Grok My Enthusiasm (40)

By: James Hannaham
October 12, 2016

One in a weekly series of enthusiastic posts contributed by HILOBROW friends and regulars.

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Barbara
Barbara

“It’s a little late for tears, isn’t it Barbara?” asks the merciless Unseen Voiceover Lady who narrates Habit Patterns, a 1954 behavioral corrective film from McGraw-Hill’s Psychology For Living Series.

The sloppy high school student in question stands in her bedroom weeping because she has failed to connect with the popular girls at an after-school gathering. Unseen Voiceover Lady then takes Barbara back in time, Ghost of Christmas Past-style, on a trip through the day’s missteps, her snarky harangue upbraiding poor Barbara for such things as lateness, forgetfulness, covering a huge stain on her sweater with a scarf, not reading popular books, and failing to hang her clothes up at night in order to “rest the fabric.” If only this fatally disorganized teen could change her habit patterns, all of her flaws would disappear! Her next-door neighbor, Helen, has her shit together. She’s resting the fabric every night! What’s wrong with you, Barbara?

The utter seriousness with which pre-Women’s Lib doctrines delivered such silliness turns this auditorium fare into high camp, although it’s hard to imagine the rebellious teens of the ’50s taking it to heart either, once they’d heard Little Richard for the first time. What we notice now is our sympathy for Barbara — we’re appalled by the ridiculous subtlety of the elite white girls oppressing her with a turn of phrase or a gesture, worrying that concerts will be “too long-haired” and deadpanning their disapproval of Barbara’s vacation plans — “Sounds grand” — while Unseen Voiceover Lady clarifies the girls’ repressed contempt even as she projects it onto Barbara. (As an added bonus for 2016, the actress playing Barbara bears a strong resemblance to a young Hillary Clinton.) Like a punishment, the awkward kid must repeat the habits “accepted by society,” says UVL, “Again and again, until they fit into the fabric of the days without conscious thought.”

Since 1954, the questioning of such traditional (that is to say, sexist) values has made Barbaras of us all; we may soon have a President Barbara. So who’s crying now?

Young Hillary Clinton
Young Hillary Clinton

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GROK MY ENTHUSIASM: Rob Wringham on THE THEORY AND PRACTICE OF LUNCH | Gordon Dahlquist on WEEKEND | Joe Alterio on MILLION YEAR PICNIC | Adrienne Crew on LA BARONNE EMILE D’ERLANGER | Josh Glenn on THE SURVIVAL SAMPLER | Alix Lambert on THE SKIES BELONG TO US | Adam McGovern on PENELOPE and CHAVEZ RAVINE | Rob Wringham on THE LYKE WAKE WALK | Mark Kingwell on NORTH STAR SNEAKERS & GWG JEANS | Gordon Dahlquist on FELLINI SATYRICON | Erik Davis on AH! | Devin McKinney on WHISPERING AFRAID | Mimi Lipson on 1973 SEARS ROEBUCK CATALOG | Jessamyn West on MOSS | Josh Glenn on THE SCOUT HOW BOOK | Brian Berger on SLACKER | Alix Lambert on ABSOLUTE BEGINNERS | Chelsey Johnson on MONOTREMES | Devin McKinney on THE BUTCHER COVER | Flourish Klink on ONE DIRECTION | Gordon Dahlquist on FULL METAL JACKET | Allegra Huston on CLOTHESLINE | Jenny Davidson on POWERLIFTING | Evan Narcisse on REZ | Deborah Wassertzug on VEGETARIAN MEATBALLS | Chris Spurgeon on WALLACE AND GROMIT | Mandy Keifetz on BENEFICIAL MICROBES | Annie Nocenti on MARKS ON WALLS | Molly Sauter on THE GREAT BRITISH BAKE OFF | William Nericcio on LAND OF THE LOST | Dan Fox on “VOICE OF GOD” RADIO DJS | Brandi Brown on WIKIPEDIA TALK | Claire Lehmann on THE APPARATUS REVEAL | Alice Boone on COSTUME JEWELRY | Colin Dickey on WIDESPREAD PANIC | Anshuman Iddamsetty on THE FULL BODY PROJECT | John Hilgart on MAKING GRATEFUL DEAD ALBUMS | Rob Wringham on STEVEN UNIVERSE | John Overholt on DECKLE EDGES | James Hannaham on HABIT PATTERNS | Jessamyn West on THE PUBLIC LIBRARY SYSTEM | Adam McGovern on THE SPACE GIANTS | Brian Berger on MEDIUM COOL | Chris Spurgeon on THE DUNNING-KRUGER EFFECT | Joe Alterio on TABLETOP WARGAMING | Mimi Lipson on TRASH PICKING | Jason Grote on CZECH CINEMA | Roxane Gay on AUTOMATED CAR WASH | Dan Fox on JULIA DAVIS | Amy Thielen on BINGO | Steph Burt on FEIJOA.

MORE ENTHUSIASM at HILOBROW

#SQUADGOALS (2017 weekly): THE WILD BUNCH | BOWIE’S BAND | THE BLOOMSBURY GROUP | THE HONG KONG CAVALIERS | VI ÄR BÄST & dozens of other squads | GROK MY ENTHUSIASM (2016 weekly): THE THEORY AND PRACTICE OF LUNCH | WEEKEND | MILLION YEAR PICNIC | LA BARONNE EMILE D’ERLANGER | THE SURVIVAL SAMPLER | & dozens more one-off enthusiasms. QUIRK YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2016): “Tainted Love” | “Metal” | “Frankie Teardrop” | “Savoir Faire” | “Broken English” | & 20 other new wave songs. CROM YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2015): DARKER THAN YOU THINK | THE SWORD IN THE STONE | OUT OF THE SILENT PLANET | THIEVES’ HOUSE | QUEEN OF THE BLACK COAST | & 20 other fantasy novels from 1934–43. KERN YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2014): ALDINE ITALIC | DATA 70 | TORONTO SUBWAY | JOHNSTON’S “HAMLET” | TODD KLONE | & 20 other typefaces. HERC YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2013): “Spoonin’ Rap” | “Rapper’s Delight” | “Rappin’ Blow” | “The Incredible Fulk” | “The Adventures of Super Rhyme” | & 20 other old-school hip-hop songs. KIRK YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2012): Justice or vengeance? | Kirk teaches his drill thrall to kiss | “KHAAAAAN!” | “No kill I” | Kirk browbeats NOMAD | & 20 other Captain Kirk scenes. KIRB YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2011): THE ETERNALS | BLACK MAGIC | DEMON | OMAC | CAPTAIN AMERICA | & 20 other Jack Kirby panels.

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