Another special consideration with MiSTing rants? How did you know they were sincere? How do you tell a genuine loopy argument from someone mocking a loopy argument? Like, I remember one Mystery Science Theater 3000 fanfic that mocked an argument we had proof of time travellers meddling with history by how some events were put inexplicably out of order. The argument gave an example: how could Bruce Lee’s Return of the Dragon, released in 1972, have logically come out before Enter the Dragon, released in 1973? The MiSTing snarked that oh, yeah, one reference book gets movie dates wrong and that proves time travel? Except that, yeah, Return of the Dragon was made before Enter the Dragon. So was the original time-travel-conspiracy rant in earnest? Or making a really sly joke?
Arthur Claude Munyan’s On Beards And Evolution gave me similar vibes. It still does, some. Like, this is an expertly-crafted parody of a particular kind of petty-authoritarian attitude, right? The author didn’t really believe it, right? And yeah, I know, we have the coward excuse that however dumb an argument is someone believes it. But did I get taken in? Or was I ridiculing something actually deserving the ridicule?
Ultimately, I decided, it doesn’t matter. When I say something facetious and find it taken in earnest, I am delighted (and my love offended). If the person behind this rant had similar intentions, I hope they are similarly delighted. Anyway, there’s a lot of riffs in here that I really like, and only a couple that I regret.
And, again, a content warning: Munyan’s piece contains racist attitudes and while my riffing sneers at that, you’re right if that’s not something you want in your recreational reading. We’ll catch up again with, I don’t know, that old Reboot fanfic or something.
Last week featured part 1 of this rant. It’s got two weeks to run yet.
> I never cease to be amazed at all the male high school students
> I see who are wearing beards.
TOM: Yes, some minds can find amazement in the most mundane things.
CROW: I thought he stopped all the high schoolers from growing beards?
> Misguided parents who allow this to go
> on are guilty of the worst form of permissiveness.
JOEL: They don’t hate dandruff enough!
> These parents ought to be teaching and modeling the true
> meanings of manhood
TOM: Like playing sports and blowing stuff up.
> instead of encouraging their sons to flaunt such
> false symbols thereof under the phony banners of freedom and
CROW: True individualism consists of watching what everybody else does and conforming without being told.
> Let me make it clear that the grooming standards I am promoting
> apply to the twentieth century and beyond.
JOEL: He does not *necessarily* endorse travelling back in time and shaving historical figures. But he wants to keep the option open.
> Before then, we did not
> have the knowledge of good grooming and personal hygiene that we
> have today.
TOM: Basically, everybody before about 1957 was stupid.
> Many Americans lived under very adverse frontier conditions.
JOEL: Today, they just struggle to survive network TV.
> necessity, daily survival itself was more important than shaving.
CROW: Hm, should I survive today, or should I shave?
TOM: Well, Billy decided to shave yesterday.
CROW: Did he survive?
> Pre-twentieth century man was guided by a different set of
> priorities. Most honorable among them was our noble quest to
> fulfill our divine mission of completing our western expansion.
JOEL: Hm, should I massacre the Sioux today, or should I shave?
CROW: Well, Hank decided to shave yesterday.
JOEL: What happened?
CROW: The Sioux hung on to a scrap of their territory.
> The many savage Indian tribes who constantly tried to stop us
> kept our hands full. Shaving was the least of our worries.
CROW: Being on “Gunsmoke” was worse.
> As Americans, we prevailed. Because we are Americans.
TOM: Except for the Americans who were here first.
> Therefore, I fault no man for wearing a beard prior to the
> twentieth century. After all, many of our most famous Civil War
> generals wore beards.
CROW: And … that’s the only example he can think of.
> However, I cannot help but wonder
JOEL: How *can* I tell a cabbage from a lettuce?
> if the fate of the confederacy
> might have turned out differently if some of Robert E. Lee’s faulty
> military decisions had been made without the itchy distraction of
> his beard.
TOM: So slavery ended because of beards? Good for facial hair!
> I also suspect that Abraham Lincoln was similarly
> distracted when he put forth his Emancipation Proclamation.
CROW: Well, again, yay for beards!
> During the early part of the twentieth century, our armed forces
> finally wised up.
TOM: Not to hear the enlisted men tell it.
> They adopted the practice of giving all recruits a
> decent haircut, and a shave if necessary,
JOEL: Two bits.
TOM: And a pantsing where applicable.
> on their first day of
> basic training.
JOEL: And that has to last them *all* year.
> They finally realized that they can more effectively tap into
> and train the "inner man" into the fighting machine he was meant to
> become without a lot of superfluous hair in the way.
CROW: What, the beard absorbs orders that would otherwise be followed?
> History has shown us that military decisions are best made with
> a clear head.
TOM: And a lot of shouting.
> A clean shaven face and a decent haircut go hand in
> hand with a clear head.
JOEL: Wait a minute — hands don’t go in heads!
> Even the Roman warriors favored clean shaven
> faces, in order to give their adversaries less area to grab hold and
> pull during hand to hand encounters.
TOM: And by having all males shave now, that’ll save us ten minutes before starting at the next war!
