Friday, April 19, 2013

Reality Television revisited

Whew, there's a lot of craziness going on today. I know I promised a dissertation on the finer points of bread and wine being transformed into flesh and blood. But I thought I'd keep it a little lighter, due to the overall heaviness of the last few days.

I was having one of those shower moments. You know the one. You're standing there shampooing your hair, taking inventory of all the things you have going on that day. Then you have that moment where your consciousness completely leaves your control and takes on any direction it wants. I don't know why, but for me this happens in the shower. I guess probably because it would be dangerous if it happened while operating heavy machinery. Anyway, I came to the realization that there are three different levels of reality TV. There are three different formats also. I would call one format the "follow people around doing their everyday life": Deadliest Catch, Jersey Shore, Honey Boo Boo or whatever the hell that abomination is. The next would be the "celebrity judge format": Dancing with the Stars, America's Got Talent. Finally, there is the "cloak and dagger show" where members vote each other off, Big Brother, Survivor, etc. Those are only the format settings, however. I believe there are levels of quality of each show. I will now attempt to tell you your value as a human being based on the levels I have ascertained.

Level I: Swamp Water
-This is the show that shows the very worst of humanity. This will cover any show that has the word "Jersey" in it, has more cast members than teeth, or cameras located in bathrooms and bedrooms. If you get enjoyment from this type of program, I pray to God you don't reproduce.

Level II: Reptile Brain
-This is the show that brings you people judging a competition that they know nothing about, or that the criteria for winning is never specified, and the judges are usually D-list celebrities or has-beens. (I am looking at you, Steven Tyler. You replaced Paula Abdul. Kill yourself.) These shows usually attract those people who don't need enjoy activating any part of their brain dealing with higher processes. "I wonder who Howie is going to make fun of tonight?" is not, nor will ever be, an acceptable conversation topic.

Level III: Pets you have that aren't as smart as dogs: gerbils, hermit crabs, etc.
-This is the show where you watch other people do work. Seriously? Have Americans become so lazy and become so far removed from actually doing labor, that we have to watch other people do it for entertainment? I will admit, some of these shows are interesting for the first three maybe four episodes. Then it becomes the same show over and over again. I wonder what they're doing on the Cornelia Marie today? Oh! Their going to catch some crabs! How novel!

Level IV: Primates
-This I feel is the show that actually showcases people with talent, that practice said talent, and do things that are culturally acceptable as entertainment, or where you might actually learn something. I will use So You Think You Can DanceThe Sing-Off, or something with Tony Bordain in it as my prime examples. I'm sure their are others that fit the category, but as you can probably tell, I don't watch a lot of this stuff. Now don't go patting yourself on the back that you've reached level four. You're still a big monkey.

Level V: Variety and Cooking shows
-I mean c'mon, we've had reality TV long before we coined the phrase. But seriously, I can't knock Lawrence Welk or Julia Child. They were the epitome of awesome.

Level VI: Reality
-No, not the show, actual reality. Try this. Spend some extra time trying out a new recipe... not throwing a frozen pizza in the oven. Actually have a conversation with your loved one(s). Take a walk. Go to a minor league ball game and teach yourself how to keep score. Go to Conwell-Egan's spirit nights this weekend. There is so much cool stuff out there. So Much! Stop watching other people do it.

OK, let's bring it in. Take a knee. Let's talk about the hierarchy of goods. This is the idea that pleasure can't be measured in volume or quantitatively. There are some good things that are just better than others. I've had students argue with me that they prefer McDonald's to Peter Luger's. I think that is perverse. Somewhere along the way, they broke their enjoyment-meter. Being in a loving relationship with one person is better than a terabyte of porn on your hard drive. The endorphin release from exercise is better than the artificial one from Paxil. And ultimately, a hand-selected, perfectly aged, cooked, and rested, medium-rare porterhouse cannot be trumped by a million Big Macs. Do you see what I'm getting at? I hope you do. I hope that there are people out there still who think it better to be a human dissatisfied than a pig satisfied.