For the past couple months, off and on, my husband and I have taken great pleasure in watching episodes of ” The Rockford Files” on Netflix.We are on season four.I imagine this was partially inspired by the recent passing of actor James Garner.Before I go any further, let me say that this post is not going to be about death.I also want to express that it is not a longing for ” the good ol’ days “, although it is no secret that I am a fan of 70’s T.V. and movies.This post is going to be about LIFE, right here, right now.
Okay, now that I have that out of the way, why do I adore this show so much? I do like the characters, the script, the fact that you can recognize that it is filmed in Los Angeles , the clever introduction with random answering machine messages, guest appearances by celebrities like Isaac Hayes, and of course, there was the car. Who could forget the Pontiac Firebird and all those exciting car chases, many of which James Garner drove in himself ? The theme song, written by Pete Carpenter and Mike Post, went on to reach # 10 on the record charts and I can remember how much I liked the bitchin guitar solo.Those things all make for vintage television.I can remember when this show was on the air( now I am showing my age).It was the first ” adult ” show that I chose to watch myself.No one else in my household seemed to be aware of it. It was on friday nights, I thought James Garner was attractive.Other than that, I can’t remember any specific episodes.
Revisiting this show as an adult has been a different kind of experience because I am more aware of what this private investigator is up against.Jim Rockford seems to bear the mark of an antihero, which was a popular theme in that era.During the late 60s , early 70s, there was the sense of people working outside, or around, the crumbling infrastructure.To be on the side of justice, you had to find a way to maintain your integrity within a rigid or corrupt system.( Sound familiar ?) Movies like Serpico, Dirty Harry, and M.A.S.H. quickly come to mind.There was an attitude at that time that said,”I am doing my job in spite of how I feel about your system.You may not like me because I don’t have the right appearance.I may bend or break a few rules but I am honest.You need me because I get the job done.” In Rockford’s case, he speaks his truth with wit and sarcasm even in tense situations.What’s more, he stops just short of being overtly rude or snarky.
I like that.
He is an ex-con(which I didn’t put together the first time around) who lives in a trailer by the beach and seems to be barely making ends meet.The simplicity of his life is enviable, though, even in the shadow of the wealthy and powerful.He is a man living on his own terms.He maintains a close relationship with his father and has a few loyal, yet some times shifty, friends. For such an charismatic guy,his relationships with women seem spotty.Well, I guess that comes with the territiory.In spite of his faults, you would feel secure turning to him in a jam.I can identify with this man, even as a woman.He pays the price for his freedom.He is constantly under the scrutiny of the police, working with unreasonable, and sometimes dishonest clients,and having to face life threatening situations on regular basis.There is no handbook and sometimes he seems to be making it up as he goes along.Being resourceful lends itself, at times, to slightly unethical behavior as he is not above impersonating someone or breaking and entering to get information for his case.
I may not be in mortal danger, staring down the barrel of a gun, but I know what it is like to have to live moment to moment.I know what it is like to have to believe in yourself and your instincts when there doesn’t seem to be a clear direction.I know what it’s like have to maintain a sense of self, a certain dignity,in the company of those who may see you as worthless.I know what it is to have to grit your teeth, smile, and ” shake it off”.I just wish I could do it with more of Jim Rockford’s charm and style.I also wish I could be as scrappy in a fist fight, fending off thugs and intruders so effortlessly.
Well yeah, it is television after all.In this case, we really DO want to see the good guy win because he is not always good and we identify with that.That kind of realism makes some of the more implausible things forgiveable.
I can remember my mother watching soap operas in the afternoon to wind down as she remarked,”These people have beautiful homes, clothes, important jobs, take vacations, but where do they get it all? You never see them working.” She found amusement in this and so did I. Today, this seems to be the standard in most television, movies, and music.I wrote about this is in a previous post, ” Art and Life “. People many times look to movies and television as an escape from their everyday lives.That is understandable.A little sweetness, a happy ending, some great clothes, and an exotic location and I am on board but please give me a little grit, some peppery remarks, and/or a certain irreverent attitude that I can bring to mind as I face my day.It helps me to feel less alone in the world.
I had an outspoken friend when I was 18 who told me, ” People are always saying’ be yourself, be yourself ‘ and so I was and nobody liked me”.
I will never forget that.
There is a drawback to being our most authentic selves.Sometimes people don’t like us.The truth is, we can not make people like us no matter what we do anyway.We may as well be ourselves because, as Oscar Wilde said, “Everyone else is taken.”
I said in the beginning that this was not going to be about the ” good ol’ days”.I am sure there were people watching 70’s T.V. wishing it was still 77 Sunset Strip or Leave it to Beaver.Times change and that is not a bad thing.In some ways, our world has improved.There is a saying,” The more things change, the more they stay the same.” We are in a different time but I think the world still needs antiheroes.We still look to those who inspire us to be all we can be while, at the same time, help us to recognize and accept who we are and what our unique contributions are, too.
Whenever I write these posts, I come to some kind of a conclusion in the process.Here is my latest; watching The Rockford Files is like a visit with an old friend.In my case, that “old friend ” is me.It’s the part of me that speaks her mind, longs for adventure, and cherishes individuality and freedom.When I first saw this show, I was young enough to to see this in myself and nurture it.Now that I am older, I can use a reminder now and again.This would seem especially true when my back is against the wall and both ” cops” and ” robbers” are breathing down my neck.I have more than my share of days when I ask myself,”How did I get here?”
After a brief “visit”, it becomes crystal clear.I can hold my head a little higher.
Being yourself is a dirty job but hell, somebody has got to do it.