Category Archives: Reality TV

Why I Don’t Like Reality TV Shows

Why don’t I like so-called “reality” or “actuality” TV shows?   Because they’re mean.
 
They are intended to be mean, because “mean” is entertaining to some segments of the audience, and that scares me. 
 
Throwing Christians to the lions and watching gladiators fight to the death used to be considered wonderful entertainment in ancient times.  And while I’m not comparing actually killing someone with humiliating and demeaning them, there is a continuum here. 
 
Christians and slaves didn’t volunteer to become fodder for death to those eating popcorn in the stands.  The people on TV do volunteer to put themselves in situations which contribute to the demise of public taste, humane behavior, compassion and sensitivity.  They humiliate themselves for attention and profit.  That they volunteer for it doesn’t make doing it to them right.  It just makes them terribly pathetic.
 
When people go on an “American Idol“-like program in the hopes of being discovered for their talents, a simple “winning” or “losing” seems sufficient to me.  However, having judges who become popular by hurling horrendously insulting comments seems to be the real motivation for these programs.  Hurting people in front of others is an egregious act.  Televising it, or making money off of sponsors who support it, so that people at home can feel superior and powerful (because they’re not the ones being attacked) is purely disgusting.
 
These shows bring out the worst in people.  Martians watching our entertainment media would probably choose not to come to our planet, or else just wipe us off the face of the galaxy, because of how humanity displays itself on television (much less the Internet and the United Nations). 
 
No one is ashamed anymore.  They pass it off as giving the audience what it wants.  “It’s only TV,” or “it’s only a way to make a living,” they say. 
 
Sad.

Exploiting Kids When Finances Are Tight

When times get tough, some folks dig in and just get more creative and try harder.  For some parents, when the economy got tough, they got their children to try harder, and I’m not happy about this at all.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the children’s segment of the modeling industry has seen a 50% increase in applicants in the past three years, as parents try to have the kids’ “looks” subsidize the family income.  Also contributing to the growing number of mini-models are the reality TV shows featuring children (Toddlers and Tiaras and Little Miss Perfect come to mind).

I think this is a despicable development.  Parents there to exploit their children for their own income and ego?  The family income should not be put on the back (or should I say “face”) of children whose ages are still in single digits!
 
The impact on children is horrendous on many levels:

1. They have to deal with rejection at a very early age.  Children take these situations quite personally, and don’t understand the frivolity of choices based upon product, the taste of producers and so on. 
2. Kids think they are the most important part of the family – exaggerated value makes for a narcissism that will likely haunt that child throughout life, especially when it disappears as they get older and less cute or desired by Hollywood.
3. The child who is the performer becomes the “golden child,” and other children in the family are terribly hurt as their value to the parents (i.e., love) seems to disappear.
4. Kids learn that money and looks are the focal point of life.
5. Small children don’t understand the ramifications of the four items above and can’t really make the choice for themselves as to whether or not to participate (and such participation would change their lives and might not be in their best interests).

Exploiting children for ANY reason is wrong.  And that’s that. 

Toddlers and Tiaras

We’re all outraged when we hear the stories of children being beaten, locked in cages, raped by adult “friends of the family” (if not family members themselves), abducted, and murdered.  These are clearly horrendous realities that offend all decent people. 

Then there are the “normalized” child abuse activities that barely make people shrug a shoulder.  We were somewhat amused and annoyed by the recent story of the reality show family who pretended their son was in a balloon flying high in the sky while the balloon was empty and the boy was hiding.  Turns out that this was all about auditioning for their own reality show. 

TLC has a show called “Toddlers and Tiaras.”  According to one of my listeners who alerted me to this program, it should have been titled “Mothers Who Exploit Their Children.”  It’s a show about young girls (as young as 4 years old!) who compete in beauty contests.  The worst part is not that the mothers over-dress and overly make up their children.  The worst part is not that these young girls put on immodest swimsuits and high heels and parade in front of an audience.  The weird part of the show occurs after the competition ends and you see how these young girls and their parents react to the final results.  One young girl, who couldn’t have been older than six, took second runner-up, and her mother was furious.  When the mother went backstage, there was no “you did a great job,” or “I love you.”  She simply said to her sobbing child – angrily – “I don’t know what happened.  Come on…let’s go.”  Another little girl responded to the results by saying “I’m first runner-up.  That means I’m a loser.”

These kids are learning that they are only worth something if they win.  They’re only loved up by their parents if they win.  And they’re learning that winning a beauty competition is the way to a meaningful existence.

These kinds of competitions shouldn’t even be allowed.  If I had the power – no one would be able to exploit their children for money, infamy, notoriety, selfishness or stupidity.  We all have heard the stories of the warped and sorry lives of most former child stars – the drugs, alcohol, suicides, and self-destructive behaviors throughout their lives – generally because their worth was hitched to the wagon of public adoration.

