In One Way, Joe Millionaire Reaffirms My Faith in America

By JOHN O. ANDERSEN

February 26, 2003

And no, that was not a sarcastic comment!

I'm sincerely happy that at least on some level, the archetypal true American hero is still the simple man or woman--the scrappy person who breaks a sweat, serves tirelessly, and lives an honest, basic life.

It's not the teamplayerish SUV-driving, McMansion-dwelling, PDA-toting social climber.

No, it's the likes of Evan Marriott, the heavy equipment operator who earns $19,000 a year, and Zora Andrich, the substitute teacher, and caregiver. And no, I'm not interested in the success or failure of Evan and Zora's relationship, or about any related gossip. My only point is that Evan and Zora's lives as portrayed in the show, are widely appealing to Americans. They represent an ideal in many people's minds.

I would guess the producers of "Joe Millionaire" were determined to cast characters who reflect this ideal--characters who could win the hearts and sympathy of a broad swath of American viewers.

You see, there is something inside many of us that loves the idea of simple living, of having a straight-forward job that allows us to achieve tangible results, of performing honest labor. Evan and Zora's characters live in that world.

Unfortunately, the reality for many of us is that we live in a very different world.

For instance, we may be suburbanites, totally dependent on an automobile for transportation. We may spend hours each day in traffic, only to work in a sterile office environment pushing papers, and playing office politics. Then we may spend much of our free time in front of the TV, shopping at the mall, or carting our kids around to their team practices, and music lessons.

We can't be blamed when at the end of the day we feel like our existence is empty, or much less fulfilling than it could be.

And that is why so many people love the Evan and Zora characters. They want to be like that. They want get back to the basics; to "...live deep and suck out all the marrow of life" as Thoreau put it.

The good news is that any of us can approach that ideal if we are truly committed to making substantive changes in our lives.

For instance, we could decide to get rid of a car or two, and replace it with feet, push scooters, bicycles, or bus and train rides. These "retro" forms of transportation could reconnect us with our local world.

We could pare down our multiple daily errands, and make room for more quiet time, family time, and hobby time.

We could cut back on eating out, and rediscover home cooking.

We could learn a trade, and use it to escape from a particularly oppressive, and teamplayerish white collar job.

We could move to a smaller home in a walkable community. We might even consider an apartment downtown where we'd be close to a variety of social, intellectual, and cultural activities.

We could do so many other things if only we could muster the courage to break from the pack, and be our own person.

No, we don't need to be content with living vicariously through reality TV characters who briefly come across our screens.

Our potential is far greater. We can actually make that ideal a reality in our lives.

Question is, will we?


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