The late Larry Hagman was credited with saving Romania from communism. In a video clip, the actor who portrayed the infamous and villainous J. R. Ewing tells the story of a Romanian who approached him on a visit to the formerly communist country with tears in his eyes, “Thank you, J.R., for saving Romania.”(http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-HZ4FNIn0VA)
Millions of people around the globe tuned in from 1977 to 1991 to watch the TV show Dallas and the celluloid life of the fictitious Ewings, the oil rich tycoons, the detestable J.R., his alcoholic and co-dependent wife Sue Ellen, his honest brother Bobby, and all his sordid affairs.
I am not sure why the tyrant Ceausescu allowed us to watch Dallas. Perhaps he thought or was advised that this soap opera represented everything that was bad about capitalism and we needed one more reason to hate capitalism. Instead, we loved it!
Every weekend we tuned in faithfully, escaping for one hour from our imprisoned lives, glued to black and white TVs. The streets were empty, whole blocks would get together to watch the soap opera on the one TV screen that was larger and newer, and we prayed that the local government did not turn our electricity off. It was common occurrence to have blackouts – we had shortages of everything else, all the time, due to poor centralized planning by uneducated communist bureaucrats.
The ranch at Southfork became larger than life; its palatial surroundings made our concrete block apartments seem so small, that one could easily fit into Sue Ellen’s well-appointed closet. I was disappointed when a Texan friend told me that the Southfork ranch was rather small. We had imagined a massive mansion with beautiful bedrooms and a huge kitchen stuffed to the brim with food. Southfork became a metaphor for freedom and success through the opulent lifestyles of the Dallas characters.
We thought all Americans were rich like the Ewings and money grew on trees. We longed for and saw freedom through the eyes of a badly scripted soap opera that kept our poor and miserable proletariat mesmerized.
There was a love-hate relationship with the character of J.R., the all-around bad guy without a conscience who tortured his wife with his blatant infidelity.
When J.R. was shot by Kristen, everybody asked me who did it since we were watching episodes distributed ahead of everyone else in the world. My relatives, whom I was visiting, were quite disappointed when I did not know at the time the answer to the question of the day – who shot J.R.
Larry Hagman told the Associated Press, “I think we were directly or indirectly responsible for the fall of [communism.]” “They would see the wealthy Ewings and say, ‘Hey, we don’t have all this stuff.” (reason.com)
I don’t think J.R. Ewing helped overthrow communism at all, directly or indirectly, but it gave us hope that someday we could make it to America, the land of the free. Our dreams could come true, and success would be within reach through hard work if only the communist party, its brutal regime, and the dictator Ceausescu were gone.
It took a long time to topple communism, from its initial creep after the forced abdication of the king in 1948, until 1989 when the dictator and his wife were executed for treason and other crimes against humanity. There were many who emboldened the millions suffering under the Iron Curtain to break the chains of communism – among them the Polish Pope, John Paul II. When people could hunger and suffer no more, the barbed wire fences and concrete walls were demolished, and justice was served.
Sadly today, people who were born, raised, and grew old under the welfare-dependent, freedom robbing communism, never learned how to cope on their own and be self-reliant. Those Romanians are now the pro-communism voices, joined by neo-communist and pliable youth who are naïve enough to believe in a failed and miserable utopia. The lessons of history fall by deaf ears.