The Goode Recyclers

A cartoon series shows Americans what environmental consciousness can do. But the producers also want to poke some fun at all the Obama-hype and the vegetable-growing First Lady.

They don’t want anything special: The Goode family buys organic apples, uses correct terminology for minorities and generally just wants to do right by everybody. The difficulties in that are dramatized in a new cartoon series running Wednesdays on the ABC network.

Gerald Goode, the dad, is an administrative official on the staff of the local school. Helen Goode, the mom, is Gerald’s full-time wife and a part-time environmental activist. Together, they decided to live ecologically responsibly, politically correctly, and they did so at a time when their government considered their lifestyle harmful to America’s economy. The two Goode kids are only lukewarm toward their parents’ decision. Their pubescent daughter, Bliss, mostly finds her parents embarrassing; adopted son, Ubantu, is just too naiïve to really understand where they’re coming from. Even the family dog, Che, only pretends to accept the family’s preference for the vegetarian diet. Usually, he turns his nose up at his feeding dish and eats what the neighbors give their pets. When no one is looking, of course.

But the Goodes don’t get discouraged. For the 13 episodes of the first series, they drive their hybrid auto, plant a vegetable garden in their front yard, separate their recyclables from the rest of the garbage and refuse to use the plastic bags offered by the supermarket.

The show’s producers, Mike Judge and Greg Daniels, finally have the opportunity to lampoon a trend made possible by Obama’s presidency. After decades of waste and ecological piracy, the green lifestyle has now officially reached the pinnacle of being hip: Obama’s wife, Michelle, is planting a vegetable garden on the White House lawn to show her fellow citizens how good and nutritious home-grown veggies are. Obama, himself, just put through a law that will result in American vehicles putting out one-third less greenhouse gasses by the year 2016. And bankrupt Chrysler has handed itself over to the Fiat corporation, without much of a fight, so they can gain access to Fiat’s technology for the production of fuel-efficient smaller cars. Although they still have a long row to hoe in America before they reach true ecological nirvana, the trends in day-to-day life are already unmistakable: Several supermarket chains now offer recyclable grocery bags; supermarkets offering organic foods are booming, at least in the larger cities; and posters promoting ride-sharing are everywhere to be seen in New York’s subway system. It seems the Goode family made its appearance on American television screens just at the right moment.

Mike Judge, originator of the “Beavis and Butthead” series, and Greg Daniels, creator of “The Simpsons”, had already both shown a feeling for the American zeitgeist. Their series, “King of the Hill”, was the antithesis of the Goodes: a white, Methodist Texas family, God-fearing and conservative. When it debuted in 1997, Bill Clinton, from the neighboring state of Arkansas, was in the White House. When the Texan Republican and evangelical George W. Bush came into office, the series ran for 13 more seasons and became the second most successful series on American television after “The Simpsons.”

So the prospects are quite bright for the Goodes: They’ll have a guaranteed, minimum four-year run.

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