Monday, October 15, 2012

Pop Culture and the Desert of the Real

Longtime TV fixture Gary Collins pierced the veil and left this mortal coil at the age of 74. Collins' career is too long and twisting to detail here, but he entered the Secret Sun Hall of Fame when he starred (with Darren McGavin, no less) in the Solar foundational text Hangar 18 (which you read about in depth here), and was no stranger to other genre roles as well.

By far the most notable of these was The Sixth Sense, which by some dint of chance was not a Dan Curtis production. This show- about a parapsychological researcher- actually ran for two seasons in the early 70s, when such things were all the rage in pop culture.

It's hard for young people-- who've been so relentlessly mediated and catered to for the past three decades-- to understand how much of a relief shows like The Night Stalker or The Six Million Dollar Man or movies like Planet of the Apes or even Logan's Run were back in the 70s.

It's like this;  lukewarm water isn't appealing to most people in normal circumstances, but to a man trapped in a bleak wasteland, dying of thirst, it's a revelation from the gods.

And so it was for the occasional half-hearted stab that Hollywood took at sci-fi or superheroes in the 70s. After Star Wars it would all change forever, but for those of us trapped in that no man's land of oppressive blandness, any break from the routine was cause for celebration.

 "Mod Styled Hair"- is that the best they can do?
The latchkey generation of the 70s were keenly aware that everything was better for kids in the 50s and 60s, and the Internet has done a great job in preserving the crappy cartoons, TV shows and toys that aging schlockmeisters forced down our throats. Shows like The Sixth Sense or Night Gallery were designed for adults, which made them all the more appealing, even if they don't hold up in any objective way today.

It's very hard for me to nostalgic about a lot of things from the 70s. It was a lot like today-- an era marked by decline and diminished expectations. But there were glimmers of resistance, seeds that would sprout with punk rock and alt.comix and independent film.

My fear is that the avalanche of sheer product today makes such a second Renaissance unlikely. But no one expected any of it the first time around, so keep your ears to the ground. And support those people whose work you value; don't expect them to be around if you don't.


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  2. in an era in which we starve from excess, the light of the secret sun keeps us satiated.

  3. Mike Clelland at the
    "Hidden Experience" blog has written a nice post about Richard Matheson and his story/movie
    "The Stranger Within" starring Barbara Eden (I Dream of Jeannie);

    I think Richard Matheson's work is well worth looking into,as well.

  4. i figure the modern magic of marketing in general has gotten more effective with every decade, for better and for worse. cant imagine what kids raised on "halo" are going to value from childhood as worthwhile 3-4 decades out, maybe some hope in microculture, never seen any survive homogenization. no oases in sight.

    consistently great posts here.

  5. Chris, I had totally forgotten that I had seen Hangar 18 at some point in my youth. Both that and the sixth sense ring bells and the clips look very familiar. Thanks for brining those to mind. I was only 3 in 1972, so I'm assuming I saw them later, but even through my college years I found a lot of that old TV obscura stuff from the 70's fascinating. Always great posts here!

  6. Thanks for this... not so much the specific Gary Collins reference, but for pointing out that as thin as lots of the stuff we had in the 70's might seem today, it was essential for the mental health of folks like us. I've had a very odd, synchronious summer, involving "Tomb Of Dracula" comics and the "Saturday Night Fever" soundtrack, for instance (there's much more). My friends and wife are laughing at me, but nonetheless this stuff got me through the day when I was 11 years old, and thank the Goddess for it! You are tapped in to the greater cosmic currents, my friend, and it's good that someone like you is defending the "faith!" Thanks again.