One thing’s for sure, word travels fast in a small town, even if it’s the wrong word. This episode begins in the pharmacy with a group of women, including Aunt Bee and Emma Brand, discussing the local goings on like a woman who dyes her hair and another who went to Raleigh in search of new teeth. They are interrupted by Andy, who has come in to buy medicine for a cut Barney received while cleaning his gun. After a little telephoning word gets back to Barney that what he thought was a cut was actually a bullet to the chest, according to the word about town. Andy chastises Aunt Bee and Emma for their gossiping ways, specifically blaming the tendency on their gender.
Back at the pharmacy Aunt Bee fumes about Andy’s sexist remark. When a stranger drops in for a root beer Aunt Bee decides to use his arrival in town to prove a point. She tells Andy and Barney that the stranger is just a traveling shoe salesman, which he is, unless he isn’t (he is). Andy and Barney get curious and, along with the inhabitants of Floyd’s barber shop (the male equivalent of the pharmacy), their imaginations get the better of them. They gossip until they come to believe that the salesman is secretly a producer and talent scout for a TV show.
The men of Mayberry devise a plan to audition for the “producer” without letting him know that they know his secret identity. One at a time they visit his hotel room to buy a pair of shoes and while being fitted they or their loved ones play a little music for him. Thanks to Mayberry’s loose lips and starry eyes the salesman, a meek individual seemingly unfit for his trade, manages to break the company record for most shoes sold in a day. Before he leaves town he thanks his patrons for their business and confirms that he really is just a traveling salesman. Later on Aunt Bee teases Andy for his participation in the farce, which he denies, before he receives a shipment of three pairs of shoes.
- Some may think that The Andy Griffith Show exhibits a trend of small-town folk teaching city-slickers a thing or two, but so far when the big city comes to Mayberry it’s more often been the locals who learn something about themselves.
- This is the first episode to really feature an ensemble of established supporting characters, including Emma Brand, Floyd the barber, Orville the mortician (his last appearance, unfortunately), Jason the hotelier, and Fred the pharmacist, whose niece Ellie is missing.
- Ellie’s absence is particularly striking considering that she’s Mayberry’s own feminist icon.
- When Andy first enters the pharmacy a TV Guide with Lucille Ball on the cover can be seen on the shelf by the door. The Andy Griffith Show was shot at Desilu, the studio owned by Lucille Ball and her husband, Desi Arnaz.
The Moral of the Story
Andy thinks that women are more prone to gossip than men, but Aunt Bee easily proves him wrong. Clearly, gossip is a tendency that people of all genders are drawn to. All it takes is a raised eyebrow from Aunt Bee for the masculine rumor mill to turn a mild-mannered shoe salesman into a mass media heavy hitter. Andy buys in to a stereotype that is easily proven to be inaccurate, as most stereotypes are.
Stereotypes, whether based on gender or race or almost anything else, are odd things. On one level our brains are wired to categorize things and find patterns. On another, the “patterns” we come to believe tend to be ridiculous or even dangerous. For instance, there are a few dozen different nationalities or cultural identities with a reputation for drinking in excess. At a certain point we may just have to accept that alcohol is pretty popular all over. When it comes to gendered stereotypes specifically, I can’t help but think of the 2016 election (which I know should be left in the past, but rest easy because this isn’t really about who should or shouldn’t have won, just a simple observation.)
For many years, the running misogynistic justifications for why a woman shouldn’t be President were that “women are too emotional,” or “illogical,” or “get periods and that makes them really emotional and illogical.” I often wonder how many of the same people who believed that voted for Donald, a raw nerve if ever there was one, while claiming that Hillary was too “cold” or “robotic.” All the worst (and dumbest) fears about a female President have been realized in Donald and somehow I have a feeling that his more rabid supporters don’t see the irony.
Donald himself is known to traffic in stereotypes. He famously started his campaign by claiming that most Mexican immigrants are criminals or rapists, a broad accusation with no merit in reality. It’s also pretty clear whenever he speaks about black people that he’s not imagining real people but The Wire characters. When he speaks about Muslims he’s actually talking about a cartoon terrorist, like Jeff Dunham’s puppet. I would like to think I shouldn’t have to say this, but just to be safe allow me to assure you that none of these stereotypes are true. The vast majority of Mexicans, including immigrants (illegal or otherwise), are not rapists, most black people live outside of inner-cites and most Muslims are not terrorists and most terrorists are not Muslims.
Again, it’s natural for our brains to look for patterns, but our brains can be wrong, especially if we’re relying on stray observations rather than professional statistics. I recommend that you Google any stereotypes you may have heard (and be careful to only listen to respectable sources), especially if they suggest criminal tendencies and if they affect an election or policy. “Are Mexicans rapists” doesn’t look great in your search history but it’s better to know the truth than to rely on gossiping men.