Sunday, February 7, 2010

On Reality Shows

We've all seen the old videos of a group of scientists wearing white lab coats, holding clip boards and taking notes while huddled around a small maze with a rat trying to find his way out of a maze that has no exits. That's reality television. a group of scientists (producers) find rats (unintelligent unaware selfish human beings) put them in an exit-less maze (some oxymoronic game which accomplishes anything but what its supposed to accomplish) and see what happens. This is highlighted well by the reality television show, The Bachelor.

In this show a single man is given a choice of 25 single women to hopefully one day be his wife. To start they find a bachelor who has primarily spent his adult life building a career and his biceps. The contestants want love, but its apparent that they aren't sure what it is. Their concept of love can be boiled down to how they feel around this person. Their emotions and self-centered sense of awareness inform their highly ambiguous and arbitrary idea of who is 'right' for them. Typically it is just this idea that has kept them from any real long-term serious relationship. The problem lies in the fact that they do not give up this idea or trade it in for something else that might actually work. (and the producers count on this). But it gets worse.

The 25 women are in the same boat. But what is strange about them volunteering for this position is, they don't even have a choice who they will be with. They have one option. Whats peculiar is that in their minds this one is the one for them no matter what. For no other reason than this person has been carefully selected as The Person to be sought after. Now its a game to see who can get this one person to be theirs.

To illustrate, it's like 25 single men who line up at a starting line. One girl lines up two miles away from them at the finish line. The gun shot goes off and they mindlessly run with one goal, get the girl. They never stop to question whether they will even like the girl. They don't know a thing about her, but that's not the point. The point is to get her. No one stops to think that while running these two miles they run right past thousands of other single girls. But hey, they weren't selected by the producers.

The criteria for these single people to be selected is extensive. They all fit into a very specific category. Typically, white, upper middle class, 20 something, with successful high paying careers, unaware, highly self-centered and the worst of all....they have to have demonstrated the inability to hold down a good healthy functional relationship.

Put them all together in the most unnatural, polyamorous, way of forming healthy relationships with the goal of not only finding a partner but creating the highest idealized form of love even though they've never been able to do either....that's entertainment. And we all huddle around the TV waiting to see how long it will take for the subjects to realize they are as far away from the ability to establish a lifelong loving marriage as the rats are from finding an exit.

Whats even greater is at the conclusion of every show the bachelor chooses 'the one'. And as their first act of love they sit down and watch the whole season unfold on their TV sets right before their eyes. The lucky girl watches as their new found love kisses numerous other women, and normally has sex with a few of them and announces repeatedly that they are torn and can see themselves being with any one of them and is in fact falling in love with more than one person. !^@%@#@^#!!!!!!!!!!!! And what is the success rate? Almost none of them have ended marrying the person they chose. Of the 13 or 14 seasons of The Bachelor and The Bachelorette (its companion show with roles reversed), I believe 1, maybe 2 are still together.

Lets move onto another insane reality show, The Real Housewives of New York. It is interesting because unlike in the Bachelor and most other reality shows, the subjects are not put into an intense manufactured game. Normally in order to make reality shows you must do this because it brings about conflict and drama, and to the exact degree that you can bring about drama, you can boost the ratings. But that is not necessary in this case because the subjects here manufacture their own game. Theirs is the game of seeing who can beat their way to the top of the social ladder. Its nothing short of an unending terrifyingly vindictive game.

In this game friends, spouses, children, strangers and celebrities, possessions and careers, are nothing more than tools by which one can leverage themselves to a new higher strata of social position. They put their children in $30,000/ year preschools not because they think its whats best for the kids, but because it puts them closer to 'high society'. They can brag to their so called friends that their kid is in preschool learning how to sing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, in French, German and Latin. They Marry 'up'. They choose 'friends' who are on the next rung so they too can stand on that rung until they can hopefully drop them off and make friends on the next rung still. And it's always favorable to associate yourself with as many of the 'gods' called celebrities as possible. Their house, cars, clothes, and everything else they own, is not even for pleasure, but tools and symbols to hopefully propel themselves higher. It is madness!

Of course like the rats in the maze that seek an exit but never find one because its not there, these people fight for a higher position on a ladder that does not exist. They fight to get to the top of something that has no top, no bottom and no middle. The playing out of this fantasy is no different than a child setting a place at the kitchen table for his friend that no one else can see. The only difference between the kid who has make believe friends and these people, is they are 40 and 50 year olds and they really believe this social hierarchy exists (with the assumption that they should be as close to the top as possible). The kid is pretending, these people are delusional. And I am pretty sure that puts them in the realm of clinically insane.

While both of these shows are to some extent 'engineered,' they do in fact showcase some extremely pervasive philosophies and beliefs in our American culture. The Bachelor for example displays many dangerous, misguided and frankly sad ideas about the nature of relationships. First of all, the philosophy that 'testing' out different people in order to find the right one is quite dangerous. Let's face it, though it is hailed as a thing of wisdom, no one really wants to be with someone who has been with numerous others. Furthermore, when you have been with many others, you lose that sense of specialness and intimacy when you do end up with someone you want to be with for life. If you think I am overstating it, think of your own partner and ask yourself whether you would be OK with them talking about their past sexual experiences with other people. You would not, and for good reason.

It's not a habit of mine to quote fictional movie-based lunatics, but I'll do it anyway. In Vanilla Sky, Cameron Diaz' character and Tom cruises' character get in an argument while she is driving a car and he is the passenger. She is upset that he slept with another girl not long after they had also been sexually involved. I'll spare you all the details, but at one point shes says that when two people have a sexual relationship, their bodies make a commitment to each other, whether they do or not. Presumably then, when they go off and sleep with someone else, they are breaking a commitment, and that causes problems. Repeat this cycle over and over, and you have a big problem relationally.

In Real Housewives of New York, there are numerous crazy philosophies. As I said before, this whole idea of climbing up the social ladder is about as absurd as sailing around the world in search of the edge of the Earth. In this quest all relationships are used and, if need be, destroyed for the goal.

I am not sure why, but it has always been a subconscious assumption of mine that wealthy highly-educated people are smart, wise and not concerned with trivial matters. But clearly, I am mistaken in making this assumption. These people are merely children in bigger older bodies and have a lot of money and education to know how to carry out their childish ways on a large scale. Their quarrels and concerns are not unlike those that children on the playground experience in second grade. I pity every child born to such parents. They will grow up with a whole host of inexplicable emotional and relational problems. Although, it isn't uncommon on these shows to hear one of the children express far more wisdom than their parents. Maybe their exists some hope.

In any case, it would be advantageous for us, the observers of chaos, to evaluate some of these philosophies and qualities that we all hold to some extent. They have been automatically instilled in us simply by living in our culture. It is our job to find and uproot such harmful ideas that have the potential to hurt us and others around us.

in love,


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