Monday, November 15, 2010

Musings on Reali-TV (not my usual thing on here)

It's been a few days since I've updated due to the fact that I'm working too many hours at the moment, and the fact that everything I'm writing winds up being long enough to shop around to other markets. So, as a stopgap to tide you over until I'm back into the short, punchy, cruncy hundred-word swing of things, I thought I'd post my standup set from five or six years ago. I think you'll find it preachy and overly verbose, and it frequently went down very poorly at open-mic nights. And I assure you, my style of standup has not changed significantly since and I do not intend to learn from the lack of success I've had with it. Because I think I'm funny as hell. Enjoy!

Once, in a hotel room in Winnipeg, I saw the greatest thing on television I'd ever seen in my life. The hosts of a program took photographs of two overweight, unattractive children, observed their lifestyle for a week, then took their parents into a room and computer aged the overweight, unattractive children through their overweight, unattractive adolescence, into their overweight, unattractive adulthood, finally stopping the process when the nine and eleven year old children reached their obese, ugly fourtieth birthday.

The mother cried. The father struggled to be strong, but you could tell it was a struggle.

I can only imagine that this was a preamble to some sort of health program where the kids were encouraged to eat better, exercise more and lead a more healthy lifestyle in general. However, I'll never know this for certain, as once I saw those poor parents looks of shock and despair, I switched channels. I saw no reason to continue watching, as I'd already seen the money shot. I can't imagine I'm the only one to approach the show in this sort of cruel, dehumanizing way, and certainly this isn't the first show of this type to have it's principal appeal be the scorn it heaps upon the people who agree to appear on it, but it is, to date, the most vicious in the contempt it has for the people it attempts to claim it's trying to help.

And I, for one, am in favour of this. Because frankly, fuck those guys. I'm long on record as hating the sorts of people who willingly sign up for this sort of exploitive, voyeuristic nonsense, and the more we can make them suffer the happier I‘ll be. Previous to this most recent program, I was a long standing fan of the first half of every episode of Queer Eye for the Straight Guy. You know, the half where they arrive unannounced at some poor unsuspecting victims home, tear the place apart, mock his taste in clothes, the decor of his home and his personal hygiene, and then throw out/destroy/burn his clothes and furniture. The second half, where they try to "fix" the guy, I could never get into as easily, but the first act was always enjoyable.

And the queen of them all, of course, was and is, although if shows like the above keep going may not always be, The Swan.

The Swan, for the uninitiated, was a program where two young women with terminally low self esteem sign on to undergo a rigorous boot camp where they punished their bodies to insane limits, starving themselves, spending most of their days in what basically amounted to physiotherapy, occasionally receiving surgical operations in the pursuit of some vague beauty myth. And at the end of each episode, the two young women descended a staircase in gowns that appear to have been designed by a team of six year olds who were asked what a fairy princess might wear, and one of them is told that she STILL ISN'T PRETTY ENOUGH, AND SHE NEVER WILL BE. The other girl, the "Winner", I'm told goes on to the final round at the season finale, where she is ALSO TOLD, MORE LIKELY THAN NOT, THAT SHE STILL ISN'T PRETTY ENOUGH. Fantastic. Top notch entertainment. Because they deserve it.

Perhaps that sounds cruel, and that’s because it definitely is. But it's true if you think about it. They don't deserve it because they can't learn to love themselves, that's tragic and it's a shame that they appear to have nobody in their lives willing to help them address it. However, they do deserve it for the sort of greedy narcissistic compulsion that drives people to reality TV in the first place. These people don't honestly believe that a six week boot camp will change their life, they believe that being on TV will. They seem in a very genuine way to believe that the simple act of having their personal ordeal witnessed by millions will make their troubles in life magically disappear, and that they'll then be reborn, beautiful and whole, rising like the phoenix from the ashes of their most public of humiliations. It's the same principal that drives people to eat insects on an island, or be buried in snakes to overcome the factor of fear, and when they return to their former lives, perhaps slightly wealthier or slightly thinner, to find that they are still, in a fundamental way, themselves, I can only imagine the tears they weep. And they deserve every tear, for putting the pursuit of celebrity above any other more rational consideration. It is for this reason that I feel no pity for the crying parents, or the girl sent along the road to bulimia on national television, or the man on Survivor who fell into the flames, christening himself the first and to date only contestant on the show to run the risk of not actually surviving, and it is for this reason that I always shall laugh at them.

Because Warhol said that we'd all be famous for 15 minutes. But if we don't use that time to DO anything of interest or importance then we consent to whatever is done to us instead.

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