Saturday, January 9, 2010

Reality Show and Train Wreck Fascination

I recently shared an article I wrote reflecting on some end of the decade observations about manners, common courtesy and the like - or lack thereof. A friend noted, in response, that an entire generation is coming up who have not just lost the skill of telling time on an analog clock, but also are losing interpersonal skills as they sit next to one person texting another, all with their iPod in their ears.

Another relatively recent and growing phenom are the so-called "reality" shows.   Like rubber necking accidents, "world's funniest video" shows offer us an opportunity to laugh at people's most embarrassing moments - staged for the camera of course -  falling and getting hurt...even children.  We are a culture that delights in the harm inflicted on others....from watching the morbidly obese to love competitions with one winner and a dozen or so LOSERS!

We love to love our reality TV as much as we love to hate them, like we do all celebs. The tabloids - in print and now also on the boob tube - survive on digging up "dirt" such as who has cellulite or who is "too skinny, drunk, cheating... (Personally, I live for the day Angelina and Brad split for good!)

But perhaps it is nothing new, but rather a modern version of Christians being thrown to the lions for punishment and for the amusement, distraction and fear inducement of the masses.  Now, as then, nothing distracts us from our mundane or sad lives, like knowing that another has it worse! Nothing makes us feel less like a fool or a failure than seeing someone else who is a worse fool or failure. And, there seems no end to the those wiling to embarrass themselves for their five seconds of "fame."

Men compete physically in sports and body building as well as in wallet and "empire" building. He who has the most and the biggest - the trophiest wife - feels the most pride and sense of accomplishment and gains the most glory. He who dies with the most toys wins at being the most consumerist!

Men at their worst receive at least joking admiration for their philandering and their wives bear the brunt of it - often judged more harshly than the offender when they stand by their man.

Women, for all the glass ceiling busting and feminism, are still judged - and judge one another mercilessly - for their mothering. "The good-enough mother...starts off with an almost complete adaptation to her infant's needs." (Winnicott, 1953).  Or, as Roseanne used to joke, her day was successful if the kids were still alive at the end of it.  Thus, much has been written about "super moms" and those struggling to be...even while balancing a career, a duality not required of fathers.

And feminism can never undo the double standards women face as the one's for whom sexuality takes a larger and far more obvious toll. Married or single, rich or poor, it is the female who literally bears the burden or reproduction. No matter how liberated her mate is and how balanced and sharing the nurturing, he still cannot nurse!

We know we are judged and one way to make ourselves feel better is to find scape goats to pounce on for being far worse than we would ever dream of! It is well established that omen are often the most critical of one another and the public as a while saves their harshest criticism of all for mothers. The queen of mother haters is CNN's Nancy Grace who seems to live for mother murder suspects like Casey Anthony. We never seem to run out of new and inventive insulting terms for bad mothers: ho, skank, bitch. The ever-popular "prom mom" was a particular favorite of mine. She was tar, feathered and burned at the stake for all of our collective sins. And how superior it made all of her name-callers and detractors feel to throw stones (a sport I thought limited to those among without sin).

I see it here on my blog and other blogs I visit (mostly within the adoption community). Nothing stirs up the comments like a good controversy!  
Do the "masses" spend their time discussing these serious issues. Nope!  Most of us - judging by the number of comments - would much prefer spending our time name-calling one another and strangers. Oh, yes, I plead guilty to occasionally mentioning these "hot" headline-grabbing controversial topics and people when in the news.  Occasionally. It is far from the prime purpose of my blog or my life, which I like to think of as a bit more productive.

Look, I love controversy as much as the next guy, but kicking others when they are done, not so much. Perhaps because I identify with underdogs.

So enjoyable a pass-time, however, not only do people run to comment, but there are entire blogs  devoted to hating TV shows from American Idol to, well, you name it... and also to the hate of mothers in the spotlight like Kate Gosselin, The Duggars,  and the most "despicable" of all who shall remain un-named here.

How pathetic can one's life be to have no other focus than to blog about hating such as a group of friends who have at least two "wihoutpity" blogs that do nothing but discuss how much they dislike reality shows. !!  One describes itself as: "a group of people who started chatting offline when the Jon and Kate Plus 8 thread at Television Without Pity would be closed. We have the shared desire that information should be centralized."Adult (According to a survey taken in 2005 by, almost half of our nation's younger generation watches more reality television than last year. Eighteen- to 25-year-olds watch close to four reality shows a week.) human beings (seemingly three females, based on the contact info) who have nothing more meaningful in their lives or in the world to care about or to do then to set up two blogs that follow reality TV and rip them apart. Watch regularly just to be able to chat with one another about how awful they are!

One post I noticed randomly on one of these blogs had 230 comments!  Have we become a society of people haters? Mass busy-body gossiping about total strangers who we "know" through edited snippets of lives odd families get paid to chose to put on display?

Talk about a need to get a life!  And hopefully in so doing develop enough self-respect that you do not need to put others down to feel good about yourself. In  world riddled with war, hunger, violence of all types, and facing global environmental destruction - is there nothing more constructive people can do? Even if hate and having no pity is your "thing", aren't there violent criminals that would deserve it more than moms who don't live up to your standards?  And here's a novel thought: Hate reality TV or the people on a paeticualr show? Change the channel.

What a nicer world this would be if we could each make a new year's resolution to limit the ease with which we judge others. 

In the column to the right is a section of quotes I try to live by.  One is about success being about overcoming obstacles. The survivor of adversity and underdog defender in me likes to believe that.  The other one says:

To laugh often and much;
To win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children;
To earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends;
To appreciate beauty, to find the best in others;
To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition;
To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived.
This is to have succeeded. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson 

Back in Emerson's day it took a bit of talent and resources to leave one's mark.  Today, most everyone can leave their footprints in the sand in the, their legacy, permanently on the Internet. What will google reveal about you? What mark will you have left?  I - admittedly - am a cranky old person who complains about things like the lack of courtesies, but I like to think that overall I will have left the world a better place for having been here, having made more lasting positive contributions than not.

I often think that those who can, do and those who can't criticize!  But note that nowhere does Emerson say that we earn any points for finger pointing, criticizing or judging others.  We all of us - myself included for sure - make judgments every day. It is hard wired into us for our survival, and we live in a competitive culture and we all experience envy and jealousies. But we do not have to put every negative thought we have about another's life - in whose shoes we have not walked - into print as our legacy.

We can strive to live with compassion, kindness and forgiveness or proudly share our lack of pity and meanness. In our eagerness to judge, perhaps we need to think about how we judge ourself (and how others will) and what model we are setting for our children and grandchildren.  What will google reveal of us?

Edited 1/11/09

No comments:

RussiaToday Apr 29, 2010 on Russian Adoption Freeze

Russi Today: America television Interview 4/16/10 Regarding the Return of Artyem, 7, to Russia alone

RT: Russia-America TV Interview 3/10

Korean Birthmothers Protest to End Adoption

Motherhood, Adoption, Surrender, & Loss

Who Am I?

Bitter Winds

Adoption and Truth Video

Adoption Truth

Birthparents Never Forget