These so-called “family” reality shows are a form of child abuse and exploitation.  Children lose their privacy and have to cater to the desire of networks and cable executives for ratings and sponsorship income, and producers need outlandish behavior in order to get and keep an audience.  Parents expect them to do whatever it takes to keep their star in the sky.  It’s disgusting, and our society not only allows it, but elevates these shows to an incredible level of importance.  How about all those news stories of Jon & Kate and their eight kids?  They’re getting a divorce, and their pathetic story got coverage from actual hard news sources for weeks at the same time they were appearing on the covers of so-called “news” magazines.

We have become detestable in our acceptance and normalization of obvious emotional child abuse.  Shame on us.

Jon & Kate Plus 8

I can’t believe how many emails I got from those of you who watch that program, Jon & Kate Plus 8.  It’s a reality TV show, and they’re breaking up because he had an affair?  Because she seems to be really mean to him, people have written suggesting I get involved.  NO WAY. 

When I was young, there was a show on PBS, An American Family, that was the same sort of thing.  Cameras were there 24 hours a day, and the family fell apart.  Strangers were there, the family was performing for television, and there were stresses and strains with the celebrity part of it – there shouldn’t even be a celebrity part.  I just think these things are disgusting displays.

Then there was the Jim Carrey movie, The Truman Show, which was about his life being a television show, and he not knowing it.  I remember at the time that people said, “Isn’t this a disgusting thing to do to a person?”  Well, now, people volunteer for it!  So, I have no respect for these parents.  I have no respect for any of the people who do this “reality” stuff. 

My heart goes out to the kids.  Is it humane to children to let their parents exploit them in a television program when their images and intimacies are exposed to everyone for all time when they have no say or control?  Is it in the children’s best interests to be USED as entertainment by two parents so self-absorbed that they put money and celebrity in front of their children’s privacy?  It’s like putting your children in a circus freak show strip and having a barker yelling: “Come in, come in and see what happens to children when their parents use them for your entertainment… It’s exciting, it’s damaging, but you won’t be able to take your eyes off ‘em.  Watch ‘em wiggle. Watch ‘em cry. Watch ‘em squirm.  It’s so much fun…bring popcorn and beer and come watch the show.”

To me, there should be a law that you can’t use kids on TV like this.  It’s one thing when they’re acting, but it’s another thing when they’re being exploited.  I’m surprised that nobody stepped in and said “This is the exploitation of minor children,” although late last week the Pennsylvania Department of Labor said it was looking into whether the show is complying with the state’s child labor law.  But I’m not going to get involved.  There are other show-biz types who have a habit of doing that.  I’m not one of them.

Here’s one of the letters that came into me, and seemed to have the most in-depth information:

I was once a fan of Jon & Kate Plus 8.  I loved watching these children, and seeing them grow. [note: I think it's exploitation]. Only the longer I watched the show, the more disturbed I became with Kate’s treatment of her husband.  I’d turn off the TV feeling deflated rather than uplifted.

Episode after episode, she’d berate and belittle him:  about his weight, his intelligence, and his parenting.  He’d take responsibility for his mistakes, while she’d excuse hers.  I remember one specific episode where he’d taken the day off to help her at home.  Having noticed one of the kids acting up, he put them in a “timeout.”  She went over and said “Daddy’s being mean,” and let them go back and play.  It broke my heart to see his authority continuously undermined in front of his own children.

Recently, at the end of their last season, Jon mentioned he wasn’t up for another season, explaining how he hates how he can’t go out in public and ‘just be Jon.’  Instead, he’s ‘Jon & Kate Plus 8.’  Translation:  he’s the guy on TV who is whipped by his self-centered wife.

Weeks later, all of the scandal broke.  Kate, in a People Magazine interview, said that Jon felt cancelling the show would make him happy, but she didn’t think anything would, so she would do what she felt was right for her family.  What is right for her family is not a television show, but two parents who love each other.

He wanted to cancel the show so the world would no longer see his dirty laundry, his controlling wife, and constant failures.  It may not make him happy, but it would make his life bearable.  What would make him happy is having a wife who cares for him.  I just wish that someone would reach out to that woman and give her a hard shake, before she damages the lives of 8 little ones, and her husband.  It seems silly to be caught up in the lives of ten reality show strangers, but I’ve learned a little something from it.  I gained a better understanding of the Dr. Laura saying:  “Do you want this woman/man to be the mother/father of your 87 children?’ 

Thanks for being a version of reality that I can rely on.

