Redefining “Reality” via the Boob Tube
I am a geek. I’ll be the first to admit it, with no reservations. Star Trek, Star Wars, UFO (anyone else remember this awesome series?), Stargate Atlantis, Dr. Who (Tom Baker!)….the list goes on. I’ve had no problem in the past suspending my hard-learned notions of reality in order to enjoy an intergalactic escape into the many virtual universes offered to me.
Here’s the important part: I knew it wasn’t REAL. And nobody tried to tell me that it was.
Flash forward to today, and I find myself making a conscious effort to avoid most of what is on the tube. Instead of imaginative, fun stories, we are now inundated with “Reality” television. What the hell is going on? If I hear one more person ask if this show or that one is real, I am going to have a “Scanners” moment. Even today, another article appears on Yahoo news (click the pic), about some actress (Katherine Heigl, ugh) going on about the show “Dance Moms”. Please, I beg you, buy a brain cell.
One cable station even tells you this in their tag line: “Not reality, ACTUALITY!”. What in bloody blue blazes does that mean? I had to break a friend’s heart when I finally told him that “Storage Wars” was completely scripted. I mean, there are actually first person accounts of watching them film the damned thing. Brings to mind the old “Piranha Brothers” Monty Python skit:
Rogers: I've been told Dinsdale Piranha nailed your head to the floor. Stig: No. Never. He was a smashing bloke. He used to buy his mother flowers and that. He was like a brother to me. Rogers: But the police have film of Dinsdale actually nailing your head to the floor. Stig: (pause) Oh yeah, he did that. Rogers: Why? Stig: Well he had to, didn't he? I mean there was nothing else he could do, be fair. I had transgressed the unwritten law. Rogers: What had you done? Stig: Er... well he didn't tell me that, but he gave me his word that it was the case, and that's good enough for me with old Dinsy. I mean, he didn't *want* to nail my head to the floor. I had to insist. He wanted to let me off. He'd do anything for you, Dinsdale would. Rogers: And you don't bear him a grudge? Stig: A grudge! Old Dinsy. He was a real darling. Rogers: I understand he also nailed your wife's head to a coffee table. Isn't that true Mrs O' Tracy? Mrs O' Tracy: No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no. Stig: Well he did do that, yeah. He was a hard man. Vicious but fair.
The question remains: why are we so enchanted with these absolutely awful shows? I meet with friends of mine who, sheepishly, admit to watching one or two of them and, after the initial disclaimer to make sure we don’t think they have completely abandoned their sanity, will launch into impassioned diatribes on the merits of this character or that. All the while I will sit with a puzzled (frightened) look on my face, whilst they yammer on about Snookie or Snoogie or whatever her name is, or Dog the Bounty Mullet. And don’t get me started on the swamp people. On any given night, I will walk into the living room and I’ll have to ask, “Gators, wood stumps, gold, abandoned property, criminals on the run, other swamp people or Texas tea? What are we after tonight?” It’s lunacy.
The only way I can square it is that it’s just another form of escapism. A number of years back, we became so aggravated with the political process that my husband and I made a conscious decision to begin watching WWF Wrestling. Seriously. We made sure not to miss the matches, and made a point of discussing the wrestler’s tactics and alliances with each other at every meal. Our closest friends thought we had lost our minds. We may have, but we did it willingly. It was our form of a mental vacation from the world. It did not hurt that some of the combatants looked pretty darned hot in spandex.
This has to be the answer. With the state of our economy, I think folks have decided to turn to reality TV. The Snookies of today must be akin to the Rowdy Roddy Pipers of yesterday. Oh, I know “professional wrestling” is still around, but ever since we all figured out it was entertainment and not a real sport (Sorry, Rowdy, still love ya) it’s become lost in the sea of ACTUALITY. I know it’s not real. I suspect many others do as well. There’s only one way to rationalize it. I have to take for granted that my friends KNOW it’s not real, BUT I have to accept that they want to ACT like it’s real and TALK ABOUT IT like it’s real (even tho it’s not, and we know it) so we can all lose ourselves in the make believe, and ignore “reality”, which is no fun these days at all. Frankly, I think the world has turned on it’s head and there is a tear in the space-time continuum somewhere. Or maybe someone put crazy pills in the water supply. Perhaps resistance is futile.