September 18, 2006
I know this is a really trite and prissy thing to get irate about, but certain brands of so-called reality TV do seem to succinctly represent a rotten society.
I’m late jumping on this bandwagon, and I don’t know anyone who doesn’t deride these “competitive” reality shows, even the people who say they like watching them. The reason I’m late to this is that I’ve avoided the whole gamy field by simply not paying any attention at all. So, my vitriol is uninformed. I won’t argue that. That doesn’t make it wrong.
I had remained safely in my “reality”-free world until they upgraded the workout room in my workplace. I was very grateful for the new erg and the replacement for the antebellum weight machine and so forth, but sad that dual TVs had been deemed critical to the improvements. These days, as it happens, I tend to frequent the room at the same time as some very nice seeming person who treads away on a conveyor belt and watches Fear Factor.
The first few bits of the show that I caught while whipping through my weight workout didn’t seem so bad. People climbing a rope ladder hanging from a helicopter to grab a flag, swimming underwater to unlock something—whatever, these seemed like physical challenges no more bizarre than football or platform diving. But soon the whole gross-out aspect became evident. Transferring leeches between two containers using only your mouth, lying in a bed of millipedes, that kind of thing. Retarded. But the thing that put me over the edge, made me have to leave the room and think the world was going down the toilet, was when they introduced some buxom contestant and did the sun-dappled profile of her. Ahh, here she is with her sister riding horses in the countryside and the sister’s voiceover saying how sweet Ashlee is, though tough, and how much she really, really loves horses. So naturally her challenge is to play horseshoes with someone and whoever loses has to take the number of points they lost by and eat that many inches of horse rectum. Yes, that’s right friends, horse rectum (apparently dried). The screen shows the pretty girls, the host holding up a yard long thing that looks like your dog’s rawhide chew toy, and of course, of course, a couple of horses (ass view) in the background.
Really. I don’t expect people to want to always watch something edifying or be Dr. Bloody Bronowski or anything, but is this stuff really worth the firing of a single neuron? The crass manipulation of emotion and the encouragement of nastily selfish behavior is what seems most offensive, though on the other hand, aren’t they supposed to not harm animals in the production of entertainment? Did the producers just pop down to Safeway to buy a whole horse rectum, byproduct of some otherwise legitimate horse slaughter? Admittedly, I’d probably find the eating of horse rectum objectionable under most circumstances, even say, the more benign Iron Chef, but there was something especially repellent about the setup on Fear Factor. I know, duh, that’s the whole idea, get it—fear and repugnance. Primal, maybe irresistible things. But is there no better way to scratch that particular itch? And not to get unbearably righteous (like I haven’t already), isn’t there something despicable about eating as punishment when there are people starving in the world?
You may be wondering what happened to that horseshoe contestant, but literally, I left. And ever since when I’ve had to be in that room while the treader watches her show I blast music into my ears at dangerous levels and studiously don’t look at the screen.
A security professional I sometimes work with posits that the replacement of quasi-civilized TV (e.g., Spencer for Hire or The Beverly Hillbillies) with the truly abominable crap known as reality TV is what has caused the world to hate the United States (as the source of most of it), and want to strike out at us and all we stand for. I think he has a point.