Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Ain't That America.

Naturally, I'm in a fine mood about Heath Care Reform being signed into law (fingers crossed for the reconciliation fix), but I'm not quite ready to talk about that. Instead, I wanted to look back at an idiom that I've had in my vocabulary since high school.

Sometimes, you just gotta Paint the Mother Pink.

Here's a commercial for a contest MTV ran in 1984, the MTV Party House, in which they gave away a house in Bloomington, Indiana, and, in honor of Bloomington native John Cougar Mellencamp's song "Pink Houses," everybody would get together and "paint the mother pink," as Mellencamp says at the end of the commercial. And because he says it so distinctively (and also, because calling anything a "mother" was rare on TV in 1984), it became a catchphrase of sorts.

The thing is, it also kind of merged with another phrase, extrapolated from Douglas Adams's The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Here's a passage about the Somebody Else's Problem field, which lets people ignore problems that aren't their own, since they conflict with reality as they expect it:

The Somebody Else's Problem field is much simpler and more effective, and what's more can be run for over a hundred years on a single torch battery. This is because it relies on people's natural disposition not to see anything they don't want to, weren't expecting, or can't explain. If Effrafax had painted the mountain pink and erected a cheap and simple Somebody Else's Problem field on it, then people would have walked past the mountain, round it, even over it, and simply never have noticed that the thing was there.

And lo, someone -- a buttonmaker at a sci-fi convention, no doubt -- shortened all that to "Paint it pink and call it somebody else's problem." And "Paint it pink" has sort of stuck around in that context, but among the first MTV generation? It's "Paint the mother pink."

Anyway, maybe that's why this is coming to me today. Healthcare reform has been signed into law, which, as Joe Biden reminds, us, is a "big fucking deal." And perhaps the biggest part of that big fucking deal is that, suddenly, for all of us who have health insurance that we're currently happy with, there are 30 million soon-to-be-insured Americans who are, astonishingly, no longer pink.



Jeff said...

I'm not sure which is the better additional prize: the Jeep or the garage full of Hawaiian Punch.

As a fan of the Health Care Bill, Mellencamp, and his album "Uh Huh", as well as being a former resident of Bloomington, I want to thank you for this post.

Rob S. said...

My pleasure!

I've never been to Bloomington, even though I worked for State Farm for years. But if I went, I'd have wanted to see the house before it was de-pinked.