"Transcend and include... this is the self-transcending drive of the Kosmos—to go beyond what went before and yet include what went before... to open into the very heart of Spirit-in-action." Ken Wilber, A Brief History of Everything

"Wouldn't it be wonderful if a group of people somewhere were for something and against nothing?" Ernest Holmes

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Why I love "The Goode Family"

At first glance, this new animated show The Goode Family is an over-the-top caricature of green cultural values, which unfortunately earned it some scathing reviews.  But look closer and see a subtle examination of goodness that transcends both traditional values and postmodern political correctness.

The show is the latest offering from Mike Judge, creator of  "Beavis and Buthead" and my beloved "King of the Hill."  Gerald and Helen Goode strive to be good by recycling, befriending minorities,  and feeding their dog a vegan diet. Moderate daughter Bliss rebels by exploring evangelism while their not-too-bright adopted son Ubuntu just wants to be liked and play Bingo. The family gets caught in contradictions at every turn and must decide where the good really lies.

A great review of the Goode Family at Enlighten Next captures my favorite moment in the first episode. Helen is creeped out that her daughter shows interest in a chastity event at an evangelical church. Her husband Gerald’s response
presents her with one of the hilarious contradictions faced on the path to perfect political correctness: “Maybe we shouldn’t be so judgmental,” he says. “Don’t we always try to celebrate people’s differences and learn from them?” To which Helen responds, “Sure, if they’re like Native Americans or backwards rainforest tribes. But not these people!”
This attempt to be nonjugmental brings much of the show's conflict.  In one episode, Ubuntu wants to play football. Despite the parent's dismay, Gerald goes along with Ubuntu for a pep rally and tries to get in the spirit. But a line is crossed when the other fathers want to slay a pig representing the opposing team. The moral fog lifts and Gerald leaps to stop the slaughter, even though it means fighting off a much bigger guy in full bloodlust.

A similar theme of moral clarity arises in another eposode in which the Goodes accidently offend a chic lesbian couple who hold the key to Helen's coveted place in the Art League. To make amends, they seek to prove they are not homophobic by seeking out another lesbian couple to befriend. To their initial dismay, the couple they find are barrel-chested, beer guzzling, truck drivers. But these lesbians have a sweet affection for each other and a genuineness that is lacking at the snarkey parties of the Art League who ridicule the low class couple. When forced to choose, Helen sides with the truck drivers--for a night of bingo.

Neil Pedley captures this balanced counterpointing in a UReview of the Goode Family:
Careful to showcase first and foremost the humanity of such reactionary figures as Hank Hill he not only enables those who are different to laugh at his antics, but those who are most similar to comfortably laugh along too. This lack of disdain on his part is his secret weapon and the reason he was able to transform the likes of Beavis and Butthead into an icon for the MTV generation despite them being a mocking, unflattering, distorted manifestation of the very people who were watching.
For its rich exploration of moral dilemmas, The Goode Family warms my heart and tickles my mind.