A few days back I went to see The Hunger Games, which was in three of the six movie theaters at Goleta’s Camino Real Marketplace. I didn’t read any of the three books on which this movie was based, so I didn’t have any particular expectation about it. I didn’t have great interest in it either. Judging it by the name, I was convinced it would be a rather depressing movie. I was right.
Don’t get me wrong. The movie has what one can call a “happy ending,” which I won’t spoil, in case you haven’t seen it. But, the more the movie progressed, the more I was subject to the unsettling feeling that this movie presaged some sort of reality the initial stages of which we are already living. Yes, I’m talking about the reality of our infamous “reality shows.”
The parallels are stunning, if you think about it. People chosen to be a part of the entertainment have to do whatever the producers tell them in order to get the prize. Like in the movie, we reality show fans are avid consumers of whatever is sold to us as “fun to watch.” But – is it really? Or are we simply becoming insensitive, uncompassionate, and, to put it plainly, dehumanized beings? Is it right for us to laugh about other people’s misery, vices, depression, pain, or confusion?
Although I don’t watch a lot of TV shows in general, just by surfing the channels I’m aware of a number of them - which many times seem to be the only option available - that could very well be driving us to not think for ourselves, and to simply follow the path others draw for us. Here are some examples of what I’m talking about:
- The Bachelor, and The Bachelorette – Self-abasement for fifteen minutes of fame.
- Hoarders – Extremely depressed individuals who bury themselves alive.
- Intervention – Drug addicts who at times consume in front of the cameras.
- Jersey Shore – Low-living individuals with amazingly high levels of ignorance.
- Wiped out – People risking their lives on a bad fall sparkled with snarky comments
- Ultimate Fighter (UFC) – Pure bestiality.
- Toddlers & Tiaras – Bordering on child abuse.
- Sweet 16 – Brats’ empowerment at its best
Is this uplifting, positive, or even interesting? I venture to say that most of us don’t think it is. However, driven by a morbid impulse, we keep watching.
Who is to say that one of the Intervention participants won’t inadvertently overdose in front of the camera, or that one of the Jersey Shore cast members won’t badly hurt another one during one of their drunken brawls? What if one or more of the Wiped Out participants “accidentally” breaks their neck? Or if, while we’re watching, an ultimate fighter gets killed?
Will we stop watching then? Or are we going to coldly say that they knew what they were getting into? And will this explanation help convince us that we bear no responsibility whatsoever? Oh, wait a minute. Didn’t the husband of one of the Real Housewives commit suicide? Yes, he did.
To be fair, there are a few positive “reality” shows on the air, too. What Would You Do?, Undercover Boss, Restaurant Impossible, What Not to Wear, and a couple more. However, they don’t get half the attention from the media and the public as the other ones do.
At the pace we’re going, in not too long, our children may be “volunteering” for The Hunger Games. The question is whether we will – like the colorful people in the movie – still be watching.