> They were also among the first to adopt the "high and tight"
CROW: ‘Nuff said.
> that most of our recruits wear with honor and pride in
> our military boot camps today. It is most unfortunate that our
> Civil War heroes failed to follow their example.
TOM: Or the North could’ve won two years earlier.
> The twentieth century marked a major turning point in the
> history of grooming practices among our leaders.
CROW: Yes, the twentieth century will be remembered for automobiles, airplanes, computers, *and* the Gilette triple razor blade.
> The last U.S.
> president to wear a beard was Benjamin Harrison, who served his term
> from 1889 to 1993.
JOEL: His first 20 years were OK, but the last 84 kind of stank.
CROW: His effectiveness declined sharply after he died.
> Since then, not one of our presidents has ever sported a beard.
> Not one.
TOM: Their loss.
> Indeed, the first sixty years of the twentieth century was a
> golden age of grooming among men.
TOM: Soon they started grooming each other, but found they liked it too much.
> Most men were clean cut and
> shaved on a regular basis. Barber shops in practically every town
> and city in America fluorished.
TOM: Charlie Brown’s dad had steady work!
> However, this glorious era was temporarily interrupted during
> the turbulent and ugly decade of the sixties.
JOEL: What’s so funny about peace, love, and Wildroot creme oil?
> Perhaps, the first omen of what was yet to come took place when
> Richard Nixon himself failed to give himself a proper shave before
> his televised debates with JFK in 1960.
CROW: He explained it as his Flintstone fandom, but nobody bought it.
> His five ‘o clock shadows
> clearly did him in,
TOM: When it grabbed a knife and attacked Jack Paar.
> as he came across as a character on a wanted
> poster instead of the dedicated communist fighter he truly was.
CROW: If he was a dedicated communist fighter, shouldn’t he at some point in his career have found a communist instead of just mudslinging Daniel Ellsworth?
> As a result of being duped by a more clean shaven and
> charismatic Kennedy,
JOEL: People stopped wearing enough hats.
> the American electorate had to endure eight
> years of Democratic rule and all the turmoil that it wrought.
> Shortly after this fateful election,
TOM: Fate stepped in.
> the Beatles came along with
> their mop style hair cuts. Teenage boys everywhere began to forsake
> their Brylcream and started growing their hair like the mangy
> sheepdogs that their heroes emulated.
JOEL: Oh, yeah, remember the “longhair” Beatles of ’64, with hair that grew as much as two and a *half* inches long.
> Popular American culture was
> just beginning its rapid descent into depravity.
CROW: What, when “Gilligan’s Island” came on?
> The cancer grew even worse with the emergence of the hippies a
> few short years later,
CROW: Short years are like regular years, but staffed by Munchkins.
> with even longer, more unkempt hairstyles and
> beards. Their influence on our American youth was devastating.
JOEL: Those pesky minorities started acting like they should have actual civil rights and stuff.
> Clean cut young men everywhere were seduced into their ranks, taking
> up pot smoking, internalizing anti-American ideas,
CROW: Watching Adam West on Batman.
> and protesting
> our nation’s gallant efforts to stop the spread of communism in
> Southeast Asia.
TOM: Efforts which were cancelled to make room for the Vietnam War.
> Instead of listening to leaders like Richard Nixon and Spiro T.
CROW: They followed people with souls.
> they started following the likes of Jerry Rubin, Abbie
> Hoffman, and scores of other political agitators
JOEL: Vince Lombardi!
CROW: Tommy Smothers!
JOEL: Rowan and Martin!
TOM: Bubble Puppy!
JOEL: Robbie the Robot!
TOM: Sandy Koufax!
JOEL: Neil Armstrong!
TOM: Danny Bonaduce!
> who were glorified
> to high heaven by our liberal news media.
> Rock stars with beards and long dirty stringy hair started to
> multiply like rabbits.
CROW: I loved seeing their cute little bunny paws working slide rules.
> Clean cut wholesome musicians like Lawrence
> Welk and Pat Boone became passe.
JOEL: Oh, they were passe even when they were hot.
CROW: Notice he says nothing about Liberace.
> Something was wrong. Our nation was going to hell.
TOM: If Woody had gone straight to the police this would never have happened.
> The chaos
> and decline of traditional moral values the hippies wrought was
> clear evidence that long hair and beards were clearly inappropriate
> for modern twentieth century man.
CROW: Every other century could handle beards, but they were just too much for the 60s, man.
[ To be continued … ]
4 thoughts on “MiSTed: On Beards And Evolution (Part 2 of 4)”
Crow: I never cease to be amazed at all the FEMALE high school students I see who are wearing beards, I went to a very weird high school. (BOTH TOM AND JOEL LOOK AT HIM)
Joel: Crow, you didn’t go to ANY high school!
Crow: Are you sure,Joel? I have some very distinct memories of wedgies and odd physical ed activities.
Joel: Of course I’m sure,I built and programmed you here in space,remember?
This is fun but I wonder if Joel’s last line there isn’t a bit too much … like, it’s funny that Crow should have distinct memories of high school wedgies, so why explain how he could? Leave something for the newsgroup to argue over.