by Daniel Taylor
I’ve been thinking lately about what exactly BUMPERS CROSSROADS is, and how I do it. This is dangerous. You may remember the story about the centipede who was asked, however did he manage to keep all those feet coordinated. The centipede stopped and thought about it — and couldn’t take another step.
I think BUMPERS CROSSROADS is the most pure expression of my sense of humor that I have ever been able to achieve — part LUM & ABNER, part GARRISON KEILLOR, part NORTHERN EXPOSURE, but not really “like” any of these. I astound myself that I am able to be alternately surreal and silly; to put pathos and pratfalls in the same script and make them work together. I’m very proud of it, and more pleased than I can say that people seem to like it.
When it comes right down to it, I feel pretty good about my writing — almost good enough to explain the favorable reaction BC evokes.
I THINK its appeal comes from the fact that it DOES reflect a distinct perspective, a human voice, not a committee consensus. The fact that it is mine is secondary. Given all the margarine on broadcast television, the relentless pop music on the radio, the determined obsequiousness of the daily newspapers — I think people are STARVED for a discernable viewpoint and personality.
(Especially when it is clearly different from what can be called the Dominant Media Culture’s generally leftist lean. I think that’s why Rush Limbaugh is so popular, even among those who disagree vehemently. He remains an individual person, expressing a point of view uniquely his own.)
Although I hesitate to make the comparison, BUMPERS is essentially me on paper. Woody is the forceful, decisive presence I’ve always wanted to be; Grandpa is the genial, blithe potato I suspect is the best I can hope for; Luke is the distracted state of mind I probably spend most of my time in. And I put these three parts of me in the place I’d most like to live; a small town where you can safely ignore whatever’s going on, secure in the knowledge that empires will not crumble no matter which way the coin falls.
Certain aspects of life will never find their way into BUMPERS, because I don’t find them entertaining. I’ve mentioned the concept of gayness; I haven’t ruled out the possibility of a gay character, though I refuse to write one for the sake of social responsibility. But AIDS will never be mentioned, because it is not nohow funny.
There are also no black characters, and there will likely never be. Communities tend to be homogenous, ROOM 222 and its decendants to the contrary, and I can’t credibly introduce a black character, or explain how he came to be there, in a manner that rings true to me.
Anyway, I intend to stick with what I know. Social responsibility has no place in BUMPERS CROSSROADS. This may limit its appeal in certain markets, but so be it: We (as a culture) are drowning in things that try to be all things to all people. Which was my original point, come to think of it.
All I really wanted to do was amuse myself — but, just the same, I’m glad I’m not making the trip alone.