The Unrealistic Reality Of The Past 12 Months
By J.T. Ryder
I was originally tasked with writing an insightful article casting a wistful look back on the year that is quickly coming to a close. Instead, I found myself trying to dredge up one singular ounce of care from a seemingly empty well of apathy for the year that was.
As I pored through article after article dealing with politics and catastrophes and trends and fads, I found that all of these stories, all of these facts, seemed to exude the same sickening miasma borne from the cauldron of reality television. It struck me that reality television has blurred the lines between actual reality and televised entertainment.
Most people seem to walk about as if a camera is pointed at them every single moment of the day to capture them spewing out boorish bon mots for an audience of none. Every event in their lives is turned into a Jerry Springer-ish charade; a hyped-up over-dramatization of what real life really is.
Even within our highest political offices, the populace is more interested in Obama’s split lip rather than the policies that were explained through those very same lips. We may be vaguely aware of the politicians that run our country, but I would take a running stab that a higher percentage of people know the name of Kim Kardashian’s dog, than can name their senators, congressmen or the governor of their state.
Many were aware of the Haitian earthquake, but some were alerted only after “Twilight: New Moon” star Chaske Spencer tweeted, “You can help HAITI in the wake of the horrible earthquake.”
Sadly, the earthquakes in Chile and China didn’t make it into the blogosphere as readily. Even with the dramatic story of the Chilean miners that were trapped underground, more ink was spilled and terabytes typed describing the various scenarios that might occur when one miner’s wife and mistress showed up at the same time.
So, what started out as a ubiquitous “Year in Review” article has quickly turned into and article about “Crap I didn’t care about in the first place and things that I hope I will never hear about again …”
It would not hurt my feelings in the least bit if a solar storm struck the reality television satellite, causing it to plummet to earth, crashing down with finality on the set of “Bridezilla” or “The Real Housewives of New York” or the “Big Brother” house.
I am reminded of something Rob Haney, owner of Wiley’s Comedy Club, said onstage, “I don’t want to hear about Snooki or the Jersey Shore until her body washes up on one.”
No list of headline hobbling entertainers could even begin without mentioning the aberrant Barbie doll from this “Decade of Desperation,” Lady Gaga. Her unquestionable ability at self aggrandizing notwithstanding, there is also this hypocritical hoopla that seems to surround her. At one moment, she is turning on her halo to help the Haitian earthquake survivors, and then, in another turn under the spotlight, she is seen wearing a sarong of steaks … which I’m sure some of those Haitians would have killed to cook up. The dress made of meat might have been newsworthy had she been dropped into a pit filled with a hoard of rabid wolverines just to see if she could maintain her poker face while trying to save her own fleshy Steak-umms.
How the lines have blurred between politics and reality television is perfectly exemplified by Kate Gosselin and her brood camping out with that wunderkind of the wild winter wonderland, Sarah Palin. Kate had a meltdown within two hours of embarking on this arduous trek which, for anyone who has ever travelled with children before, is not surprising.
Speaking of Spunky Sarah, it has been said by Karl Rove (and echoed by others) that Palin’s unquenchable desire to be in the limelight strips her of the gravitas to be taken seriously as a major political player, but most American men are only concerned with the powerlessness that gravity seems to have on her saline-enhanced bosom.
J.D. Salinger, Leslie Nielsen and Lynn Redgrave all died this year, but it was Gary Coleman’s death that grabbed the headlines. This former child star who went on to become a security guard and then a way too serious (wait for it) reality television star (appearing alongside such luminaries as Vanilla Ice and Tammy Faye Baker) died from a … who really cares how he died? That’s the point.
Why do we care about any of these people? Is it because, abjectly, they make our lives seem to be slightly less complex? Is it because we can immerse ourselves in other seemingly important people’s lives to forget our own problems for a moment?
Even in the world of sports, which is supposed to be a pastime in and of itself, we find ourselves embroiled in the personal lives of strangers instead of being satisfied with the sportsmanship on the field. Personal woes, poor choices and prison terms seem to be de rigueur within the sports world.
Now, I must admit that I follow absolutely no sports, which I find illustrates my point about how pervasively the players’ personal lives have dominated the news. I’ve heard more about LeBron James than I ever cared to. I really don’t care if he moved from Cleveland to Miami and I sincerely do not give a rat’s ass if the rumor is true that his teammate, Delonte West, is dating LeBron’s mom.
The radio waves and print media were atwitter with minute-by-minute updates about Brett Favre’s wavering indecision about coming out of retirement. Somehow, with the help of God and Adderall, I was able to go about my day-to-day routine without worrying about Favre favoring us with yet another season.
Then the Favre “Tallywacker Text of 2010” made headlines and we were once again in the midst of a media maelstrom with pundits pontificating what the resulting fallout might be and people pondering whether the phallus in question was even Favre’s or some fabrication dreamt up by a sensationalist website. All of this speculation could have been avoided by just calling in Beulah Ballbricker from “Porky’s” to recognize Favre’s fun gun by an identifying mole.
The list of people that can be left behind in 2010 is long. There’s Lindsey Lohan who landed in jail, then rehab then into a lesbian relationship. Oh what will that crazy kid do next? There’s Steven Slater who deployed a plane’s slip ‘n slide, grabbed a couple of brews as he told JetBlue to take this job and shove it, then became an overnight internet folk hero.
Don’t forget about Rod Blagojevich and his horrible hair who were both acquitted of 23 of the 24 charges against him. He went on to turn his life around, stealing the limelight some more during his star turn on “The Apprentice.” Senate hopeful Christine O’Donnell clarified for us all that she is not a witch (this is the 21st century, right?) as well as reversing her stance on masturbation (reversing her political stance, not her method of … oh, forget it). Also, we witnessed Kanye West doing or saying something stupid. I didn’t even look this last one up. I’m just assuming.
How can we, as a society, sleepwalk through a decade of convoluted catastrophes and come out on the other side with the only pressing questions on our lips being, “Did Kendra Wilkinson get another boob job? Or when’s her next sex tape coming out?”
I guess I understand the basic premise behind hiding yourself in the reality of others. When you look around and all you see is a world in crisis and a future obscured by the variables of today, it is easy to take some comfort in the banalities offered by the programmed pabulum that the networks have produced in lieu of any creative thinking. During tough times, society has always buried itself in various forms of escapism, but never to such a mind-numbing magnitude as seen today.
Instead of looking back at the vacuous year that was, let’s resolve to look up from our iPads, Blackberries, laptops and television screens for just a moment and visualize the things that need to be changed … and then act upon that vision.
If what is being portrayed as reality on television is really true, I prefer to create a fictionalized future and then make it a reality rather than replicate the empty-headed imaginary one that I have seen in the past 12 months.
Reach DCP freelance writer J.T. Ryder at firstname.lastname@example.org