“You have to eat crow before you can enjoy the taste of chicken.”
Before there was a Mayberry with an Opie, Barney, Aunt Bee and Andy, there was a Carvel with an Andy, Marion, Mother and Judge Hardy. For over a decade, the trials and tribulations of American teenager Andy Hardy delighted movie audiences seeking relief from the harsh realities of the Great Depression and the terrors of world war. The series included fourteen films purportedly set in the idyllic Carvel, Idaho; although at various times the town seemed to be in New England, the Midwest and points unknown. That indeterminate location added to the series’ charm because Carvel and the Hardys represented a wistful glimpse of what many people believed to be an ideal life. The town was populated by friendly folks who were kind, tolerant, patriotic and endowed with the kind of wisdom rooted in common sense. Problems could all be reasonably worked out. Everyone had what they needed to get by and if they didn’t, help was always available. The Hardys themselves represented an ideal that many parents and kids might yearn for today. Andy and Marion were bright, cheerful and largely obedient kids. When they got into a minor scrape it seemed catastrophic only because of its rarity. Mother was a doting advocate for Andy and Marion and her occasional goofiness only underscored her abundance of love. The Judge was rock-steady reliable. He had a Solomon-like wisdom, a way of holding his kids accountable without being a scold and a gentle sense of humor that made him always approachable. After Andy wound up in some terrible (but not really terrible) fix, his man-to-man talks with the Judge always put things in the right moral perspective and provided the means of setting them straight. Often times, getting things straight involved eating a generous helping of crow.
While it’s certainly the mark of a simpler age when the taste of chicken is held out as a gastronomic delight, there’s no mistaking the fact that the taste of crow hasn’t improved over time. It’s as disagreeable for us moderns as it was for the Hardys. Since entering the language in 1850, this distinctly American expression has meant one thing—swallowing one’s pride and admitting a mistake. Never an easy task. The magnitude of the mistake and the degree of vigor with which it was pursued, dictates the serving size. If the mistake included a bit of arrogance and self-righteousness, that serving might end up looking like an all-you-can-eat buffet!
Fortunately for those of us who have known the taste of crow, there does seem to be a medicinal benefit. It’s a curative for the pridefulness that causes us so much trouble. It’s this false pride that blinds us to the contributions of others, dupes us into misreading situations and into taking offense where none was intended. It also inflames problems that could have otherwise been resolved with a simple, “I’m sorry,” or, “I misunderstood.” Make no mistake; pridefulness can also keep the offended party from accepting a sincere apology and “moving on.” Even at its best, however, pride needs to be tempered by humility and modesty. It’s possible to be right without gloating. It’s possible to win without creating losers. And—coming as no surprise—it’s possible to admit a mistake without losing your self-respect. As he was in so many other things, Judge Hardy was right about crow. Eat a little as necessary and everything else tastes better! —Ebert