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The Boston Globe

Opinion

Joanna Weiss

America’s fantasy villain

As a New Orleans-based reporter in the 1990s, I sometimes found myself driving along backroads of west Louisiana, chasing some story near the Texas border. I’d always make a point of driving into Texas, if only for a mile and back. To an East Coast kid like me, Texas felt like a mythical place, full of 10-gallon hats and 50-gallon personalities, and I think that had a lot to do with “Dallas.”

I was a kid when the CBS soap first aired — in a pre-cable era when one prime-time TV show could capture the attention of the world — and despite the booze and the adultery, it was always a family event. (This is a paradox of modern entertainment: Today, we let kids stew in cartoon violence, but we shield them from the everyday havoc that grownups can wreak.) In 1980, everyone I knew was obsessed with “Who Shot J.R.” — so much so that the day after the answer was revealed, a girl named Kristen walked into our elementary school with a sign that said, “I didn’t do it!”

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