A propos of any befuddlement concerning the current popularity of corny BDSM novels:
Last night while waiting for my orecchiette to cook, I flipped on the TV. It was a 60’s-era episode of “Gunsmoke,” the longest-running primetime TV series in American history. Here is the scene I saw:
A Marlboro Man and a hot but sass-talkin’ pioneer woman with a suspiciously modern hairdo are arguing in a rustic cabin. The Marlboro Man is “proposin'” to her, but it turns out he doesn’t even know her name. She is pissed about this, calls him a “wax figure.” She tries to leave. He grabs her by the shoulders and starts lecturing her, shaking her every so often as punctuation. When she mouths off, he hits her in the face.
The Marlboro Man looks confused and apologizes for hitting her. He ain’t never hit no woman before. Suddenly demure and submissive, she smiles up at him gratefully, and admits she reckons she had it comin’.
I turned it off then, but it looked a dead cert. that these two were gonna hook up by the time they rolled credits. This would preserve the natural oder, because the M.M. was actually a really nice guy who was driven to violence by his passion for the sassy pioneer woman whose name he doesn’t know. It was a love-assault!
This was considered family entertainment.
In a brief, shining moment for American television, “Gunsmoke” was canceled in 1975 and replaced by the only remotely feminist program ever to air on an American network: “The Mary Tyler Moore Show.”
Anyway, domination and submission are ingrained in the whole American psychosex narrative not least because crap like “Gunsmoke” was always on during dinner when we were kids. We learned to normalize violence against women over Mom’s meatloaf.
This might be an old show reflecting decades-old mores, but it’s still playing in 2012 in primetime.
CORRECTION: “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” first aired in 1970 — not 1975 — and ran until 1977. Replacing “Gunsmoke” in 1975 were MTM spinoffs “Rhoda” and “Pyllis.” Thanks to alert reader Jay for the fact-checking.
CORRECTION: That’s “Phyllis,” not “Pyllis.” Egads.