Monday, September 20, 2010
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…
Posted by Chad Love at 10:26 AM