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new featureAn Out of Country Experience-Part 25
(Please check the archives if you've missed previous installments)

Tales From The Barstool By: Clint Lien

"Joe Schmo"

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In My Opinion
By L.N.P.

Here's the deal. This column is a response to Clint Lien's column, which means that you have to read his first in order to fully appreciate this one. So, click HERE, and take a few minutes to read what he has to say. You'll enjoy it. Then, come back here and read my response. It's OK. I'll wait for you.

What We Deserve

Thanks, Clint, for another great column. But you're missing the point!

The whole point of going on shows like "Survivor," "Big Brother," "The Amazing Race," "Paradise Hotel" etc. is to WIN! And, the stakes are pretty high, ranging from $500,000 to $1,000,000 and more. So basically, the object is to see how depraved a human being will become in order to win a lot of money. The motive is greed. Good, moral, honest people, like your pizza guy, cannot hold on to those values and win; it's impossible. The only way to win on these shows is to lie, manipulate, cheat, double-cross and betray everyone and anyone in your way. If you want to make your mama proud, then cure a disease, feed the homeless, be a loving son. If you want to make her rich, it's going to involve biting those carrots. What you learned from the Chat Room is that the producers are feeding the people exactly what they deserve.

To engage in gross gender generalizations for a moment, I don't know many guys who watch or enjoy Reality TV, but I know an awful lot of women who do. My theory is that women are more comfortable around gossip, back-stabbing, petty jealousies and rivalries, because they've all been sucked into those games before. They "get it" because they've been victims of it. In real life. Guys seem far more oblivious to those things. They rarely notice, much less wonder, what Tom really meant when he said, " Maybe we should talk later." They tend to take things at face value. Women, on the other hand, not only notice, but are sure they know exactly what Tom really meant. And as long as I'm on this slippery gender slope, I might just as well add that if a guy watches a Reality Show, it's probably to see skin. Since almost all these shows involve at least a few extremely eye-catching young women in various stages of undress, men watch for the visual stimulation. They could just as easily watch a Victoria's Secret commercial; it makes no difference. Just as long as there's something scantily clad to look at. Women like the intrigue. They are listening voyeurs, not watching ones. They love the idea that they're in on all the scheming; they finally know what's going on behind everyone's back. And presumably, that's exactly what they've always wanted.

But I digress. (I know; it's a cliché. But a useful one.) When I wrote that line about the producers feeding the people, you'll notice that I didn't say they were feeding them what they want, but what they deserve. That's what's really so sad about Reality TV, network TV, cable TV, commercials, movies, popular music, politicians and everything else we complain about while we voraciously consume. We deserve it because we support it. And, lest anyone think I'm taking myself off the hook here, nothing could be further from the truth. I'm just another consumer.

Now, I do believe there's a hierarchy, and that a small portion of what we are fed is far superior to the rest. There are quality shows on television, well-crafted, brilliantly written, beautifully acted, just as (I can only assume) there are politicians with honor and integrity somewhere……out there. But TV ratings, top grossing movies, record sales, and national and local elections all reveal that the vast majority of us seem to prefer garbage. And to make it all that much worse, the lines have become so blurred that we Californians are probably going to elect the Terminator as our next governor in the biggest Reality show of the season. And why? Because the point is to WIN, and the Terminator always wins. That explains why the heretofore pro-life, anti-gay marriage, pro-school prayer California Republican Committee can rationalize throwing their support behind the socially liberal Schwarzenegger; dishonesty is fine when the motive is greed and the point is to win. In fact, this particular election feels like part "Survivor" part "Big Brother," but mostly "Paradise Hotel California," where, as the song goes, "you can check out any time you like, but you can never leave."

But why is that? How is it that we can check out, time and time again, but never really leave? Well, I can choose to watch a quality show above a prurient one, or I can turn the TV off. I can choose not to listen to gangster rap, or shock jocks. I can avoid porn sites and x-rated films. Certainly, I can vote my conscience rather than follow the pack. But unless I lock myself in a padded room somewhere, I really can't leave. All of us are bombarded by scenes of intolerable violence, sexual immorality, corporate greed, political corruption. We can see offensive billboards simply driving to the grocery store. When we turn on the news we, and our children, hear a steady barrage of rapes, murders, child molestations, high speed chases, terrorists, suicide bombings. During an election, we hear all of that, plus blatant lies and distortions from every candidate about every other candidate. When we turn to entertainment, we get rampant promiscuity, gay dating games, mean-spirited humor, glorified cheating, glamorized drug and alcohol use, nudity, profanity, more violence, and a total lack of respect for those qualities which we as a society ought to value: kindness, compassion, integrity, generosity, love.

So we're getting what we deserve. Society is not supposed to reflect the media's values; it was meant to be the other way around. The media is supposed to reflect our values. So when we turn on the television, or watch a Reality show, or go to the Cineplex, or see a campaign ad, all we're doing is staring back at our collective reflection. If we don't like what we see, we need to change it.

 

Send me your opinions at LParis@netlistings.com

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