Dr. Will had a great "Why We Watch" entry on his blog this week. It's all about "The Andy Griffith Show," and here's the entire entry--I didn't edit anything out, because I think it's all good and all worth reading.
Andy & Barney: Two Decisive Strategies for Rage
The classic television program "The Andy Griffith Show," was a textbook illustration of the dynamics of human anger. It offers two distinct models, Andy Taylor and Barney Fife, for responding to the inner impulses of human anger. As you read these descriptions, assess your own response.
Are you more like Sheriff Taylor or Deputy Fife?
The answer not only tells you a great deal about yourself, it also becomes the starting place for your own healing.
First, however, let’s consider the setting of the show. The town of Mayberry is in North Carolina, and the name is a significant clue. Seen as a two word phrase, it sounds like and becomes "may bury," as in "something may bury you." What is the meaning of this illusion? Clearly it refers to the different approaches to life pursued by the two lead characters. So let’s look at them now.
Andy Taylor: Pacifist Hero
The hero in the show is clearly Sheriff Andy Taylor, a widowed father who served as the sheriff of this little home town. His style is easy going, even tempered, and peace loving. Even as a lawman, Andy always seeks a non-violent solution to all problems. Regardless of how belligerent a criminal might be, his style is to use reason and good will to resolve the crisis. He does not carry a gun in what is a radical statement about his priorities. In essence, Andy represents the model of calm and healthy repression of inner rage impulses.
Barney Fife: Edgy Cop
In vivid contrast to his supervisor is the style of Deputy Barney Fife. He is nervous, perpetually agitated, and easily provoked. He not only carries a weapon, he is quick to brandish it. There is little doubt that Barney would be willing to pull the trigger long before Andy. His anger is percolating and palpable. Left unchecked, it is very likely that Barney would become engaged in physical altercations on a routine basis as part of his work. There is little doubt, for instance, that Barney would very likely beat Otis, the alcoholic, on a consistent basis with his fists or some professional law enforcement implement. Barney represents the model of unbridled, expressive anger with minimal repression of his inner rage impulses.
The preference for Andy’s method of responding to his inner anger is made clear in both the emotional style and physical appearance of the two men. On the one hand, Andy is warm, kind, and evidently at peace with himself. He is also a robust and physically healthy individual. By comparison, Barney is fidgety, panicky, and ill at ease with all but the most benign strangers. And his physical appearance suggests an eating disorder or, more likely, irritable bowel syndrome as a result of his excitable, neurotic inner conflict.
In treating these two, Andy might have to work on unresolved issues of grief over the loss of his wife, Barney would very likely be medicated. Imagine the renewed Barney on Prozak? He has gained forty pounds, he is visibly calmer and more pleasant to be around. As a result, even the troublesome members of the community would approach him with greater respect. He would have gained the resources to containing his eruptive anger, and calmed his digestive system at the same time.
There is no doubt that "The Andy Griffith Show" is a convincing allegory for balanced repression of human anger in contrast to the evident futility of allowing it to rise up too easily. All the other characters in the show serve as foils for this fundamental lesson. All are either uncomplicated innocents or impotent simpletons. The benevolence of the rural surroundings accentuates that this is not a place where you can expect to have your anger provoked by any antagonistic behavior.
Mayberry is a place where Goober Pyle and Floyd Lawson safely walk the streets. This only serves to accentuate the purity of the anger issue. It is never provoked in Mayberry. And here now we answer the question about that name. The answer is that Barney’s style of unrepressed anger may bury him before his time.
Teletherapy asks you the same questions:
Are you in denial about your anger?
Do you know which television shows caused this condition?
Are your current viewing choices threatening to bury you too?
I'll add one thing to Dr. Will's questions. Are you an Andy or a Barney? Think about it.