Saturday, July 18, 2009

Commie Gray

Back in '04, when I became a left-wing radical, I had some reservations about joining the Arise! Bookstore and Collective, our local leftist looney-bin. I was afraid none of the members would have a sense of humor, and they'd all be wearing black and gray. Everyone knows that leftists are only allowed to wear black, gray and, occasionally, red. Blood red. I remember the episode of Seinfeld when Elaine had a communist boyfriend. He only wore bland, gray shirts and jeans. Elaine tried to get him to wear more fashionable clothes, but he refused because his dad had been blackballed, if I remember correctly, from the garment industry. That's the only time I can recall an overtly leftist character appearing in the pop culture of my youth and adolescence. The '80s and '90s were generally apolitical, a period of relative prosperity that kept most people contentedly distracted.

But there were many subtle jabs at the Left in the supposedly apolitical pop culture of that era, so subtle in fact that I can't remember any. Family Ties was an interesting example. The parents were former hippies shown in an admiring light, while the son, Alex P. Keaton, was a Republican portrayed as a young Gordon Gekko. Head of the Class featured an ex-hippie high school teacher who was a font of drug-scarred wisdom. I wish I could blame this on Growing Pains. Now that I think of it, Small Wonder was probly an allegory for the dehumanizing effects of the Soviet system. Yeah. I'm gonna go with that.

Imagine my pleasant surprise when I found the radicals at Arise! to be quite warm and funny. They weren't the angry, dour people I'd been led to believe all leftists were. Although the colors of the bookstore's sign and website are red, black and white, and a few of the members stick to a punk wardrobe of black with the odd splash of red. They haven't totally dodged that stereotype, but it does set them apart from the rest of Uptown, so it's not a bad choice of color scheme. It certainly works for the White Stripes and the Chicago Bulls.

No comments: