2019-01-11 / Commentary

Trouble in the 50s workplace

It’s not a criticism; It’s an observation

During the holidays, when some of us are afraid to enter highways filled with insane, distracted, entitled people, I watch a lot of old movies—classic cinema, westerns, and really, really, bad horror movies. Lately I’ve been a little distracted by some of the recurring themes that pop up, regardless of time period or genre. Its starting to get irritating.

Two mornings after the New Year began, I caught the last half of a movie called The Underwater City, which starred late 50s heart throbs Julie Adams and William Lundigan as a mismatched couple living with a group of suit and tie wearing scientists in a compound on the ocean floor.

The first thing I noticed was the special effects folks using the tried and true gimmick of having people walk around really slowly and pretending to be underwater rather than having actual underwater scenes. That scene featured a diver discovering a case of scotch in a shipwreck, opening a bottle, and drinking the entire contents without spilling a drop by carefully placing a thumb over the opening except when he took a draw from the bottle.

Back inside the complex, America’s finest scientists tried to discover what unknown disease had afflicted the man. One of the women attendants finally noticed an alcohol aroma coming from him and declared him drunk. Everyone had a good laugh, even the woman who was grabbed and kissed by him when she got too close. Evidently, having a work related alcohol problem during that era wasn’t a big deal.

A few scenes later, two women were discussing things and the one forcibly kissed by the drunkard mentioned how great the kiss was. I quickly looked around for the outrage police. I continued watching anyway, braced for more cringe-worthy examples.

At some point, Julie and William, firmly established as not only disparate creatures but one step away from being conveniently in love, began trading apologies for previous perceived rude behavior. William told Julie when the assignment was over he would like to discuss their differences in a quietly dark restaurant over wine and candlelit murmurings.

I was appalled. Luckily, an underwater catastrophe saved us all from that encounter. An act of God prevented mankind from living underwater and witnessing workplace harassment. We all know deep down that stuff ain’t natural. Probably socialist thinking anyway.

Later in the day, as I sat in a darkened corner and enjoyed a quiet glass of wine myself, I thought about how so many movies during my formative years are horribly dated today. Some are embarrassing to the point of creepiness.

And the really funny thing is we modern people, living in this incredibly short segment of place and time, consider current beliefs, habits, and customs to be the ones everyone will always abide by. We march in the streets to obliterate all sorts of unacceptable behavior in favor of Current Thinking, and never ponder how temporary that is.

How many of us consider that earlier civilizations also thought their beliefs were permanent? Will future societies wonder about our sanity? Will people 50 years hence laugh at our attempts at justice?

What will be inappropriate in 50 years?

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