Thursday, November 11, 2010

Hands Across America

There's a great scene in "My Name Is Earl" where Earl and his brother, Randy, as adults, decide they have to live up to the little handmade coupon book they gave their Mom one 1980s Mother's Day (they stole the wrapped booklet from another kid and were shocked to find out it wasn't just a present, but actually involved them doing things).

In a classic scene, they agree to participate in 1986's Hands Across America with her 20 years after the fact, and are seen standing awkwardly in her living room holding her hands while Mom beams.

Apparently 5.5 million people participated in this goofy charity event, raising $20 million (not the hoped-for $70 mill) while linking in a human chain across the United States. If the United States does not include New England, Florida, Hawaii, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Milwaukee ... well, you get the picture. Celebs joined in, too, from Scott Baio to Chewbacca to Charlene Tilton to Jamie Farr to a bunch of Elvis impersonators. If that isn't a weird slice of 1980s America, I don't know what is.

It's easy to make fun of now (ABC News calls it "one of the noblest failures in the history of American popular culture") , but watching the video below makes me a little less cynical -- who can be against feeding hungry kids? (And where are those now-grown kids today?) The comments on the YouTube video kinda say it all "Man, we really were socially conscious in the '80s, weren't we? What the fuck happened?!" and "Aw. 1986, a time when humans were more sympathetic toward each other."

Growing up in the Twin Cities we were skipped by Hands Across America, but I vaguely remember the hype. Did you participate? Was it as weird as it seems, but with a good heart?

1 comment:

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