Sep 19, 2008

Warhol was Right

One of the things that I find shocking about America is the nature of its many reality shows. While a part of me is thrilled & grateful for the sheer variety that I find here, most of the shows are appalling. One of the reality shows that I've watched often is the Jon & Kate Plus Eight show that tells the story of a family where there are a set of twins & a set of sextuplets. Needless to say, their hassles, travails & triumphs make me feel better about the 3-yr old I deal with. There is a kind of sadistic pleasure mixed with a sense of humility & awe that two adults can actually do a pretty decent job raising 8 kids, six of which are of the same age. Also, my daughter is a huge fan of the family & insists almost daily that I drop her there; so much for family ties. Though A is critical about the family making money by exhibiting their kids, I don't mind it too much & so far haven't witnessed anything that I’d label as offensive on that show (if u discount Kate’s irritating habit of trying to push the idea of the all American germ-free-pancake-eating-outdoorsy-family down our throats perpetually).
However, most of the other shows will tell u more succintly than Barack Obama does, why this nation desperately needs a change. They paint an unhealthy & sad picture of people who peddle their deepest anxieties & fears, every harrowing experience they've overcome, the most personal demons they fought with & often lost, in front of millions via reality shows like Maury, Intervention, What Not to Wear, Nanny 911, Trading Spouses, Judge Alex, Judge Mathis.

While the Maury Show is one of the worst I know of, there is something quite morbid even about the relatively harmless Nanny 911 show where parents who are unable to discipline their children hire a stern, stiff upper-lipped Brit nanny who then proceeds to show them the error of their ways, in the process often revealing certain unsavoury bits about the couple's relationship or their lack of table manners. Participants in the Maury Show are subjected to polygraphs, DNA testing & much else & everything from the fatherhood of one's kids to the number of times a travelling salesman cheated on his wife is revealed in front of an obnoxious, simultaneously booing & cheering audience. I watched one of the episodes in dismay as this Mexican family just disintegrated before our eyes when DNA tests revealed that of their three adorable kids, the eldest Juanita, had been fathered by someone else. I dunno how much of the crying, shouting & ugly accusations that followed, was staged & how much of it was real.

It is just disturbing to watch people who will stop at nothing to enjoy their 15 minutes of fame & make a few quick bucks. This also takes away so much from those dozens of reality shows that are essentially about unearthing talent - be it musical, culinary, hair styling or simple home repair. Those are actually fun & sometimes even faintly educative.

This phenomenon of cheap exhibitionism can also be traced in the kind of 'memoirs' that one comes across these days. Princess Diana has p'bably been immortalised in some dozens of them by now, Monica Lewdinsky made millions clearing her name by talking about sex & cigars and innumerable versions of the tumultuous O.J Simpson-Nicole Smith marriage & subsequent tragedy grace book shops.

I know this gets slightly tangential but it is this cult of cheap, unsavoury, exhibitionism and craving for non-anonymity, of being recognized & congratulated, that drives so many bloggers that I know personally. Why is everybody in such a hurry to share their mundane musings about such weighty matters as a mediocre review of 'Rock On' or what they consider the best way to rein in wandering husbands! And god spare u, if u have dared to not read or even worse, read & not comment, on their posts. Not even a stint in the fourth circle of Purgatory will be enough to save u from their wrath.

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