Larry Hagman died a few days ago. After all of the wonderful roles he played, the evil J.R. Ewing has to be the most memorable. The Dallas character was unbelievably evil and the overall morality of the show could be argued. I had a more favorable impression of the show before I read Richard Rushfield's case for how it led to shows such as this year's The Mindy Project.
But the Reason.TV video above argues that it had an unintended positive effect in Romania:
During its original run from 1978 to 1991, Dallas was an international cultural phenomenon with ratings higher than late-’70s interest rates. It was the most or second-most watched show in the United States for half a decade, showing up in ABBA songs and Ozzy Osbourne videos, and spinning off the megahit Knots Landing.
But Dallas’ greatest impact ultimately wasn’t in these United States but in communist Romania, where it helped topple the brutal Ceausescu regime.
Dallas was the last Western show allowed during the nightmarish 1980s because President Nicolae Ceausescu thought it showcased all that was wrong with capitalism. In fact, the show provided a luxuriant alternative to a communism that was forcing people to wait more than a decade to buy the most rattletrap communist-produced cars.
“I think we were directly or indirectly responsible for the fall of the [communism],” Larry Hagman told the Associated Press a decade ago. “They would see the wealthy Ewings and say, ‘Hey, we don’t have all this stuff.’"
In fact, after Ceausescu and his wife were killed on Christmas Eve in 1989, the pilot episode of Dallas was aired on newly liberated Romanian TV.
As Nick Gillespie narrates:
Throwaway cultural products influence far-flung societies in ways that are impossible for anyone, even dictators, to predict or control.
That lesson is more relevant than ever in a world where movies, TV shows, and music cross borders with impunity and the free West engages the semi-free East, whether in China or Iran. If the United States is interested in spreading American values and institutions, TV shows may go a lot further than armored personnel carriers.
But what does this outfit that Justin Bieber wore to receive an award from the Canadian Prime Minister influence?