I like that last sentence.  What do we call “entertainment?”  The shows where they have people competing to cook, make clothes, and all that other stuff are such mean shows.  Hostility?  Competitive venom?  I can’t understand why we call this “entertainment.”  The population that enjoys sitting there with popcorn and a beer, watching people be mean, be diminished, and be demoralized is scaring me.

Susan Boyle Wows Everyone…Almost

I love Susan Boyle.  I’ve never watched any of those “Idol,” “Model,” or “Talent” shows.  The only reason I know of Susan Boyle is that she has hit the news big time.  For those of you, like me, who don’t keep up with these shows, Susan Boyle made a big hit on “Britain’s Got Talent” as a singer.

Unfortunately, the news was two-fold:  boy, is she ever unattractive, and boy, can she ever sing.

Susan Boyle is 47, overweight, flabby, and has graying, frizzy hair, bushy eyebrows, and a blubbery face.  Susan Boyle also has the singing ability of an angel, giving a performance of the Les Miserables tune “I Dreamed A Dream”  that has made her an instant star with more than 20 million views on YouTube.

Now the debates rage:  should she or shouldn’t she get some kind of makeover to look prettier on camera?    The United Kingdom’s Guardian published a “no, she shouldn’t; she should stay natural” comment from one of their most “done over” women stars.  Others are repulsed by her looks, and can’t imagine that beautiful voice coming from such a plain, frumpy woman.

Many of those 20 million plus YouTube views very likely occurred simply because of that incredible contrast.  For many, it was like watching a geek or freak show, so they could laugh at her lack of physical attributes, without, of course, looking in the mirror themselves.

Me?  I give her lots of credit for being more focused on her voice than on her lack of beauty.  She is definitely not attractive.  Should she get face work to match the scores of women who all look like they came out of the same factory:  the puffed-up face, abnormally protruding cheeks, and lips that look like the rump side of an orangutan?  I wouldn’t advise it.

Clearly, this is not a woman of means…yet.  So, getting her hair colored and calmed down, learning some makeup tips, and having clothes which best compliment her ample figure is something that is probably in the works now, which means that she’d be spiffing up what she has, and not getting surgically transformed into a vision which will make the snide snickers go away.  Making the best of what you have is admirable and advisable; getting re-made into something nobody is, is not admirable nor advisable.

And the main point is that she has a beautiful voice, and a tremendous amount of talent.  If she were “pretty,” I wonder how many YouTube hits there would have been.  Gosh…I long for the days before television and the Internet, when only the quality of what a person had to offer was revealed.

Outrageous Behavior in Exchange for Instant Fame

When I was a kid, we spent most of our time outside playing…something.  Riding bikes, playing ball, walking, running, performing dramatic vignettes, or finding clues in twigs, among other activities.  Imagination, strategy, and fresh air were the mainstay of life then.

And then….the incredible technology age came along, with chatter, Twitter, and pics, texting and more.  You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to guess that that isn’t very good.

Kids today aren’t on “friendship” sites to get help with their math homework or discourse on all things philosophical.  They’re basically trying to make a mark, to be somebody, or to impress somebody, all without having done a damn thing to actually earn the attention.

But why should they?  Look at what they see on television:  reality show after reality show where people get “famous” for behaving badly and creating nothing of value or beauty.  Ex-Governor Rod Blagojevich may even be getting his own television show after being tossed out of office because of severe wrongdoing.

That’s where kids get the idea that “outrageous” is more important than goodness, patience, commitment to a goal, and values beyond their own immediate “fantasy” gratification.  I don’t know how you parents can shield your children from this “Pinocchio Island,” which ultimately degenerates the value of living and giving to merely depraved acting out.  Removing all TVs and never going to the movies might be a start – maybe the Amish have it right in that regard.  They have long held that so-called “modern” advances don’t necessarily advance the human spirit.

It breaks my heart to hear all the stories each day of children and young adults who, in a rush to feel the power of adulthood freedom, don’t get the matched message of responsibility and nobility.  Religion in this country is breaking down as people go to Easter services or Passover dinners as mostly a yearly reunion, as opposed to a daily profound observance.  Families are breaking down with “shack-up,” out-of-wedlock children lost in a morass of adult yearnings for easy intimacy.  And so it goes.

Do I sound negative?  You bet.  I am worried.  I am heartened by the emails and calls from families struggling in the midst of all this societal turmoil, which has robbed them of the support and respect they so dearly need to help their children find a good and righteous path in life.  My heart goes out to them, and, hopefully, there will be more like them.

New Reality Show for the Overweight is a Bad Idea

When I was in my first year of college, I ate and ate and ate…especially at breakfast.  There was an unlimited supply of raisin toast, and that was the trough at which I fed.  I gained a good ten pounds.  This was a rebound from my anorexic last year of high school, when all sorts of stresses led me to find an answer to no sense of control in self-starvation.  The “plumpy” time was short-lived; however, as I became very active, and the rebelliousness was no longer necessary, as I was out of the home and on my own.

