Facing Reality

March 5, 2004

We all know there’s nothing very real about "reality television". The only thing that distinguishes it usually is the lack of a live audience. Well, that and the fact that none of the cast belongs to any actors’ union so they don’t have to be paid as much for behaving like idiots in front of a camera, but then under the right circumstances that’s something even most celebrities will do for free.

But I digress. The new fad in reality television seems to be the "let’s make you feel really bad about yourself so we can swarm all over you for a brief period of time and pretend we’re making you feel better about yourself". Sometimes this isn’t a bad thing. If you need a gay man to tell you that your nose hair shouldn’t be long enough that you can braid it then you need serious help. And then there’s the idea of giving people plastic surgery and following them through the long, painful recovery process. Seeing a woman with a deviated septum, a cleft palate, and breasts that are only of average size spend months recovering from the swelling and post-surgery infections–now that’s entertainment! P.T. Barnum made a fortune putting people who looked different on display. Now TV executives are making fortunes taking people who look different and making them look like everyone else, and there’s no sign of the Great Egress anywhere. It’s not that I have a problem with plastic surgery to cure medical problems, but I can’t help thinking that there are a lot of people who are having trouble affording surgery they need and who can’t get television executives to pay for it for them. Plastic surgery, for some reason, is entertaining enough that the people who are lucky to get theirs broadcast to an audience also get put up in a hotel for the duration of their recovery. Don’t they have jobs? I can just imagine the conversation that takes place at work before filming begins:

Employee: Hey, boss, I’m going to take eight months off for purely elective surgery.

Boss: Have a nice life, and feel free to let the door hit you in the liposuctioned buttocks on the way out.

Employee: But it’s for a television show!

Boss: Oh, well, in that case Johnson can take over all your accounts until you get back.

But I digress. Now plastic surgery isn’t even entertaining enough to hold a national audience. This same idea has mutated into "we’ll destroy your house and completely rebuild it for you." There was a time when you had to pay a contractor to come and do repairs on your house for you. Now if you can get a film crew to document it you can get it done for free. What about people who don’t have homes? There’s an idea for reality television: helping the homeless. Get a film crew to go out and document Habitat For Humanity. It sounds like a great idea, but it won’t work. If we had to actually see people in dire need, even if they were getting help, it would just be too depressing. Either that or it would prompt us to get out and actually help people in our own communities. Either way it would be really bad for ratings.

Enjoy this week’s offerings.

A pompous minister was seated next to a cowboy on a flight to Texas. After the plane was airborne, drink orders were taken. The cowboy asked for a whiskey and soda, which was brought and placed before him. The flight attendant then asked the minister if he would like a drink. He replied in disgust, "I’d rather be savagely raped by brazen whores than let liquor touch my lips." The cowboy then handed his drink back to the attendant and said, "Me too. I didn’t know we had a choice."

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