I’m weary of the coarse, crass, and crude levels to which much of our entertainment culture has stooped. It’s been a forty-year dive during my lifetime and doesn’t seem to have reached its depth.
Latest evidence, for me at least, is the new Investigation Discovery channel program, originally airing August 25, called “Who the [BLEEP] Did I Marry?” It didn’t encourage me to learn the program weighed-in with early Nielsen success, meaning millions of people watched it.
The show features marriages gone bad, really bad, when a spouse eventually discovers some horrible skeleton in his or her mate’s closet. In other words, a spouse has been living a lie. The titillating nature of the show focuses upon betrayal.
The program is investigatory in the tradition of crime and justice shows, and I suppose there may be some positive contribution in all this for someone somewhere. But beyond the uncouth name of the show what bothers me most is that this feels more like voyeurism than humanitarianism.
I’d say the same for most—not all—of the so-called “reality shows” popularized in the past 10 years. These scripted-“unscripted” shows provide viewers with a steady stream of unrealistic-“reality,” much of it celebrating rude, crude, and lewd behavior. They focus on people apparently desperate for money or their fifteen minutes of fame and the raunchier, more vulgar, over-sexed, or profane they can be the greater the viewership.
Reality programs create wanna-be celebrities, actually non-celebrities, what some call “nonebrities,” meaning "a pointless media figure who would love to rise up high enough to scrape on to the bottom end of the D-list.” Sounds harsh but the debased dialogue in a lot of these programs suggests the term is, sadly, not far off the mark.
To name a few such programs: E!’s “Keeping Up With the Kardashians,” MTV’s “A Shot At Love With Tia Tequila,” featuring 16 straight male and 16 lesbian female contestants working to earn the ostensibly bi-sexual Tequila’s attention, E!’s “Kendra,” HBO’s “Hung,” featuring pimps and a male prostitute, Oxygen’s “The Bad Girls Club,” the various “Real Housewives” shows, and many more.
Of course entertainment flaks always say, “Don’t watch if you don’t like it.” And to a certain extent they’re correct. If people don’t watch it puts pressure on advertisers and producers and, sometimes, push a program off the air.
But there’s also the scores of commercials marketing these programs that all of us have to endure even if we don’t watch. And there’s the fact that producers of such programs sometimes air them no matter their financial results because the producers, directors, actors, et al involved in the show get professional accolades from industry peers for “pushing the envelope.” They’re given kudos for achieving a brave new entertainment world—which in essence means doing whatever they want, recorded in HD.
You really don’t have to be a prude to be weary of in-your-face dumbed-down culture. It just gets old, especially when you consider how much of the nobility of human culture is out there, available but neglected in mass entertainment.
© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2010
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