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  • Pop culture and the postman

    Perhaps it is a sign of how electronic communication has changed our culture, but I’ve noticed that there are no more mailmen on TV.  It wasn’t so long ago when the postal service was such a part of everyday life that characters who worked as postmen were fairly common in entertainment.

    The most recent example I can think of is Newman, from “Seinfeld”.  Newman was

    Newman of Seinfeld in postal uniform

    Newman of Seinfeld

    portrayed as a self-interested and incompetent comic foil.  “Seinfeld” ended its run in 1998.  Coincidentally, that was the same year Google was founded.  An estimated 65 million Americans were regular Internet users then.  Today there are almost 240 million.

    Before Newman, there was Cliff Clavin, from

    Cliff Claven on Cheers

    Cliff Clavin

    “Cheers.”  Cliff, a boorish know-it-all, was rarely seen out of uniform, even though most scenes took place after work at the titular watering hole.  In 1982, the year “Cheers” debuted, there were only around 620,000 home computers in the United States.

    With those two examples, it’s tempting to say the post office is better off not having its employees portrayed on the small screen.  But there were positive depictions as well.  Reba the Mail Lady brightened Pee Wee Herman’s day every time she appeared  to deliver a letter on “Pee Wee’s Playhouse”, even if she did find the playhouse rules confusing.

    Electronic communications haven’t just changed the way people correspond over the last decade.  They’ve also changed the way they pay their bills and opened another medium for marketing.  But for most of the 20th Century, the mail was as much a part of life as turning on a computer is today.

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