You know how themes will reoccur sometimes, maybe a name, a phrase or an image you keep coming across. I’ve been seeing this one over the last couple days: something ‘caters to the lowest common denominator’.
It even came up in a dream. This phrase seems particularly relevant when I turn on the television. Nowhere is there a more gleaming example of a system that caters to the lowest common denominator than the current television programming.
Lately there’s been a high concentration of Bravo in my t.v. viewing habits. I’m a fan of Project Runway, and they used to run West Wing reruns which got me hooked on that excellent program. The West Wing can’t be seen there anymore, instead you have ‘Real Housewives of Orange Country’; ‘The Millionaire Matchmaker’; ‘Make Me a Supermodel’ and of course, ‘Hey, Paula’.
It only takes ten minutes of watching these shows to start to feel kinda… icky. I know Bravo’s been touted as the bold and fabulous gay network, and I like that they embraced that categorization instead of trying to buff it up. They ran with it. Yay them. But these shows put a crazy emphasis on superficial success: Looks and money.
Physical attractiveness isn’t just presented as a commodity, it is overtly marketed as such, and I’m not even talking about the supermodel show. There is such a frightening completeness to that assessment on these programs that it completely discounts the part of a person you could dub ‘human’. On The Millionaire Matchmaker, women were screened to see if they made the millionaire club based entirely upon if they looked the part of sexy, classy and intelligent women. It didn’t matter a dingo’s kidney if they actually were any of these things, it only mattered if they looked it.
And of course you’ve got your supermodel show where you’re looking at model wannabes and Nikki Taylor is pointing out how this girl has ‘body issues’. They tell this tall, slender, size 4 girl to take her anguish to the gym after having her body criticized from every angle till she’s sobbing.
I know that’s how it is. That’s the industry. But I worry about the willingness to accept it and be entertained by it. There’s something really ludicrous about sitting on the couch with a bowl of popcorn, nodding your head in agreement that Angie has a bit too much junk in her trunk to make it on the runway.
There’s been a gradual shift through time to this crazy demand for impossible physical standards, so now it’s widely accepted. It would be weird to act outraged toward these shows. What do you do, stand-up and shake your fist at the television because they perpetuate the idea a woman’s value is based on her physical perfection, a man’s value is based upon his net worth?
That would be silly. And hypocritical, because look: I’m watching. I didn’t switch it over to the Public Broadcasting Station and boycott the ugliness of that message. I validated it with my participation.
And now I feel the need to assert my divinity. To point out that life is precious, unique, that there’s a higher calling to cater to than this plastic vision. That everyone is on a journey, and these false standards only waste precious life and precious time.
But here’s the kicker: Am I only expounding on this during the commercials?
K, I’m gonna lighten up a little because the sunshine in this darkness is ‘Hey, Paula’, the reality show based on Paula Abdul. I admit, I’ve only watched 12 minutes of this program but I was absolutely astonished; helpless with laughter and squirming in discomfort at how batshit crazy the poor woman has become.
If she’s not on drugs then Bravo is definitely exploiting a nutbar. I truly believe Paula would self-destruct if she had to last three hours in the real world. She lives on Paula-planet. It’s rather hard to look away.