Andy Griffith is gettin' you that thar shot
An episode of The Andy Griffith Show from 1962 that deals with vaccine hesitancy is surprisingly relevant to (gestures broadly).
Hey everyone. This is gonna be a fairly short edition of the newsletter this week, as I’m still trying to get back up to speed after taking a little bit of a breather. In the meantime, if you haven’t already, please subscribe by mashing the button below. I’ve got what I think are some good things in the works. Or not. IF YOU DON’T SUBSCRIBE, YOU’LL NEVER KNOW.
However! Every so often, something randomly comes along that’s a perfect mix of corn-pone North Carolina-ness and real life immediacy. An Andy Griffith Show episode from 1962 about (wait for it) vaccine hesitancy is precisely that thing:
I was made re-aware of “The County Nurse,” an episode from Season 2, thanks to a fantastic Twitter thread (see above) that very neatly and succinctly explains what’s going on. If you have about 20 minutes and an Amazon Prime subscription, you can watch the whole episode yourself. Or, if you just want to get to the meatiest part of it, this YouTube clip does the job:
Here’s a low-spoiler summary (I said “low” instead of “no,” because this is The Andy Griffith Show, so you already know everything works out just fine). Sheriff Andy Taylor sets out to help convince a country farmer named Rafe Hollister to get his tetanus shot. He fails. The county nurse fails. Barney spectacularly fails. And then, quite neatly, Andy hits on an idea that works, and the episode ends with Rafe getting the shot.
I watched the whole thing yesterday during my lunch break, and I was shocked about how topical everything becomes if you swap out “tetanus shot” for “COVID-19 vaccine.” There’s a lot of social science and psychology in there. Andy’s motivations for helping out are not, um, completely altrustic. The farmer fires a rifle at an officer of the law and faces no real consequences. Take that how you will. Plus, the show starts out with Barney learning karate, a plot point that goes absolutely nowhere.
This episode had me thinking a lot of thoughts, and I’m sure it’ll leave you feeling some feels as well. So consider this your homework assignment for this weekend: After you’ve watched the episode or the YouTube clip, or scrolled through the thread, come back here and leave a comment below, or hit me up on Twitter. I’d love to know what you think for a future edition of the Rabbit Hole.
One last thing: The Andy Griffith Show is not real life. Mount Airy, the loose basis for Mayberry, is only 43% vaccinated, per Sara Pequeño.
Extra Credit: If you really want to see Griffith playing against type, please watch “A Face In The Crowd” and report back.