Monday, January 21, 2008

carpe diem

hey--it's been a while since i posted, but here's my column from saturday. will get some more stuff up here today, i hope.

not that anyone's reading, lol.

CARPE DIEM 1-18-08

Americans are completely schizophrenic. Reading about two unrelated political incidents this past week, it occurs to me that when we look for entertainment, only so-called “reality” will do. But when it comes to the real world, we devour the cheesiest, most transparent of fakery and come running back for more.

Consider the Bush Administration’s bungled attempt to sell a Gulf of Tonkin-like incident with five Iranian speedboats last week. After initial reports claiming that U.S. warships received a radio transmission warning “I am coming to you. You will explode after a few minutes,” Pentagon officials are now backtracking, saying they never claimed the radio message originated on the speedboats. Experts have said that the heavily accented voice did not have an Iranian inflection. And recently released Iranian video footage depicts a very different exchange between the vessels.

Of course, it’s hard to believe these guys would attempt to manipulate the press and the public with an overblown, phony incident. Just ask Colin Powell.

Next up we get Mitt Romney, winner of the Michigan primary. Last week it was revealed that a down-home, aw-shucks meeting between the Mittster and an unemployed, single mother was actually with the mother of one of his staff workers.

Repeated inquiries were made to the offices of Jesus, but as of deadline He had no comment on whether Romney’s magical Mormon underwear protects him from the sin of bearing false witness.

But on the entertainment side of things there is a definite tug in the direction of relying on real people for amusement. You can’t turn on the television without seeing some new dipwad “reality” show featuring mom’s basement-dwelling troglodytes who own video cameras but lack pride, and who are willing to maim themselves, eat any sort of disgusting concoction involving maggots or testicles or both, or even more horrible and retch-inducing, date Tila Tequila.

But wait! There’s more! American Gladiators is back, proving that steroids, lycra and mullets never really go out of style. And Bret Michaels, former Poison front man—and apparent recipient of some bizarre, experimental facial surgery involving, let’s say, epoxy, shark cartilage, and formaldehyde—is on Rock of Love 2, in which he attempts to narrow a field of 20 airhead bimbos down to one lucky skank. Of course, American Idol has also returned, certain to provide face time for a whole new crop of self-deluded lunatics to begin the process of mental dissolution under the nurturing eye of a national TV audience.

Couple this tiny sampling of “reality” with the perverse, voyeuristic delight we take in peering into and judging the lives of stars we adored as recently as five minutes ago—epitomized by the utterly loathsome TMZ, but repeated ad nauseum all across the airwaves—and what you’ve got is a strange sort of sickness. At the heart of our obsession with witnessing the real breakdowns and faux pas of famous people is a slimy, shameful need to bring them down to our own imagined level.

When we like them we lovingly scream, “You’re better than us!”

When we don’t like them anymore we spitefully scream, “You’re no better than us!”

The bottom line is this: if we are unable to believe anything we see on TV--aside from real people doing inane, idiotic things--if we are so over the whole scripted entertainment thing, which uses talented actors, writers and directors, why are we so helpless to see through the decidedly low-rent, B-movie garbage that our leaders and would-be leaders throw at us every day?

What the hell is wrong with us?


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