Since then, I’ve always been thin, but thin is neither healthy nor particularly womanly.  I’ve been working out six ways from Sunday, and I am a petite hardbody at 62, and proud of it, even if the discipline sometimes annoys me.

I do not watch reality shows.  I know of them, but I just can’t imagine how any rational person can consider these highly-produced dramas, with people pushed to bring out the worst in themselves as entertainment.  Yuck.

I just read that FOX has yet another so-called reality program in the works.  FOX is teaming up with “The Bachelor” producer for a new dating-competition series that casts fat people.  The series, titled “More to Love,” is billed as “the first dating show for the rest of us,” versus the sexy babes and good-looking bachelors that we usually see on these shows.  The show is considered “controversial,” because there is some argument the viewers don’t want to watch anyone other than “pretty people” do anything.

The producer says, “We want to send the message that you can be the size you are and still be lovable.  We aren’t going to ‘thin’ these girls down so they can find love – that’s a backwards message.”

I have my concerns.  This is the network that aired such shows as “My Big Fat Obnoxious Fiance.”  I worry that, in order to get attention, overweight types might be exploited for the “freak” attraction element.  I worry that emotions are going to run higher and deeper, because these folks already have sensitivities and have likely experienced rejection in public, and public display (even though it’s voluntary and in pursuit of their ’15 minutes of fame’) could hurt people.  The “pretty people” shows have contestants used to acceptance and calls from agents for other “pretty people” opportunities. 

I’m hoping this doesn’t get set up as a circus sideshow, which I think these shows are, even for the thin types.  Viewers are not looking for true love to occur – they’re waiting for the train wreck, the car crash, the suicide jump, as embarrassed and hurt people display their pain, and potentially, their rage.

I know some of you might say, “It’s about time that the typical American man and woman (who are, by the way, overweight and out-of-shape) get to be treated on TV like anyone else.”  Okay.  I get it, but, my friends, this is ENTERTAINMENT, not a psychotherapeutically romantic venture.

First, we saw on TV the pain and hurt of “pretty” types.  Now we’ll get pain and embarrassment for overweight types.  Frankly, I find that reality programming is there because it is inexpensive to do, and because the population seems to have an inexhaustible appetite for watching people get emotionally and/or physically splattered. 

I thought those days in the Roman Colosseum were over, but I guess base nature doesn’t change.

“The Bachelor” Is NOT A Guide for Real Relationships

When the so-called “mainstream media” carries a story, one used to surmise that the information was actually important in some significant way to Americans.  We all know that’s largely untrue:  stories today are attempts to splash the water in your face to get attention for ratings and commercial time or space revenue.

ABC News actually had someone from their “ABC News Medical Unit” on to discuss the heartbreak of losing on the program The Bachelor.  It seems that this guy first announced that he was “hot” for one babe, but them changed his mind, season ending “cliff-hanger” style) and went for another babe.  He proposed, then changed his mind, and went back to the first of the two dumped babes. That set off fireworks with some silly blog site that targets I-don’t-know-what-kind-of-women who actually care about this pseudo-intimacy.

One of the dumb issues involved in this nonsense is that the babes have signed contracts that say they aren’t allowed to cry or whine about hurt feelings until the appropriate time in the unfolding saga.  They actually got “shrinks” to opine about the emotional and psychological damage that can be done to these silly babes (who I define as pretty women who exploit their looks and desire their 15 minutes of fame by going on these not-really-reality shows to find the love of their lives and the father of their future 84 children) if they don’t get to “vent” their hurt!

Oh, puleeze.  First of all, this guy shows all the bonding ability of a flea in heat; these girls act like it’s the end of the world if this “please me now/please me not” joker doesn’t want them.  Frankly, I think the jilted girl should go down on her knees and praise God that she won’t be stuck with this guy for five more minutes of her life…unless, of course, he changes his rotating little mind again.

The shrinks talk about serious consequences of getting to know someone and then getting excluded.  Let’s say the truth:  they all want to look good, win the money, get TV/movie/recording contracts and/or turn to modeling.  Getting dumped on TV is embarrassing, but throngs are willing to do so in order to get the brass rings the easy way.

If anyone thinks that these people are actually looking for or are capable of bonding with the permanent “love of their lives,” by going through this orchestrated “play-acting” on a television show, well, I’ve got a bridge to sell you…cheap.

Do any of these girls get carried away?  Probably.  Girls do that – they want to bond, nest, be told they’re beautiful and loved.  Women (as opposed to girls) know better than to think that getting a paycheck and free clothes and makeovers is the way to get that true love.