We love reality TV, right? Who doesn’t?
But have you ever asked yourself why you love it? Which part of you does it “feed”?
Thanks to the nice people at The Daily Beast, I’ve read about a man who can help you change your mind about reality TV. He might just be the worst man in the world.
What helps him on his road to being the worst is the immense care he takes in selecting just the right torn-apart wastes of people to feature, and profit from, on national TV shows like Sober House and Celebrity Rehab.
The worst man in the world has lived just down the street and probably one digit away from fame since he was a kid. His current lifestyle – that of supplying TV viewers of the world with the most pathetic, strung-out, desperate individuals they will find – is as close as he’ll ever come to entering the big tent of Hollywood fame.
It’s his own brass ring, and I suppose he deserves it. He designed it himself.
The thing is, you don’t get to feel good if you’ve never tuned in to see a former actor puke his guts out in Celebrity Rehab. Reality TV, of the type that VH1 and Bravo generate (the Real Housewives franchise, Real Chance of Love, the infamous sobriety series), is a continuum. It needs victims, and sure enough it creates them.
Those people “featured” sign away their rights (and often those of their families) when they first agree to appear. The contracts they sign exert control over all aspects of their lives, for years. They are typically not paid for their appearances on the shows, though the shows may pay for their travel and location expenses. And should these people personally profit as a result of their association with the shows they represent, they may actually owe the shows money in return.
The difference between these and Project Runway, American Idol, even Jersey Shore: the first two are true competitions, for real money and acclaim. The third – while I couldn’t stand to watch it at first – handed its young stars a measure of respect with their groundbreaking second-season win: salaries.
Money isn’t everything, true. But in this world of stuff, it begins many things. It pulls out the chair at the table. It begins the conversation. It offers, yes: respect.
I’ve been thinking lately about dignity: the meaning of that word, and how rarely people use it in modern life. Can anyone even say what it means anymore? When we speak about why health care coverage is essential, isn’t the word “dignity” the very one that is missing from the debate?
The thing about David Weintraub is that he would not know my good friend Dignity if she dragged him into the alley where he found a couple of his crackhead clients, stood him up against a wall, and asked him a few pointed questions. Dignity is a total stranger to him. He has no use for her.
But really, guys like Weintraub are only the beginning of the problem. In truth, people like him can only suggest a direction for us. They have no power to make us do anything. The question remains before each of us, every day, every night: when there’s never a season without its drunken, fighting Housewives, never a time when some idiot isn’t trying to do something to his or her family – or someone else’s – to get on camera, will you tune in to see the fallout?
Not to change the subject or anything, but you need to hear this story. Perhaps you already have.
An old Cherokee speaks to his grandson about life. “A fight is going on inside me,” he says to the boy.
“It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, lies, false pride, and ego.
“The other is joy, peace, love, hope, humility, kindness, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you – and inside every other person you meet. ”
The grandson thinks for a minute and asks his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?”
The old Cherokee replies, “The one you feed.”
Which side of you does reality TV feed? Is it the side that needs to grow? Is it the side your friends, your spouse and children, love and need most from you? The side that reaches out to those in need, the side that laughs when something is truly funny, that cries when something touches your heart?
You have a choice to make. Both sides might be hungry.
Feed that one.