Writer, Reporter, Marketing
When did reality television, as it is known, become less real than drama? It didn’t take long. It smacks of the same argument we teachers have with kids as to why fiction is more authentic and can be more “real” than non-fiction. But if my daughter watches one more “Love it or List it,” or “House Hunters,” or even “BBQ Pit Masters,” in which drama is created out of contrived and artificial circumstances, I may blow a gasket.
I’m in danger of producing a “this society is going to hell” rant, but I’ll attempt to avoid it, lest I fall into the same pit these wastes of digital code have done. All economic periods create culture in a society like ours, though it is worth pointing out that as we lose more liberty, economics will be more about politics than ever before. We’re being redefined again as we narrow down our economy where jobs are harder to find, upward mobility is a thing of the past and healthcare is such a wildcard, nobody knows what to think. One of the casualties has been the way television is packaged and sold.
Television was always bad, always. There are no two ways about it. Edward R. Murrow’s speech about the choices we make in television is so prophetic and it bears referencing here: To those who say people wouldn’t look; they wouldn’t be interested; they’re too complacent, indifferent and insulated, I can only reply: There is, in one reporter’s opinion, considerable evidence against that contention. But even if they are right, what have they got to lose? Because if they are right, and this instrument is good for nothing but to entertain, amuse and insulate, then the tube is flickering now and we will soon see that the whole struggle is lost. This instrument can teach, it can illuminate; yes, and it can even inspire. But it can do so only to the extent that humans are determined to use it to those ends. Otherwise it is merely wires and lights in a box. Good night, and good luck.
Let’s not mince words. Murrow was right-and he was hopeful. But Murrow has gone into history books and so has his hope. Television is good for nothing but to entertain, amuse and insulate. Oh, it doesn’t have to be. And on the odd occasion that producers allow history, the arts, literature, science, technology, faith and other noble pursuits to integrate with our flat panels (as opposed to little black boxes, as they used to be called), television has inspired. Think of Ken Burns’ The Civil War or HBO’s John Adams or Game of Thrones or more commercially Mad Men or Top Gear or even Downton Abbey (note: As a man, I cannot admit to ever having watched that show. But, I’ve heard that it’s really good). But mostly, it does the other-and it’s painful.
Now, I’m a dad–and that means that my daughter is rather consistently mad at me for the limitations I put on her. My asking her to change channels away from the claptrap that is reality television is merely another in the long list of complaints she’s building against me. One day, it will blow. I’ll have to be ready to absorb that.
But it also means I have to somehow be comfortable-at least comfortable enough to be in the same room while she is watching. And I cannot do that when most reality television is on. Heck, most reality television is actually so profane or so obscene, she isn’t allowed to watch it. But these shows that thrive on contrived drama and make-believe conflict, that give the dimwit producers a reason to turn their cameras on, are nothing more than lights and wires in a box.
I’ve had enough.
Posted in Culture