Years ago, when I was in fourth grade back home in Detroit, I got the flu. My mom kept me at home, and when I was feeling a little better on my third day home, I was able to lie on the sofa and watch some afternoon TV. That was really cool.
I remember the long-running Detroit-based program called “Bill Kennedy at the Movies” hosted by Kennedy. He chatted during movie breaks, and the show always played a black-and-white movie. I don’t remember the movie’s title on that flu-couch-recovery afternoon, but I remember it had a swimmer, Esther Williams, and a big dance, musical, synchronized-swimming number.
I asked my mom why they did this big swimming scene. She said, “During the Great Depression, and sometimes during the war, people were really sad about all the problems going on in the world. These big movies made them laugh, feel happy, and took their minds off their troubles.”
Flash ahead a few decades to 2020. We are dealing with a pandemic, a threatened economy, racial challenges, and basically widespread frustration and fear. We face the challenge of educating our students at the preschool to university levels, and our social gatherings are greatly curtailed.
Many of us are depressed, and just long to gather with others in any way, but that has been challenging. We stay home and stream movies on our TVs, play games on our smart phones, and read or listen to music. We read and clean and try out new recipes, but deep in our hearts, we hold anxiety, sadness over all the losses we face, and even some fear.
We just want life to go back to where it was before all these problems. We know this time will eventually pass, but some of us need some distraction from hand washing, sanitizing, the evening news, our dwindling finances, and racial unrest.
I think America has a few happy—even mindless—distractions that might help us feel a little more relaxed, that life is safe and normal or will be again.
There are a few game shows that are upbeat and bright, and offer contestants winning prizes of cash, travel destinations, or just happy and funny games. We put ourselves into these shows as we watch The Price is Right, Press my Luck, or To Tell the Truth.
If people do not care for game shows, there are tons of YouTube videos that are pretty interesting and entertaining. Some are online animal posts, where pet owners tape their dogs or cats at home, and then narrate a story as the pet tries to swim, fetches a bone, or has an encounter with a neighbor’s cat.
Some social media groups post blogs dealing with cooking ethnic foods, or there’s a YouTube series called Crazy Russian Hacker, where a man tries various kitchen devices (mango slicers, breakfast sandwich makers, garlic slicers, or manual vegetable choppers). Just Google any topic, and chances are there is a website, video, or blog that could distract us for a while from our stay-at-home reality.
Local television stations offer nature videos with calming music in the background. Others change programming, so there is much more casual chatting somewhere in the broadcast. Anchors are happy and offer ways of getting involved in local outdoor activities. The basic trend in media seems to be to offer positive, hopeful stories that can distract all of us for a while. Since we are social, physical, spiritual, sexual, psychological beings, having a bit of humor and positive experiences is good for our total health.
Just like the Depression-era blowout musical films or feel-good movies, media makers know how to suspend our feelings, even for just a few hours, and a great number of us look forward to it.
This whole happy-media trend is not new. Producers, musicians, bloggers, and writers all know that the market is open for some happy, distracting stuff.
Back in the1930s, songs were popular and pretty hopeful. There was “Happy Days are Here Again,” and there were many renditions of “Keep on the Sunny Side of Life.”
Try something, because whatever helps you and your loved ones should be included in your day. Something that might help can be a simple, but positive way to get through these troubling times.