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
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.
me your opinions at LParis@netlistings.com