Disturbing Strokes

Via Leigh Sales on The Drum:

Anyone who grew up in the 1980s will know the opening credits to Diff’rent Strokes with its catchy theme tune. Now take a look at how ominous it looks with different music. This came via ABC Radio Host Richard Fidler, who’s on twitter @rfidler

I’ve long known theoretically how easy it is to change a scene’s mood simply by changing the soundtrack, but that’s a really effective demonstration.

Categories: arts & entertainment


13 replies

  1. It’s so ominous! Something horrible is going to happen to those kids!
    The font on the actors’ names could be spookier though.

  2. Oh, that is freakin’ awesome.
    I never felt really comfortable with the series, but couldn’t articulate why until I started unpacking my own backpack.

  3. meerkat, I think the vid-maker was just fooling around with simple stuff for a bit of fun – slicing and dicing to change the font on the credits would have been a much more complex project.
    attack_laurel, I’ve tried to do some articulating of my problems with the show but it comes out as too many spaghettied strands of thought.

  4. That could be used in media tech education (e.g. the film and TV units they run at my kids’ school.)
    The link to that vid sent me off on a bit of a web wander – this made me LOL

  5. IMO, the prob with Different Strokes is articulated rather nicely here:


  6. That was downright creepy. It really made it seem like this relationship was incredibly unhealthy and when you think of the White savior aspect of the show perhaps there were some elements that really do need unpacking.

  7. The idea that there couldn’t have been anyone in their own neighborhood or extended family who could have become their legal guardians/carers, that the best choice was the virtual stranger who just happened to be rich and benevolent, is where the White Saviour thing most comes in. It just makes the African American community that they had belonged to virtually invisible except for the implication that they couldn’t do right by the boys. Pretty insulting.

  8. Well according to the story this is what the boys’ parents wanted because they had some sort of relationship with Mr.Drummond but I find it odd that they would not have sought out someone closer to them.

    • Exactly – there was that teeny plot-point justification backstory which, much like the Brady Bunch deceased previous spouses, were never mentioned after the first handful of episodes, so that they could get on with the comical conflicts.
      I understand why sitcoms operate this way on a technical level, I just wish they’d thought just a wee bit more about the subtext of these background stories. I get the feeling that internet fandom has meant that sitcom producers do think more about them these days – they want to get an official fan website set up with details for all the characters and little online games to play etc, which means a fair amount of thought is required for backstories to provide content to keep the fans clicking through.

  9. Again, it’s racialised. The story line went that the millionaire’s Black maid extracted a promise from him on her deathbed to look after her children……and therein rests the fantasy. White guy saving black women and children. Some stuff I’ve read suggests this impulse in white story telling can be traced to the movie (&book) “To Kill a Mockingbird” both of which were produced around the Civil Rights era, though it can certainly go back farther even into the early literature of the USA’s beginnings (Last of the Mohicans for eg). Diffrent Strokes, IMO, needs to be looked at as a cultural artefact of the discourses of whiteness, albeit, liberal whiteness, which long to to show and tell white people in salvific mode. Why? Well maybe guilt, I don’t know – I haven’t researched it very much. But I suspect it might be a need for it to be a white story. White people like to take stories about black people and make them about their own victories and struggles.
    The representations of blackness are mostly benign in these stories (you should google “numinous/magical negro” too for a variation and a look at American orientalism) and a lot of the times, it’s childlike blackness. Black people are not given any agency here, they are not capable of saving themselves. To put it into our own post colonial context these stories would equate to colonial views of the Indigenous people as children of nature rather than colonial views of savagery – as black people who are to be feared. Rendered in a childlike way, they are to be protected (from their own natures as well as others who might take advantage of them). It’s a discourse of benevolence as opposed to savagery. But however watered down it is in Diffrent Strokes it descends from a racist impulse, IMO. African Americans without agency, African Americans infantilised. African Americans as comedic relief or orientalised. I mean, Gary Coleman was an interesting choice wasn’t he? Quite a parodic vision of people from da ghetto in his performances, and just in case being a kid was not enough, he had was also a very small person. Suppose that made him safe enough for white consumption.
    I do wonder what Japerz would think about what I’ve just written, Tigtog?

  10. Moderated!

    • Well, you shouldn’t have mentioned a certain someone, should you? 🙂
      (actually, one of the words you used had the c i a l i s combo, so you got sinbinned)

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