lighten the mood, even occasionally manage to help the good guys out with their bumbling antics.
The thing is that when you’re trying to dodge the heavy poo the monkey we call life decides to fling in your direction, the zany sidekick does not often show his face, and if one should, they actually can manage to make things worse. Especially when the sidekicks you tend to attract are less this guy
And more this guy
When the crap starts flying it becomes a shitstorm when guys like Walter show their face. All you can do is huddle under the bed in a quivering heap praying that the crazy does not achieve nuclear meltdown proportions
REVISED LESSON: Beware the sidekicks
LESSON II: A Well-dressed Man Will Go Far
I guess about ten million words have been written on the fashion of Vice — Armani suits that looked like a box of crayons exploded, hot cars, well-groomed hair. Those dudes knew how to dress and cruise in style at 3 am while jamming to Phil Collins (difficult to type that last bit and maintain a straight face.
My long years as a fashion victim started with Miami Vice, I suppose. I hit the age when kids start stressing about their look and kicked it into overdrive. By that time nobody else was Viced out, of course. I didn’t Vice either but it was in the back of my own beady little mind. Those guys were badass and hip and they did being badass and hip well. I wanted to be badass and hip and I wanted to do well. The correlation was made.
Over the years I managed to achieve various combinations of badass, hip and doing well. Over the years I also managed to fail spectacularly, be less than a badass, and unable to find hip in the dictionary. It’s hard to feel any of those ways when you’re sitting around with your thumb up your butt and egg on your face.
Look, there’s no talisman that’s going to make you a success in life— clothes or otherwise. There are a lot of failures out there who look simply FAH-BOO-LUS and they are still failures. Let’s not forget to mention the fact that how you look doesn’t make you a better person, or any of the other cynical and shallow tripe that society itself seems to push on you daily. It takes a little bit more to be productive than an Armani jacket.
REVISED LESSON: Clothes just mean you’re not nekkid
LESSON III: All Problems Can Be Solved By Beating The Shit Out Of Somebody
I was part of the generation of guys raised on John Rambo, Schwarzenegger one-liners and GI Joe action figures. I was raised swimming in an ocean of testosterone generated by red meat eating guys who hunted, drove pick-ups, and generally celebrated that they were manly men types in full bloom of their primal manliness. I guess some of that shit stuck.
I’ve never really bought the rap that watching violence will rewire you to be violent. As Fox Mulder said, “That’s just pseudoscience used to make political book.” I’d also add that some of that results from people needing a reason for everything even when there may not be an easy answer. When done properly, violence in the media and on television reflect uncomfortable truths about the world we live in. That being said, I do believe that certain things may reinforce certain attitudes.
On Miami Vice (and in other stuff I watched back then *even today*) the bad guys were dealt with pretty easily. A couple of kicks to the ass and a few bullets solved most of what ailed them. Hell, Crockett even threatened to feed federal agents and other bureaucratic types to his pet alligator for simply annoying him.
It was pretty simple: violence solves problems. That little philosophy exists in much of the stuff geared towards men — and no offense to my gender— too many of us are predisposed to believing it. There’s something else thats pretty simple: you reap what you sow. I’ve been knocking around long enough to assure you that old chestnut of wisdom just happens to be true.
Sure, there are people who deserve a good stomping and you probably know a few of them. Even if you could administer a swift dose of frontier justice (which didn’t even work on the frontier by the way) that doesn’t put paid to them. You are putting paid to your karma though. Eventually that bill will come back around and smack you up the side of your head.
Know something? It really hurts too.
REVISED LESSON:Peace and love is far out, man!
LESSON IV: Growing Up To Be A Brooding Noir Type Dude Is The Way To Go
I’ve had my share of such mornings.
I’ve had more than my share of such mornings.
Hindsight being 20/20, as hindsight often infuriatingly is, waking up with a killer hangover and a mouth tasting like a 6 day old used ashtray with absolutely no clue what transpired the night before was never cool. Without getting all public service announcement, I understand that many people live their lives that way and I existed that way for years.
James “Sonny” Crockett was the brooding, dark, neo-noir hero of Miami Vice. He had some good qualities as a character— mostly no nonsense, driven to right wrongs, defender of the helpless, and so on and so forth. He also wallowed in the bleakness created by a job that was essentially useless, the deaths and betrayals of friends and loved ones, and generally swam in a pool of bad habits — smoking, drinking, gambling and straight up whoring.
As a kid there was something gnawing inside of me that responded to this character and it was the same thing that responded to similar characters in movies and fiction. I’m not saying that I looked at Crockett and said “that’s who I wanna be when I grow up!” I am saying that he was a fictional role modal of sorts, not necessarily a healthy one.
There is a myth about being dark. You can get into it if you are the right type of person. The myth is that darkness equates depth. You are hip to the crappy realities of life, people suck and there is no future. It’s a good way to mask your own narcissistic and self-destructive behavior. Eventually you have to chuck the pretense, take a long cold look at yourself, and call yourself out on your own bullshit. It can be a difficult thing to do but not so hard if you develop the ability to laugh at your own absurdities.
Eventually you might even write a silly article on your blog and mock some of those absurdities for the sport of a bunch of strangers on the Interwebz.
REVISED LESSON: Grow up to be a boring yet productive citizen
OVERALL LESSON: Real life Is ultimately much better than anything you see on television