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Traumafession:: Dr Future on The Andy Griffith Show Episode “Opie the Birdman”

January 19th, 2020 by unkle lancifer · 16 Comments

I’ll never forget, nor those of my generation, how Barney taught Opie how to use a weapon of violence, in the innocence of ‘target practice.” Opie took his new slingshot around outside, shooting at things, until he saw something move in the trees, as he quickly and instinctively aimed and shot, quickly seeing a bird fall from the tree.  Struck with the immediacy of his act, he ran up and in denial assured himself that the bird was merely “stunned”, and would fly away anyway. As he began to panic and tear up, he pleaded with the bird to “fly away”, even picking it up and launching it, which responded by falling lifeless to the ground.  He was completely distraught, as were the rest of us, to this simple display of senseless violence.  He ran home, and listless at dinner, overheard Andy and Aunt Bea talk about a dead songbird they wondered a cat might have gotten.  Overwhelmed by guilt, he ran to his bed, which triggered the intuitive assessment of Andy.  Going to his room Andy confiscated the weapon, and even worse, opened up the window to let Opie hear the plaintive cries of the mother’s baby birds, who not only would never see their mother but presumably starve to death in waiting.  Do I have your attention? The grieved Opie suddenly recognized his duty to adopt and raise these orphan bird babies, dutifully feeding and raising them until they were flying around in the cage (with the unsolicited advice of Barney, dispensing advice from “scientific studies” and “everybody knows”, like the 1950s living embodiment of the Internet), leading to the second “trauma” – that of heeding father Andy’s advice to let them go, and “leave the nest” and the bonds of attachment Opie had made with them.  

Tags: Traumafessions




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Dr. Future
9 months ago

Unk, you should be my book editor (my readers would certainly appreciate it!). Seriously, you are far kinder and respectful to me than most of my closest loved ones and friends. Sorry if I got my normal wordiness to my extreme (I say, “Why say it in ten words, when a hundred will do?”), and I certainly didn’t want to make anyone uncomfortable with how some might interpret my original comments as being politically-tinged, but I find that these simple “traumafessions” reveal our inner psychology, ethics, and social, political and even spiritual views, and it is part of what has fascinated me about this site consistently over the years (as well as being quite fun, and due to the hard work you put into every post, which is much-appreciated, and how you’ve corralled an interesting group of thoughtful people that congregate here).

bdwilcox
bdwilcox
9 months ago

OK, now you’ve given us a big curious (as Justin Wilson would say in his broken Cajun dialect). Please scan and share that photo with us. 🙂

Dr. Future
9 months ago

Unk, your photo showing gentleness and nurturing is my definition of true “manliness,” a lost value in our macho American era. Regarding animals, in Genesis, man was supposedly placed in the Garden to “dress” it and to “keep” it (Gen. 2:5), the former word meaning in Hebrew to serve it as a servant, and the latter word meaning to guard and protect (including the animals there as well as the environment). My fellow Christians who are of the “dominionist” belief think they are to conquer the “seven mountains” of society to have “dominion” over them just like the earth, and yet espouse the ignoring of the destruction of the earth’s species and vulnerable animals, as well as the ecosystems. If that is their idea of having “dominion” over the earth, why in heck would I want them having dominion over humankind? Just call me a tree-huggin’ Bible-Belter (as a tear leaves my eye like the Indian in the old pollution commercial).

Grokenstein
Grokenstein
9 months ago

Oh my lord, I saw that episode and it was burned into my memory as well. His shameful crime revealed, Opie asked his infuriated father if he was “gonna give (him) a whuppin'” (corporal punishment was regularly celebrated on the show) but Andy decided on the open window as worse than a burnt ass. And he was right, in that.

The only other two episodes of The Andy Griffith show I even vaguely remember involved (1) a spoilt bastard who causes havoc and begins to lead Opie down the “wrong path” until Andy offers to lend the unruly brat’s henpecked father access to a woodshed “…just like my father used to take me out to?,” whereupon he mans up and beats the child raw offscreen, and (2) a widower who won’t let his daughter “be a girl” because he needs her to work their farm; Andy shows the bitter farmer that when she pretties herself up, she’ll attract a strong guy who’ll make a great source of free labor. OH MAN EVEN FOR THE ERA THAT WAS SOME HORSE$#!%.

Now I got one of my own; Bonanza. That show was often astonishingly violent for the time–maybe not as bad as the strangled-blonde-of-the-week shows of the ’70s like Matt Houston, but one episode completely blew my mind as a child.

A lone and preposterously TV-fake “Indian girl” (a regular feature on the show) befriends a lonely little boy, attracting the ire of the child’s drunken father, who in one scene lashes the kid mercilessly with a belt for continuing to meet with her. Unlike the “woodshed” bit in the Griffith Show, this beating is depicted onscreen (as shadows on a wall) with horrifying sound effects and screaming. When the girl sees the resulting scars, she goes to confront the father, who then attempts to rape/kill her (!!); she knifes him in self-defense (!) and it is only the intervention of the child that saves her from a lynch mob.

The actual sight of the scars is left to the imagination (the girl and mob alike recoil in horror) but the beating itself and the attempted rape are so graphic that my little mind was scarred as well.

Grokenstein
Grokenstein
9 months ago

(proofreads) Uggggggh, Matt Houston was ’80s, not ’70s. But you get the idea. ABC was even more into “sexy” murder (bleh) than the average James Bond film.

bdwilcox
bdwilcox
9 months ago

So did Judy or Penny take that picture?

And I’m surprised Dr. Smith let you even hold that bird. “Oh, my boy, you need to let go of that preposterous polluted pigeon!”

bdwilcox
bdwilcox
9 months ago

But in all seriousness, that’s one of the sweetest pictures ever.

Treecat
Treecat
9 months ago

What a great thread!
Man, when I first saw the picture of Opie at the top, I thought, “I sure don’t remember THAT one,” but as I read the description, it all came flooding back. I must have repressed it because of the bird trauma and because Andy was so damn scary. Damn, dude, can’t you see that the kid feels bad enough?! That said, I agree with your post about the possum, Unk, 100%! I have no use for people who hurt animals; they’re worthless. But before I write off the human race, I do know some young people who would be right next to you in that sweet photo and their kindness, like yours, seems to be inborn.

Dr. Future
9 months ago

bdwilcox and Unk,

I would surmise that it was the “Crush, Kill, Destroy” guy that took the picture – or maybe the horrified family trapped in Billy Mumy’s “Twilight Zone” universe…did the bird resurrect to live eternally, ala The Green Mile?

a “mime rapist”…are there any other kinds?

Everyone raises cogent points about how violence takes more (slightly) subtle forms in those older shows. All in all, however, the think the writing and ethics/thinking of what I call the 1957-64 “golden age” of intellectual entertainment shows a deeper ethic and perception, even with their archaic chauvinism and other blind spots, which we do not see on Bravo or other venues today. I think this episode still portrayed a broader ethic or the consequences of senseless violence and responsibility that I would like to make every Religious Rightist and neocon sit down and be forced to watch, in Clockwork Orange style.

I could see the origins of a good horror story, Unk, in your benevolent rooting through your neighbor’s trash, finding the human remains like Blue Velvet’s ear, and a massive “pizza rat” that takes away the leftover food. The cats may be trapped in the bodiless ether like the one in the original movie The Fly. You appear to dwell in an “Alley of Secrets”, worse than Lovecraft’s Miskatonic University, and probably with Race with the Devil Satanists a few houses down. Othewise, it sounds wonderful.