Wednesday, July 24, 2013

"I Gotta Be Me!"

Of all the shows I've liked over the years, none has likely been more influential than Home Improvement, the family sitcom that made Tim Allen a household name.  Sure, the show had its naysayers, but it was one of the top-rated shows of its time, and its lasting appeal is attributed to its humor mostly being based around family dynamics instead of events and pop culture of the time.  Not only that, but it is a reminder of what our country was pre-9/11, which is something it will likely never be again.

One episode of the show, "Wilson's World," features Tim's neighbor and frequent advice-giver doing a live performance where he shares his knowledge and experiences with various cultures worldwide.  The next morning, a reviewer in the paper criticizes Wilson, bashing his apparent lack of everyday experiences: going to ball games, attending rock concerts, etc.  Immediately after reading it, Wilson decides to buy a television set, and attempts to hang out with Tim's friends while they watch an NBA game.  Wilson immediately begins discussing the German equivalent of basketball, which makes Tim's friend Harry--the one who owned the hardware store--complain.  Wilson immediately mutes the TV and keeps on talking, which causes Harry and Tim's other friend Benny to leave.  When Wilson laments about that turn of events, Tim quotes Sammy Davis, Jr.: "I gotta be me!"

I know very little about Sammy Davis, Jr., but I think that what Tim quoted him as saying is exactly right.  We shouldn't be what others expect us to be; we need to be who God created us to be.  I remember a book that was hanging in my second elementary school's library in poster format that talked about diversity, and it said, "Imagine how dull it would be if we all dressed, talked, and thought the same!"  It's true; God has created each one of us differently.  That's not to say that we shouldn't change; some years ago, a Christian counselor shared with me a paper that had a list of Satan's lies, one of which was, "I am what I am; I cannot change; I am hopeless."  Though change is possible and necessary for pretty much everyone, it should be for the right reasons.

Most of you know that I am, well...different than most people, especially those who are my coevals.  Many people I talk to around my age couldn't care less about yard/garage sales or bargain hunting in general; they're my favorite hobbies.  Right many folks--of all ages, I might add--that I meet hardly if ever use their public library; I work at one, and I wanted to do just that well before I did.  Almost all of the adults I meet, regardless of their numeric age, don't consider themselves fans of pretty much any of Nickelodeon or Disney Channel's current programming; those channels are my favorite ones to watch.

Some unfortunate individuals appear to believe that all that is wrong.  Instead of doing what I want to do, they think that I should be doing what they would consider "normal": watching sports and/or programming that is intended for my age group; staying up late and sleeping in every chance I get; attending social events so that I will be out meeting people and possibly finding "the one" for me, as if they can be 100% sure that she even exists.  I'm reminded of an ABC News story I saw back in 2005: The Simpsons, which is not only the longest-running current sitcom, but also one of the longest-running shows ever, was exported to Arab television, under the title Al Shamsoon (that is, The House of Shamsoon).  Instead of simply translating it, the Arab version was a cultural adaptation, and could be seen as a censored version by some.  Instead of Duff beer, Homer drank soda; the donuts he consumed became Arab cookies known as "kahk"; the bar he went to was nowhere to be seen in the Arab version.  Such editing was done to make the show inoffensive, as the American version shows Homer and others engaging in activities that are prohibited by the Koran.  The Simpsons' executive producer Al Jean was unhappy with what they did with the show, saying, "If he doesn't drink and eat bacon and generally act like a pig, which I guess is also against Islam, then, it's not Homer."

When I first heard that story, I was dismayed by one fact: How many Christians in America watch the same show, without caring one bit about how such actions violate Biblical commandments? More recently, though, when thinking about that, I realized one thing: If you take away my different interests--shopping/bargain hunting, kiddie television and movies, libraries, etc.--and replace them with what's "cool" and "hip," you don't have me anymore.  My interests, whether you like them or not, are a very big part of who I am.

Unfortunately, those individuals are still resilient, and, in many cases, decided to "unfriend" me because they just couldn't deal with my differences anymore.  I understand that not everyone is going to accept me the way I am, but, that is their own problem.  Going back to that The Simpsons analogy, when the Arabic version of the show did air, it received a rather poor response.  One of the network executives said that its "core audience was baffled" and, "From most accounts, the show was incoherent."  An Arab professor/blogger also said of the adaptation, "It was just painful. [...] The guy who played Homer Simpson was one of the most unfunny people I ever watched. Just drop the project, and air reruns of Tony Danza's show instead."  It seemed that the show just didn't translate to the Middle East audience very well; it was, as the picture to the right says, a failure.

You probably know that I meet new people all the time.  Of course, some people I shake hands with and chat with for a few minutes, yet never hear from again; still, whether it be through regular in-person interaction or on Facebook--maybe even both--quite a few people get to know me in one way or another.  Some of them are perfectly fine with my tastes, interests, and favorite topics of discussion; others think of me as a certified weirdo, and decide to have as little to do with me as possible because of all that.  I can't worry about the latter folks; I'll just have to focus on the former.  As the old song says, "This time I am staying; I'm staying for good! I'll be back to where I was born to be; with one look I'll!"

In conclusion, let me say this: The fact that certain individuals, including ones whom I used to consider "friends" or "advocates," don't care for me and/or what I do is small potatoes compared to those who actually do care about me.  Tonight, at church, the guy who led singing gave me a shout-out before leading the congregation in "Listen to Our Hearts," which is my favorite song in our hymnal.  That's just one small example of how people are looking out for me, and have been for a long time.  If anyone has a problem with me...well, he or she just isn't worthy of my time.
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