Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Judging a Different Book By Its Cover

Recently, I wrote on my Freedom Writing blog about the perils of judging a book by its cover — particularly as it relates to the economic stimulus package.

Ever since then, I've been thinking about how prone people can be to pre-judging — or, perhaps, jumping to conclusions — before all the facts are in. And, as so often happens, I am reminded of an episode of "Frasier."

In the episode of which I am thinking, David Ogden Stiers (who played Charles Emerson Winchester on "M*A*S*H" for many years) played Leland, a former research assistant with Frasier's mother, who moved to Paris many years before, gave up psychiatry and became a board member at the Paris Museum of Modern Art.

Leland returns to Seattle and pays a visit to the Crane family, during which Roz notices many things that Leland has in common with both Frasier and Niles. Roz starts wondering if Leland is the boys' biological father, since he has so much more in common with them than their father does. Upon learning of her suspicions, Martin begins to wonder the same thing. He confesses to Roz that his wife was unfaithful to him once — but, supposedly, never with Leland.

Martin's concerns only grow stronger as he observes Leland, Frasier and Niles sharing the same interests. And long-time viewers of the series probably had the same thoughts. Leland clearly had more in common with Niles and Frasier than Martin (who, viewers knew, wished that his sons shared his passion for sports and showed more masculine traits and weren't, as he put it, so "artsy-fartsy").

Finally, Martin confronts Leland just before Leland's departure — and learns a fact that, at last, puts his mind at ease.

In the same episode, a companion story line had Niles and Daphne trying to decide on a name to use as a "placeholder" that would allow them to be placed in line for admission to a preschool for a child who hadn't been conceived yet. They could never agree on a name. Eventually, Roz volunteered to pick a name that neither Niles nor Daphne would know about, and, therefore, they wouldn't feel stuck with it.

But there was a problem with the name Roz chose. The resolutions of both story lines can be seen in the clip above.

The episode illustrates an important point, I think. Often, our preconceived notions get in the way of accepting ideas that are new or different. They can prevent us from occasionally stepping outside our "comfort zones" and seeing a world that may be passing us by.

In my own case, for example, I've never cared for tattoos. I don't know why. Maybe, when I was a child, I saw a TV show or a movie that had a negative depiction of someone with a tattoo.

I seem to be more tolerant of tattoos on men than on women. When I've been asked about that, my response has been that I think tattoos make women look like sailors. And, in fact, some women are sailors, although not all of them have tattoos.

And I seem to be more tolerant of tattoos that can be easily concealed, such as tattoos that are on a person's arms or legs — as opposed to the tattoos that were put on Mike Tyson's face.

As I say, I don't know why I have a negative reaction to tattoos — which are certainly popular these days. So are body piercings, and that's something else I'm not fond of.

But I should be more open-minded about those things, I suppose. The world is changing all the time.