Monday, September 20, 2010

SpongeBob and Naivete...

In hindsight I guess it’s my own damn fault. If I’d just watch more television I guess by now I’d have built up some kind of tolerance for it, like the way the doomed, hopeless homeless drunks roaming the streets down in Oklahoma City have a tolerance for the three-dollar bottles of rotgut benzene-smelling whiskey they line up for every day, fidgeting in the parking lot and nervously folding and unfolding their plasma checks as they wait for the liquor store to open.

But I haven’t. I don’t watch much television, so I guess you could call me culturally immuno-deficient in that respect. To mix metaphors, when I turn on the tube I am the naive native wrapping myself in the smallpox-infected trade blanket. Bad shit just can’t help but happen.

Such was the case when I was flipping though the channels a few days ago, wondering why we pay seventy bucks a month for what basically amounts to a few educational shows for the kids, Top Gear, the occasional movie on IFC, the occasional OU football game, Sirius radio and SpongeBob. We wouldn’t even have it for the fact that because we live in a rural area we can’t pick up the free over-the-air networks, and my wife and I have been seriously considering dropping it anyway.

But when I saw that this month’s “free preview” channel was one of those “all hunting all fishing all the time” networks, well, my curiosity got the better of me and I started watching. I was genuinely curious to see what I had been missing.

A bit of background: I know nothing, absolutely nothing about hunting and fishing shows and/or personalities. No, screw that. That’s not strong enough. I actually know less than nothing about hunting and fishing shows. I see the ads featuring these people in the magazines and I have no idea who they are, why they’re famous, what they’re hawking and why I should give a shit. On one of the few (and in all likelihood, last) corporate-sponsored junket hunts I’ve ever been on, I basically just sat in a corner of the wall tent and listened to everyone else engage in industry shop talk. It was like they were speaking a different language. I didn’t have a friggin’ clue who or what they were talking about, so I just drank their beer and kept my mouth shut (and incidentally, that’s also a not-half-bad life philosophy…)

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve got nothing against those shows, I’m just not into thirty minutes of low production values, bad soundtrack music, dumbshit hosts, slow-motion kill shots, inflated body counts, moronic fist-pumping, fake camaraderie, tired clichés and cornpone platitudes, that’s all.

As it turns out, by the time I finished my three-day experiment in purposely watching a cross-section of American hunting and fishing shows, I would have killed to find one professional and classy enough to have low production values, bad soundtrack music, dumbshit hosts, slow-motion kill shots, high body counts, moronic fist-pumping, fake camaraderie, tired clichés and cornpone platitudes. Because most of them were infinitely worse.

Call me stupid. Call me naïve. Call me out-of-touch. Call me Henry Rollins (again). But I had no idea, no idea at all, that television programming could be so willfully bad, could wallow in such unwitting, cringe-inducing self-parody. Obviously I am out of touch because there’s an audience out there – somewhere – that watches and approves of it. And obviously the corporate sponsors who bankroll these shows must watch and approve of them as well.

It’s not the corporate sponsorship that bothers me. That’s just the way the game is. Whether you like it or not, all media is basically an advertising vehicle and somebody’s gotta pay for its creation. What bothers me is how fundamentally bad most of it is, not only in the low production values, questionable footage and moronic commentary, but in warping - in the basest and sometimes gleefully crudest ways possible – the deeper, less easily understood and even less-easily articulated reasons for why we do what we do.

And I’m just wondering what that says about us. I have no idea because I don’t know what’s worse; cynically reveling in stupidity in a calculated effort to sell units or honestly reveling in stupidity because you’re, well, stupid.

So I guess I’ll just churlishly harrumph a bit more and then feel smug and superior when I call the satellite company this week and tell them to come get their ugly-ass dish off my roof.

But damn it, I’m gonna miss SpongeBob…


  1. Good post. As for this line: "Whether you like it or not, all media is basically an advertising vehicle and somebody’s gotta pay for its creation..." there used to be other options for paying for media. Sadly, they continue to shrink into the background

  2. Great blog but I would rather Rum than scotch.
    I watch Spongebob with my daughter


  3. Great post and I had very similar thoughts this weekend while trying to find appropriate attire for my daughter... if I shopped more perhaps I would have built up a tolerance to the whorish cloths they put out for young girls and maybe if I walked around in high heels at age four I would be able to do so with much ease by now...

    Enjoyed the post, I can relate!

  4. I don't watch cable fishing or hunting shows because I don't have it but I saw some at a friends last night. The first one was a lame bowhunting show with the usual ads ever 5 seconds. The next bowhunting one opened with a montage of arrows hitting game that had been digitally altered to look like something on a heat sensor. Every hit produced a huge spray of digitally added fake blood. I was in disbelief at how tasteless it was. It was so sad to think that someone thought that was the point of hunting. Only someone brought up on violent video games would do such a thing.

    The narration announced the hunter as a former porn star. I had to ask my friend if I heard that right. I did and apparently it was the "hunter's" only qualification as he had no shooting skills. He missed several deer and they didn't show how many he wounded. Then he is shown taking a pi$$ off the tree stand. It was disgusting and it also looked like he was hitting his gear. He missed another shot and his excuse was the pi$$ had frozen to his bow and threw off his shot.

    I am not making this up! A foot in the TV would have been appropriate at that point.

  5. Funny, I 'm sitting in a motel in Valentine, Nebraska, on my way home from a North Dakota sharptail hunt. And I decided to watch the Outdoor Channel and see what atrocity they were broadcasting. It's some NRA-sponsored show called "Incredible Shots," I think -- not too terrible. But their hunting programming is everything that you say it is.

    I too live outside the range of broadcast TV, so my only chance to see fifty channels of nothing is when I am traveling!

  6. Now it's Michael Bane. He's not too bad. But spare me the hunting shows.

  7. What really pisses me off is the watefowling shows don't even show any of the dog work, just an endless cascade of ducks falling from the sky and one obligatory shot of a(invariably) lab swimming back to the blind...

    But I can't bitch. I was all set to call the sat company on Tuesday and cancel when I saw the ad for a weekend-long 52-hour Top Gear marathon to kick off the new season. Plus, OU-Texas is next weekend and I'm pretty sure it's against the law to miss that, so maybe I'll wait just a week or two...

    I'm such a hypocrite...

  8. BRAVO! For only the second time, I recently did a post on the hunting show "The Bucks of Tecomate," where a hunter shot a buck in the knee (repeated twice in slow mo).

    I'm less concerned about the forced camraderie and the fist pumping, but just like you, I am very concerned about 1) What this says about "us" and 2) Who are we turning off to hunting and fishing by airing this nonsense?

    Great post!

  9. I should say, for the second time I wrote about an outdoors TV show....