With the annual Founder’s Day festival on the way Andy and the rest of Mayberry feel it’s time to shake things up. It seems they’ve grown tired of ending the shindig with the Mayor’s wife singing while riding a horse. The town council is gathered and after a bit of debate they decide to replace the equestrian vocal performance with a beauty contest. When it comes time to elect a judge the choice is obvious, especially to Ellie who nominates Andy right out of the gate to unanimous approval. As they leave the meeting Andy suggests that Ellie had ulterior motives, nominating him so that he would hand her a victory in the contest. Naturally, such an accusation is wildly offensive to Ellie, a woman of the utmost integrity who had no intention of entering the contest at all.
With Ellie out of the running Andy’s choice becomes much more difficult. Almost everyone in town comes to Andy to campaign on behalf of themselves of their loved ones; some under the guise of a peat moss delivery or a simple request for sugar, others using blatant bribery or “tit-for-tat” manipulations. Even Opie is insistent that his father choose his classmate while Aunt Bee believes he should convince Ellie to enter and choose her.
Fortunately, Andy has some help organizing the event. An older woman named Erma Bishop offers to take the reigns as planner and costume designer while Floyd prepares a song. However, when the time comes Andy is the only one who can make the final decision. Matters are only farther complicated when Aunt Bee enters Ellie in the contest without her consent or knowledge. Ellie warns Andy that if he chooses her she will always resent him. With the pressure on Andy makes the unorthodox decision to give the crown to the only woman in town without a horse in the race who won’t eviscerate him if chosen, Erma Bishop. Among the many disappointed people is Opie, who is satisfied when Andy informally declares his classmate, Mary Wiggins, Miss Mayberry Junior.
- It’s a little surprising that Ellie is so enthusiastic about the idea of a beauty contest and seemingly not even a little conflicted about the nature of the thing.
- Barney is absent from this episode.
- Joy Ellison, the young actress who plays Opie’s crush and classmate, has built a successful career in Hollywood as a dialect coach. According to a quote from Antonio Banderas on her website, he owes his American film career to Joy. She appears in a few more episodes of The Andy Griffith Show but as different characters.
The Moral of the Story
This episode revolves around a decision that Andy makes: selecting the winner of the beauty contest. His choice of Erma, rather than the young, eager contestants, is attributed to “inside beauty” rather than “outside beauty.” The implication is clearly that a person’s character is more important than any superficial attributes.
Much of President Donald’s appeal throughout his campaign and to his few remaining supporters is that he by all rights should not have won the election. He was a highly unorthodox candidate, an even darker horse than Erma who wasn’t even enrolled in the beauty contest. A recent Washington Post op-ed adoringly called him “a game-changer, a disrupter, a practitioner of what I see as ‘crafted chaos.’”
I can understand the appeal of a left-field idea; after all, this is a blog that combines a half-century old TV show with modern politics and the occasional remembrances of Moral Philosophy 101. However, there’s a big difference between a beauty contest and the Presidency. When a costume designer is named Miss Mayberry the only consequence is the broken hearts of hopeful contestants. When a chaos agent becomes President of the United States the effects exist on a much larger scale.
In just six months, by withdrawing from the Paris Climate Accords, along with his reluctance to abide by the commitment to NATO and other isolationist rhetoric and action Donald has greatly reduced America’s standing as a world leader. The U.S. is no longer the most respected democracy in the world, as it was for almost a century prior. There are much more tactile results closer to home. In May we recognized that Immigration and Customs Enforcement had arrested over 10,000 undocumented immigrants without any other infraction since Donald’s inauguration. That’s a 150% increase from the year before.
The idea of someone who doesn’t fit the superficial expectations for the job but knows how to do the work and get results is exciting. The problem is, the job of the President is largely superficial. The President is a representative of America to the rest of the world. He is also a leader who should serve as a calming or inspiring influence as needed. As for rolling up his sleeves and getting down to business, Donald doesn’t seem to be doing much of that either. Reports indicate that he spends much of his time watching TV, specifically FOX News, but there’s less evidence that he’s doing any nitty-gritty bureaucratic labor. Deciding the winner of a beauty contest based on character is all well and good, but choosing a President based on capacity to disrupt the status quo is a huge gamble.