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Saturday, March 10, 2007

Deconstruction Zone

Remember "Free to Be You and Me?"
I think it's time we analyze what the poem/song "Helping" (written by Shel Silverstein and sung by Tommy Smothers) really means.

Agatha Fry, she made a pie
And Christopher John helped baked it
And Christopher John he mowed the lawn
And Agatha Fry helped rake it


Clearly a reinforcement of traditional gender roles. Agatha, a woman, is capable of baking a pie, but Christopher John, a man, can help. The reverse for yard work; the lawnmower is heavy, so the man does the mowing while the woman merely helps with the lighter rake.

Now, Zachary Zug took out the rug
And Jennifer Joy helped shake it
And Jennifer Joy she made a toy
And Zachary Zug helped break it


Again, we have a reinforcement of gender roles. The rug, like the lawnmower, is heavy and although JJ is willing, she can but help with the heavy work.

And some kind of help is the kind of help
That helping's all about
And some kind of help is the kind of help
We all can do without


Here is where we see the crux of the verses, the moral of the story. Jennifer helped Zachary, like a good woman ought. And Zachary, in return, realizes that some kinds of help we all can do without. So he provides that kind of help, like most men will, fully realizing that he will never be asked to help again. It's worth the cost of a broken toy (or a load of pink undershirts, or a clogged dishwasher) to men to get the point across -- firmly and permanently -- that the kind of help a man offers is not worth it.