What’s Really Spooky
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ROGER ROSENBLATT: Halloween again, the night that was invented to drive away the things that scare you by calling them together at a single time, an exercise in optimism, a superstition in itself. Touch wood; pocket a rabbit’s foot; keep Halloween, and everything will be okay. Give that witch a cookie.
Of course, expelling fears was a lot easier when all that people had to worry about were witches and monsters, ghouls and goblins, gremlins, and ghosts, the ordinary run. But this is 1995. The scares are huge. Everything is big, bigger, biggest. What scares you these days? The mergers? The mergers are big. Disney swallows Cap Cities.
Time Warner that used to be Time, Inc., tacks on Ted Turner. Time Turner? Turner Warner? And CBS and Westinghouse, and Viacom and Paramount, and Chemical Bank and Chase Manhattan. Just when you think, well, they can’t get any bigger, here they come again, twice their former size.
ACTOR: (“Ghostbusters”) It’s the Stay Puff Marshmallow Man.
ROGER ROSENBLATT: The hulking giant companies stalk the nation like the Stay Puff Marshmallow Man in the movie “Ghostbusters,” causing the ground to tremble. Do they make you tremble? Will they swallow you too? Hang in there. Maybe you’re afraid that someone will come up with one more TV talk show. Talk shows are big, getting bigger.
Everybody who is anybody has one. Donahue is ancient history, Oprah modern history. One might wish that Geraldo was history; he will be soon because here’s Lisa, here’s Ricki, here’s Jenny, here’s Roger Ailes and George Hamilton. Here’s Tom Snyder, back from the grave. Here’s Dee Dee Myers and Tim Russert and Charles Grodin and Montel Williams, not to mention Charlie Rose, not to mention Jay and David and Conan.
LARRY SANDERS: (HBO) The one and only Roseanne!
ROGER ROSENBLATT: Not to mention the acid parody of the above, the “Larry Sanders Show,” which instead of killing off the form seems to have helped it grow. While I’ve been reciting them, two more talk shows have come into being. Is one of them yours? Are you a talk show host? Is that what you’re afraid of? Or are you scared that you’ll be a guest on a talk show? Do you wake up screaming from the nightmare that you are sitting in a chair and Larry King is leaning his body toward you, asking how it is that you became so wonderful? Stay calm.
Are you afraid of big blockbusters, I mean big? Will a big blockbuster come around tonight and bust your block? There are blockbuster movies like Kevin Costner’s “Water World,” the biggest, the most expensive. Is it rolling like a tidal wave toward your door? Grab a lifeboat. There’s a new blockbuster novel, “The Horse Whisperer.” Reviewers say that it’s no good, but it’s big. That’s what counts. Three million dollars for the movie rights, over three million for the book. Draw the blinds.
There’s a new blockbuster political figure, Colin Powell, comes packaged with the big blockbuster story of his life. They don’t come any bigger. Is Gen. Powell headed for your house in the middle of the night? Sit tight. Perhaps you’re scared of the new big glossy magazine, Hello, “George.” Trick or Treat. Or the big new celebrity that comes with the magazine. Hello, John, Jr. Trick or treat. The big new scandal, Calvin Klein. The big new phenomenon: the World Wide Web. The big new promotion: “Windows 95.” Big new. Big new. Maybe Zbigniew Brzezinski is making a comeback. Big news Zbigniew. Is that what frightens you?
But this is Halloween. You have to gather all the things that you fear in one place on one night to drive them away. Do you have the nerve? Do you have the stomach for it? There’s the doorbell now.
All the cookies in the world are not going to placate this crowd–the mergers, the talk shows, the blockbusters, the celebs.They’re all too big. Don’t do it. Don’t answer the door. If you keep very, very still, they may go away.
No more big, bigger, biggest. No more noise and hype. The world will shrink back to the size you like best to the size you can handle, back to a quiet, modest, sensible place. Sure it will.