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schencka
From the WTF file...
In a previous instantiation of this blog, I would critique popular-media advice columns. One in particular, "Dear Abby," steams me with its seemingly manufactured letters, its 1950s sense of propriety, and its putrid sentimentality. A quick example:

I am a 12-year-old girl in the sixth grade. At my school, the sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders all have classes together. Lately, I've noticed the eighth-graders seem to think they are better than us sixth-graders. They make a point of letting us know that they are bigger, cooler and more grown-up than we are. I am fed up. How do I handle them? --Annoyed in Ashland, Ore.

DEAR ANNOYED: My advice is to be patient and bide your time. Next fall, those snobbish eighth-graders will be headed for high school... [and so on]

What is so annoying about Dear Abby is that her advice perpetually posits an audience with little to no subjectivity or interiority. Reading the short column (too short even to be read by the People magazine standard of the reader on the commode) is like viewing empty skeletons interact, like advice from people whose autism constitutionally prevents them from interpreting normal social interaction. A snappy answer to a question for a 38-year-old woman like, "Why haven't you had children yet?" always suffices and solves the problem, like a rerun of Leave It to Beaver. Letters from 1982 are rerun with no concomitant change in advice, tone or subject. "Dear Abby" is a historical anachronism presented as current, printed for the consumption of retired widows who've saved their Reader's Digests since the Ford Administration.

Occasionally "real" situations occur, like a lesbian worker (never a gay male--too transgressive!) dealing with the homophobia of a coworker. Again, the snappy answer, the outmoded 1950s propriety, is suggested to "solve" obvious problems whose scope cannot even be touched in the 200 word column.

And as if a superhero, Abby occasionally swoops down to save abused women (bi-monthly). "Readers, this is the case of an abused woman. Leave this man and seek counseling." I'm sure "Hannah from Idaho" is going to follow that advice. The act of redacting her original letter, if there was one, reifies the abuse she already suffers from: her abuser and "Dear" Abby both seek to quell the question of human imagination, interiority, dignity by overpowering the woman, one with verbal abuse and violence, the other with the treacly bromides of 1957.

Someone who would earnestly use the phrase, "The rule of etiquette is..."--assuming a permanent "rule" and status quo to which it will always apply--is a character in tragicomedy. "Dear Abby" is a comedy of errors resulting in tragic idiocy.
 
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