Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Fifteen Minutes of Fame

I'm so angry about "balloon boy." Oh, not about the hoax perpetrated on television watchers, apparently in the hope of getting a reality show. I'm furious about how much air time the stunt has received.

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For some reason, I missed the actual event and only saw the reports after everyone knew that the kid was safe, so I missed all that emotional involvement that many probably felt.

But still the media has gone ballistic over this whole thing. It has featured prominently in every newscast I've seen for several days and been discussed ad nauseam on talk shows. Ed Schultz made it the lead story on his "The Ed Show" on MSNBC and even devoted one segment of it to a psychologist, who never met the kid, never met the family and was basing his assessment solely on news reports. He gave an in-depth analysis of what the family dynamic probably was and how the kid was feeling and what his relationship with his father must be. Talk about a non-story.

Following The Ed Show, when I saw that Chris Matthews was leading off with balloon boy too, I turned off the TV.

When are the newscasters going to understand that you only encourage dumb stunts like this by giving them so much air time. Are we so hungry for 24 hr a day coverage that we have to listen to junk like this? (Notice please that I said I turned the TV off in disgust! I do have some integrity..not much, but some.)

The American viewing public has been so screwed by that writers' strike so many years ago. It spawned the first reality shows and I guess Americans are so fascinated by living vicariously through other people's lives that it has become an entire industry.

I will admit to having watched Jon and Kate Plus Eight a couple of times. I watched the first time because I've been pregnant and know the feel of a pregant belly at term and I just couldn't even begin to imagine carrying six babies. I watched because the show opened each week with shots of Kate and that enormous belly. Then I continued to watch that first episode and the next one because the kids were cute. But I hated Kate who seemed never to smile, who ran the house like a drill sergeant and who browbeat Jon so badly I'm amazed that it's taken him this long to find someone else. I figured they had a strange and unusual relationship that seemed to work for them and I had no right passing judgement.

I gave up on the show the day she fired her nanny for forgetting to dust a small shelf under a table once.

I guess people continued to watch because kids are always cute, but has anybody read how screwed up the lives of the Dionne Quintuplets were, the first "reality show" played out throughout their entire lives in front of the camera?

I wouldn't be caught dead watching any of the camera-in-the-home shows, starting with the Loud family, back in 1973, where cameras followed the family for seven months and 10 million people got to be peeping Toms. I see promos for that show where wives change families for a week and they seem to be so terribly exploitative, though obviously the women and the families have signed an agreement to participate. But am I interested in the resulting train wreck? No way.

But stuff like this, and especially stuff like balloon boy encourage nutcases to go to bigger and better extremes in the hope of getting their 15 minutes of fame. Some go so far as to create mass violence and end their own lives gloriously. That news reports publish their names and photos endlessly only encourages other people with troubles to follow suit. "I may be miserable in this life, so I'll end my life but by God you'll remember my name!"

The sad thing about balloon boy is that someone found a video of him and his brothers on You Tube (which I will not link to) in which they do a rap which appears to be strongly anti-gay and which includes lines like "I hate gay faggots. I hit 'em with a bat." Kids that young don't know enough about life to write lyrics like the ones that appear in this rap video. They obviously have some talent and it's a shame that they are being led in such negative directions.

Frankly, I want the whole family to climb into that balloon and sail off to a place where we never have to hear about them again.


Mortaine said...

The show where they swap moms is called "Wife Swap" and balloon boy's mother/family were on the show.

Just helping you tighten up your article.

Larraine said...

I agree with you. I also think your article doesn't need any "tightening." The fact is, like you, I don't give a crap about shows like Wife Swap or Wife Exchnge or any other program like it. I couldn't believe that there was so much coverage of this whole balloon thing including all of the follow up shows. What a past of air time!

Anonymous said...

I can't stand those kind of shows either. The thing that bugs me most about them is that none of it is actually reality - it's all staged to some degree or other for the cameras.