October 28, 2003

Reality Television and Social Trauma

FOX NEWS AND OTHER MEDIA have informed us that a plethora of reality-television shows are in the works about those whom one might call folks with money. Indeed, some of them are even airing now. We do not fully understand why anyone would voluntarily watch such things, but as we realize an awful lot of time and expense has been taken to convince people to do so, we feel this phenomenon is worth writing about.

We don’t think they’re all bad. No, really. We don’t. After all, this show about a semi-popular entertainer shows that every person in American society can do very well, even if he or she is an idiot. Gad.

We are sorry for being so blunt, but we cannot understand how a person of sound mind can truly not tell the difference between chicken and tuna. As the writer Linda Holmes has noted, this was not an isolated incident with Mrs Jessica Simpson, the semi-popular entertainer in question:

“She once declined an order of Buffalo wings with the fairly grave statement that she doesn’t eat buffalo. As a friend of hers pointed out, it had apparently never occurred to her to wonder, given her understanding of the etymology, where on a buffalo you would find the wings to begin with.”

Of course, we can’t understand why eating buffalo is all that big a deal either. We can certainly respect not eating red meat for religious or digestive reasons, but we see no reason why bison should be singled out within that category as unworthy of consumption. After all, it tastes better than regular beef and is healthier to boot. But, as we learn in Ms Holmes’ article, we should not expect Mrs Simpson to think along such lines, as we are informed she is apparently hopeless in quite a few other regards as well.

Now, to be objective, we should note that Mrs Simpson has her defenders, such as Illinigirl, who writes as follows:

“Yes she says stupid things and is a bit spoiled, but at least she has her head on straight. She's come through teen stardom fairly well and seemingly stood by her morals and remained close to her family.”

Well, that is certainly a fair point, and we will admit that we are not all that familiar with Mrs Simpson’s career, so we will take Illinigirl’s word as gospel. What we don’t understand, though, is why anyone would watch this particular show with Mrs Simpson on it. As evidence of our inability to comprehend such things, we harken back to the five-minute period some years ago in which our brother inadvertently exposed us to a reality-television show starring Anna Nicole Smith. We were so shaken at watching this train-wreck of a program – polysyllabic words were high points – that we don’t think even a stiff dose of gin could have lifted our spirits. What, in the name of God, would cause such people to voluntarily make fools of themselves before a national television audience?

But, of course, these people are entertainers, and we will allow for the tiniest possibility that they realize exactly what they are doing, and are in fact laughing all the way to the bank. (We do not really believe that, of course; there is no reason to act stupid when, as in these shows, one draws his or her pay regardless of how he or she comes across). We further will allow that while one can criticize entertainers for being vapid or appallingly ignorant of world affairs, one can not criticize them for being foolish in terms of their marketing savvy. They have not only extended their earning potential, they have diversified their revenues through these shows; and we extend a tip of the hat to them (or the people behind them) for making all that happen.

That said, we would very much like to throw our hat in disgust at the people starring in a related but different type of reality show. Apparently, a plague of programs are taking a look at the lives not of the wealthy, but of the wealthy’s indolent and feckless progeny. We were and are thoroughly appalled at this development.

For, you see, we have every intent of someday becoming wealthy through lots of hard work and prudent investing of the cash we will earn through our labors. We have run the calculations and found that even on our middle-class income, we can do quite well for ourselves as long as we are dedicated and smart about things. Indeed, by the time we are sixty years of age, we expect to have reached what a certain very wise man calls “the land of critical mass.”

Hence, we were not at all pleased to learn that there were shows being produced in which the decadent, spoilt, whinging larvae of the nouveau riche are prancing about and spending more money on clothing in one shopping trip than most average folks earn in a good quarter.

This is not because we don’t want them to spend so foolishly. We approve mightily of that, because it helps the economy. We just don’t want them to do it in front of millions of people who don’t have the same resources. It’s not just that it’s unseemly to do so – it’s that we know what sometimes happens when moneyed folks have gone publicly overboard in doing that …

CHICAGO, 2074: Revolutionary Leader Ernest B.B. Sinclair delivers a speech to Party faithful after seizing power. INSET: P. Martin Kepple (2018-2075), the famed writer, contemplates a chess-board as he is being denounced as a “blood-sucking fascist insect capitalist” in a May Day speech. During the turbulent years of 2072-2074, Kepple was one of many Americans prevented from escaping to exile in Bermuda. (PHOTO CREDIT: The Newspeak Dictionary).

We do not, obviously, hold the kids entirely responsible for their indiscretion. We do, however, hold their feckless and irresponsible parents entirely to account. Therefore, we would kindly ask them to prevail upon their children and have them stop -- or at the very least, grow up a bit.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at October 28, 2003 11:56 PM | TrackBack