Thursday, October 27, 2011

Attempted Elimination Of A Meme...

Listening to the song "Puff, the Magic Dragon" is always a nice moment for me.  It's a pretty song; Peter, Paul, and Mary hit the harmonies very well.

What has long bothered me is this notion that the song is somehow about drugs, and people will say this with the flimsiest of evidence, because of course it is OBVIOUS that a name like "Puff" couldn't refer to anything other than marijuana.  It actually boggles the mind that people will mindlessly buy into this.  Naturally, pop culture does its share of helping keep this definition on the weakest of evidence.  Behold this scene from the 2000 film Meet the Parents:


Greg (Ben Stiller) represents that mindless repetition that just because the name "Puff" shows up, that it NATURALLY has to represent smoking. Jack (Robert DeNiro) actually has it right - that it's just a song about a boy and his magical dragon. It truly is a fantasy song that is ultimately a song about the loss of childhood innocence and a boy who outgrows his own imagination. That just must be too hard for people to figure out, so they fall back on this meme that is based on just one word, that happens to be a name (lest we forget). I wonder if the idiots who started this meme in the 1960's were the same fools who believed that because Paul McCartney was barefoot on the Beatles' album Abbey Road, that he must have been dead. Just a thought. But I digress...

It is amusing that even Peter, Paul, and Mary have poked fun at the meme.  One would think that the words of the authors would be enough to settle this.  First, Leonard Lipton, who co-wrote the song (via Snopes):




And then Peter Yarrow (the "Peter" of the group (also via Snopes):






If that doesn't settle it, then I have nothing more to say about it to you.  One of the reasons that Don McLean refused to ever give the official authoritative meaning to "American Pie" is that he always feared the freaks who simply refused to respond to logic and the meaning that he, as the author, gave to it.  

So, what's the big deal, you ask?  Why is Lattanzi going off his rocker over the fact that people think that "Puff the Magic Dragon" is about drugs?  The answer is that this kind of thing is a microcosm of the attitude and mentality of people.  Even when confronted with the evidence to the contrary, it's just easier to retreat back into the simple mindset, even when one knows it to be false.  We want the truth, it is said, but the reality, as Jack Nicholson (in character as Col. Nathan Jessup) so bluntly put it...

We can't handle the truth.  Even in something as easy and simple as the meaning of a song.  If we can't even get that right, then how do we get the bigger things right?  

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