Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Your Reality is Showing

 Here's some stuff written around some quotes I found on the internet that I thought were pretty great.  I have no idea if they are accurately quoted or attributed, and I don't much care.  Also, it has been pointed out that if I handed this in to a grade school teacher, they would chastise me for having too many quotes and not enough substance.  I hated school.

The television, that insidious beast, that Medusa which freezes a billion people to stone every night, staring fixedly, that Siren which called and sang and promised so much and gave, after all, so little.” - Ray Bradbury, 'The Golden Apples of the Sun'

When television was invented, it was a big deal. Everybody had grand visions of its seemingly infinite possibilities. What an enormous step in the annals of humanity!

Philo began laying out his vision for what television could become. Above all else... television would become the world's greatest teaching tool. Illiteracy would be wiped out. The immediacy of television was the key. As news happened viewers would watch it unfold live; no longer would we have to rely on people interpreting and distorting the news for us. We would be watching sporting events and symphony orchestras. Instead of going to the movies, the movies would come to us. Television would also bring about world peace. If we were able to see people in other countries and learn about our differences, why would there be any misunderstandings? War would be a thing of the past.” - Evan I. Schwartz, The Last Lone Inventor

Philo was none other than Philo T. Farnsworth, ostensibly the inventor of television. His high hopes were subsequently dashed, however, as demonstrated by his policy on television in his home as summated by his son, Kent: "There’s nothing on it worthwhile, and we’re not going to watch it in this household, and I don’t want it in your intellectual diet."

When television came roaring in after the war (World War II) they did a little school survey asking children which they preferred and why - television or radio. And there was this 7-year-old boy who said he preferred radio 'because the pictures were better.'” - Alistair Cooke, British/American journalist, television personality and broadcaster, 1908 - 2004

More and more, television has separated itself from the grand visions of its birth, and identified itself with a role almost opposite the imagination. Run of the mill, lowest common denominator pablum served room temperature with plenty of cues for when to laugh, cry, rage, or fall asleep.

If the television craze continues with the present level of programs, we are destined to have a nation of morons.” - Daniel Marsh, President Boston University, 1950

And how. 'Reality' television has become one of the steamiest coils of entertainment ever to ooze out of the pixel sphincter.

image: nate stone
People watch. People watch as some rich douchebag sifts through a pile of desperate women vying for his money. Er, affection. And vice versa. People watch as legions of assholes lie, cheat, and vote their way to the top of some lamely contrived shit heap. People watch as a crackhead former star lives through a trainwreck of a relationship with an alcoholic former star. People watch as has-been celebrities struggle to live together and reclaim some of their former glory. As frat boys/girls degrade themselves (and their viewers) with their very existences. As ugly people get beautiful. As beautiful people get ugly. As fat people get skinny. As mental illness takes its toll. As drug addiction eats them alive.

What fuels this sickness? What draws people into the depravity and rivets them there? Why does suffering have such a magnetic appeal? Why would millions of people prefer watching other people fall apart to building them up? “Entertainment”? Boredom? Jealousy? Greed? Hmm . . . this is starting to sound familiar . . .

It would appear some or all of the seven deadly sins must all be present in order to maximize audience for a 'reality' television show. Indeed, it seems there is audience for little else, these days. And so, I propose a new series wherein they must all reside together in a house, vying for the title of “The Deadliest Sin”. Lust and Gluttony would obviously develop a riveting if unhealthy and somewhat depraved relationship, a real ratings booster. Greed and Envy would bond over their voyeurism of Lust and Gluttony. Sloth and Pride would inevitably clash, creating friction in the house and keeping viewers entertained with their inane conflict. Anger would boil over and win the whole thing, much to the dismay of hippy viewers everywhere who say they hate TV but secretly watched the whole thing online. Probably rooting for Lust and Gluttony to win and have their own spin-off called “Real Housewives of the Apocalypse”.

In Beverley Hills, they don't throw their garbage away - they make it into television shows.” - Woody Allen 

No doubt about it. The success of programs such as “The Surreal Life”, “Strange Love”, “Flavor of Love”, “Gene Simmons Family Jewels” and ominous numbers of other similarly schlocky crapfests give incontrovertible proof that it doesn't matter who you are, but who you were might help you draw millions of people in to watch you plumb the depths of the possibilities of entertainment.

I wish there was a knob on the TV so you could turn up the intelligence. They got one marked "brightness" but it don't work, does it?” - Leo Anthony Gallagher

See? Gallagher can be funny.

“I hate television. I hate it as much as peanuts. But I can't stop eating peanuts.” - Orson Welles

In the end, it's all the same as it ever was. Mankind as a whole has always gravitated toward the most base, vicious and degenerate forms of entertainment. Gladiators, bullfights, WWF Wrestling, reality shows. And honestly, it's perfectly all right with me. Partially because I'm as base, vicious, and degenerate as the next guy sometimes. But mostly because it makes morons easier to avoid when they're wearing a t-shirt advertising their favorite shitshow.  

“Theatre is life. Cinema is art. Television is furniture.” - Author Unknown

The internet, mankind's glorious information superhighway, has brought to life much more of Philo Farnsworth's original vision, but has also exponentially magnified its shortcomings. On the one hand, it has helped facilitate revolutions overthrowing malevolent dictators and really has brought the world closer together. On the other hand – well, you probably don't want to know what the other hand is doing, Mr. Farnsworth.

"Television? The word is half Latin and half Greek. No good can come of it." - Charles Prestwich Scott, British journalist, publisher and politician, 1846 - 1932

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