14 November 2007

Prime Time Trivialization

I don't watch too much TV, the occasional drama or documentary, but certainly not regularly. Today, though, I happened to walk into the room where the TV was on and saw a commercial for an upcoming episode of "Deal or No Deal." What can we expect from modern US television? Its either biased political news, mind-numbing perversions of the lives of idiots and fame-mongers or game shows. The news and reality TV are problematic in their own rights but are mere by-products of a sick, failing culture. This particular game show ad caught my attention because they were giving away, not 1 million, not 5 million, not even 10 million, the prize was 100 million dollars. All I could do was roll my eyes in shame.

How has it come to this point where we play games with ludicrous amounts of money. I can't even list the ways that 100 millions dollars could be used otherwise. 100 million in college scholarships, 100 million invested in libraries around the world, 100 million to bribe Bush to leave office early. When I see ads for programs like that I am amazed how we can live with ourselves when we trivialize monstrous amounts of money that could feed hundreds of people for years. No one person needs 100 million dollars to begin with. Oh sure, we'll have the story of the poor inner-city public school teacher winning a million. Even then a million is too much for one person. It doesn't matter what kind of poverty or misfortune you're living in, vast amounts of money are not going to help a bit. For the inner-city school teacher, how is a vast sum of 100 million going to help? Will it end the class system in the United States and make the students of your school equal with the students from the rich suburban school? Will it solve the fact that many children won't move on far in school because they need to work for sickeningly low wages to help support their family? Will it stop violence that stems from the dehumanizing condition of proletariat? Will it stop the fact that the government could care less about education and instead fight a colonial war? Here's the nail in the coffin: said teacher won't even get the entire sum of money, a fair chunk of it will go to the government which will then be used to further perpetuate capitalism, oppression of the working class and a war in the name of Christianity and capitalism.

I have other gripes, I'll try and make this one short. I've seen shows like Home Makeover, where ABC tries to find the most heart-wrenching story it can to viciously play on the emotions of viewers and then throws vast amounts of money at them and builds them enormous houses. I hate to sound emotionally dead but when people are so heartened and inspired by these stories I can't help but think of how naive they are. First and foremost there is not even the slightest humanitarian aspiration of these shows; they are simply taking advantage of our craving to see good in this world crumbling down around us. Second of all, there is absolutely no progress being made in these shows. Occasionally they manage to find someone living in "poverty" but building an over-sized, fancy, house-sized billboard does more harm than good. Change is a gradual thing, not something that can be fit into an hour slot on Sunday night. Fighting poverty and misfortune does not mean finding the worst situations and building impressive houses. Its like getting your arm cut off in a machine, then paying hundreds of thousands of dollars for a mechanical arm and then building a new machine that doesn't require your labor to run it. Its counter productive and doesn't realize the array of conditions and moments that lead one's self to a horrible situation.

While I sit next to crying and heartened people watching these shows, seeing good being done, seeing a down and out person finally getting a break, I can't help but realize that these problems will not stop because of television give aways. We trivialize wealth and social problems for the sake of entertainment and eventually making disgustingly large sums of money that are paid to high level CEOs and management who drive home in their BMWs to their huge houses in California where their children arrive home from private school and everyone enjoys a nice family dinner cooked by Rosa. Rosa, in turn, goes home to her on bedroom apartment in the slum, uses her wages to feed her child, deletes all the calls from creditors and government agencies, talks to her mother back home in Mexico and waits for ABC to coming knocking at her door to help her out.


They call him James Ure said...

If somehow I ever did win a boat load of money like that I'd give all of it away except for enough to pay for my basic expenses. I'm all for spreading the wealth in this country and world around.

PeterAtLarge said...

Here's an interesting disquisition on money and happiness: http://www.intentblog.com/archives/2007/11/does_money_brin.html Cheers, PaL