AN ADULT FANTASY TO COMBAT MALAISE by Dennis Greene
I am a semi-grownup who admittedly escapes to imaginary worlds when confronted with the unpleasantries of life. When faced with Joe McCarthy and his “Red Scare,” the 1950’s polio epidemic, the fear of nuclear war, the assassinations of John F. Kennedy, Bobby Kennedy, and Martin Luther King, and finally the military draft and the devastating years of the Vietnam conflict, I sought refuge in Edgar Rice Burrough’s Barsoom, Tolkien’s Middle Earth, Herbert’s Arrakis, the futuristic universes of Asimov, Bradbury, Bester, Niven, et al, and the hopeful visions of TV’s Tom Corbet Space Cadets and Star Trek. All these fantasies helped me handle the passing of the 50’s during which I was fortunate to witness the birth of Rock and Roll, the transformative effect of television, the explosion of this country as a world leader in everything, and the beginning of the Civil Rights movement. I felt, back then, that I shared an unshakable optimism about my country with all my fellow Americans. I now know that my view of the 50’s was not shared by many women, blacks, ethnic minorities, gay men and lesbian women, and others who are still victims of poverty, discrimination, and indifference. But I was a lucky (and “privileged”) 16-year old white boy in New Bedford. What did I know?
Lately, the problems of America, and the world, seem so insurmountable that fleeing to my imaginary worlds no longer affords relief. Not that I don’t spend lots of time there anyway. Recently, I have been escaping the insipid and never-ending stream of depressing news by binge watching the many popular TV series that I had somehow missed. These included Star Trek Enterprise, Good Omens, Stranger Things, Endeavour, Eureka, Battlestar Galactica, West World, Witcher, Schittz Creek, Northern Exposure, Bosch, The Umbrella Academy, Altered Carbon, and even Tiger Joe. But none of them cut through my present case of the blues. Then one of my daughters mentioned West Wing. I had somehow missed all seven seasons from 1999 through 2006. It was a political drama which, at the time didn’t especially tickle my fancy. But, desperate for any distraction, I watched the first few episodes. Wow! I was hooked. I am now just beginning the sixth year of the seven-year run, and it keeps getting better.
When it originally aired, this idealized White House—populated with brilliant, dedicated, compassionate and quirky people working for the benefit of the country—was juxtaposed against the Bush administration and offered some fine theatre. But the contrast between the West Wing and the circus of moronic sycophants and their reigning imbecile who now occupy the White house is so vivid as to be almost blinding. If Sorkin had had the current administration as his starting point, who can imagine what he would have created? As is, West Wing is a wonderful fantasy in which to seek refuge.
There remains a little voice in my head which whispers, “Why can’t we actually find some people like President Bartlett, C. J. Cregg, and the rest to save the admirable but imperfect union that our founding fathers created?”
I am now going to watch Season 6, Episode 3.
Dennis spent five years as an engineer and then forty as a lawyer–and sixty as a pop culture geek and junkie. He saw “The Day the Earth Stood Still” in 1951 when he was seven and has been hooked on speculative fiction ever since.