Thursday, October 31, 2013

Yes, that does sort of sum it up

If it isn't the annual picture of the local Ghost Whisperer doing his/her thing for the Oct. 31 frontpage, it's some other -- well, let's be kind and just say "some other story about the archetypal behavior of fictional beings in human form, meant as a symbolic reminder of social/behavioral norms." For such, I think, is this tale, which made it to the No. 4 spot at the Fair 'n' Balanced Network on Wednesday morning:

Imagine going trick-or-treating for candy this Halloween and getting a critical letter in your candy bag. 

That’s what* may be happening to some kids in North Dakota this year. One woman called into** the Y94 radio station in Fargo this week to say she doesn’t plan to just give Halloween candy to all of the children who come to her door.

It's not just a Fox culture war story (no Kenyans picking on beleaguered white Christian men, for example). Here's the version at USA Today, (which also went so far as to quote a psychology prof):

A Fargo, N.D., woman says she will give trick-or-treaters that she deems 'moderately obese' a letter instead of candy this Halloween.

"I just want to send a message to the parents of kids that are really overweight... I think it's just really irresponsible of parents to send them out looking for free candy just 'cause all the other kids are doing it," the woman said in a morning radio interview with Y-24.*** She wouldn't identify herself. 

OK. Before we start drawing conclusions about Kids Today or Grownups Today or whatever from this, let's see if we can identify anything that the mysterious Cheryl's call to the Morning Playhouse gang might have in common with, say, the Freep's annual 1A humbug about the paranormal:
  • Disembodied female voice, check
  • Electromagnetic signals associated with presence, check
  • First name only, check
  • Has a message for humankind delivered through properly equipped stand-ins, check
  • Message contains social guidance about normative behavior (preferably from the honored past) -- pretty close
In other words (and not ruling out the possibility that Cheryl will call Rat and Zero and Maggie with an update Friday morning), the salient question isn't why a call to a morning show in Fargo is suddenly a topic of national concern, but why anybody believed a ghost story in the first place. It's not that nobody gained from this yarn: Fox and USAT got a tut-tut story about the sort of handbasket the world is going to hell in, and Y94 got some free attention outside the Fargo-Moorhead market. But USA Today might want to recall that when you ask a psychology prof about what ghost stories do to children, it's traditional to add that there are no goddamn ghosts.

* Yes, "that's what" ledes are still forbiden under all circumstances unless you're James Thurber. And you're not.
** Two words. You can turn yourself into a cat of fearsome mien, but you turn  yourself in to the witchsmellers.
*** USAT has now corrected this (and added comments from a cardiologist), but it's still running the story.


Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home