Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Reality TV

I hope you have had a wonderful holiday season. Our family has been traveling to celebrate Christmas with our family in Texas. They don’t have Wi-Fi, and their computers either have dial up or other impediments to blogging. As a result, I’ve taken a bit of a break from posting to this blog.

We had a great visit with our relatives, but being away from home is always tough. For example, we don’t generally sleep well. I particularly have a hard time sleeping, and woke up in the wee hours several times with nothing to do but sit in the living room flipping channels. There is not a lot on at that hour no matter how many channels you have. I ended up catching up on some reality TV.

Yikes. Surely the end of civilization must be around the corner.

My husband and I both hate reality television, but for somewhat different reasons. My husband thinks everything is staged and there is no reality in “reality television.” Basically, he thinks it is all a fraud.

I don’t disagree with him. And I loathe the basic premise of such staging/fraud, which seems to be to show how screwed up others are so that we can laugh at them and/or wag our fingers at them. In essence, reality television encourages us to judge others and feel superior to them.

My other major source of disgust with reality television is that people are allowing their personal lives and their families’ personal lives to be exploited for monetary gain. That is tragic on so many levels. And it is a bargain that never seems to turn out well, but people keep doing it.

Anna Nicole Smith was one of the early reality TV stars, and apparently her teenage son did not handle the situation well. As I have read, Daniel was a shy young man and a good student with aspirations to go to college, but he began using drugs because of awkward attention at school about aspects of his mother’s reality television show. A couple years after the reality show ended, he tragically died of an overdose.

Jessica Simpson and Nick Lachey signed on to do a reality show of their early married life. Marriage is tough enough under the best of circumstances, but I cannot imagine how a young couple can possibly sort out the difficulties of adjusting to being a married couple with cameras following them in their home and on dates. Ms. Simpson and Mr. Lachey ended up divorcing after just three years of marriage.

In my opinion, Jon & Kate Plus Eight is one of the worst reality television debacles to-date. Yet another couple’s marriage fell apart as the world watched it play out on their TVs. It was horrifying that a couple’s personal tragedy was entertainment for the world to watch and exploit in disgusting detail. Of course, the tragedy was exacerbated because the couple had eight young children. (At least Ms. Simpson and Mr. Lachey did not have kids.) As if all of that was not horrifying enough, Kate Gosselin signed on for another show without her ex-husband to let the world gawk some more at her children.

Because of my Christmas vacation insomnia, I saw a bit of two more recent reality TV shows. They were both so horrifying, I couldn’t watch entire episodes. The infomercials looked good by comparison.

The first of the two shows I caught was What Chili Wants. I was a young adult in the 1990s when the musical group TLC was popular, but I haven’t heard what they have been up to since the tragic death of one of their members, Lisa Lopes. What Chili Wants is a new reality show following TLC member, Chili Thomas, as she works with a relationship expert to find true love. In the first scene of the episode I caught, Chili described to the expert what she is looking for in a mate. She explained he had to be physically gorgeous and sexually appealing; there were specifications for both his abs and his genitals. Chili also demanded that her future mate be a believer in God and not consume pork. However, she was a bit more tolerant with regard to a potential mate’s family status; she would accept up to two baby mamas.

My mind reeled. I’ve never heard someone speak so shallowly and so selfishly about finding a life partner. Chili Thomas is a lovely, talented woman. She is about my age and has a son. I cannot imagine someone who is so accomplished, who is a parent and who has arrived in middle age being so self-absorbed and clueless about finding a mate. Consequently, I hope my husband is right and there was no reality to that reality show. Surely, the whole thing was invented to attract viewers. Even so, after about 15 minutes, I couldn’t take it anymore and had to change the channel.

The other reality show I caught during my insomnia was Sarah Palin’s Alaska.

I’m not even sure what to say about that show. I did give it a fair shot and watched almost a full episode. It was absolutely horrifying on so many levels. I’m just not sure where to even start.

And that may be a sign that I ought not even try. Perhaps it is best to not dwell on the many revolting aspects of the show. Instead, I’ll just sum it up by saying: oh, my goodness, I cannot believe we as a nation have sunk to this level.

Somewhat surprising, my apolitical husband is particularly disgusted that Sarah Palin has agreed to do a reality show. He thinks exposing one’s personal life to the cameras like that is about the most tasteless, undignified thing one can do. And he fears that Governor Palin has set a new (low) standard that other politicians will follow. His greatest fear is that we’ll have a president someday who has been a reality TV star.

My husband is not very interested in politics, so (unlike me) he is not even that offended by Governor Palin’s political rhetoric. His chief concern is just the cheapening of our democratic process and the stature of those elected to office. Serving in public office these days is not an opportunity for selfless public service, but simply another opportunity to exploit oneself for economic gain and public attention. In the past, politicians have done that primarily via book deals and honoraria for giving lectures. Apparently now there is a new avenue: reality television. President Snooki or President Palin? As my husband sees it, what is the difference? He has a point.

Mark 8:36

"For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul?"

Mark 10:45

"For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many."

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