Last night Hubs and I were sitting on the couch, basking in the glow of suburban satisfaction when Hubs, in the midst of his nightly tour of cable channels, chanced upon a show called Repo Games. The premise of this show is that a repo team and a television crew come to people’s homes and give them an opportunity to win back their nearly repossessed vehicles by playing a trivia game. From the five minutes I saw, which clearly makes me an expert, it appears as though the people are carefully selected for their probable inability to answer any trivia at all unrelated to soap operas and Nascar. I watched in horror as a man, who didn’t want his treasured truck repossessed, grabbed what looked suspiciously like an Uzi replica and pointed it at the repo man. After a tense stand-off full of manufactured danger, the fake-gun-wielding genius informed the repo man with an air of bravado that he only intended to maim the repo man so as to avoid jail time.
If this had been a scene from Reno 911 I would’ve slapped my knee and howled with laughter. However, when executed with real people, I had to run from the room and rinse the horror from my eyes. I can only enjoy a scene like that when it’s completely scripted (and I mean the type of scripted where the writer gets a screen credit.) Then I can laugh while still secretly harboring the belief that real life people aren’t actually that stupid, a belief that I harbor in the same sacred place as my belief that I still look 21. And that is a sacred place indeed.
There seems to be a phenomenon that causes people to do really stupid and sometimes painful things on camera for the purpose of gaining a little notoriety after which a very large section of society lines up eagerly to watch the fruits of their labor. I understand this phenomenon about as much as I understand crop circles. I’ve heard the argument that watching people behave poorly makes viewers feel better about themselves–“I’m not that stupid” “I’m not that alcoholic,” “my mullet looks better than that.” (and by the way, it totally does). I’ve also heard that sometimes people use the extremes shown in these programs to inspire themselves to alter their not-quite-as-extreme-but-similar behavior. And these sound like reasonable ideas, which would mean that I’m unreasonable, something my father suggested many times growing up.
Be that as it may, watching some teenager take off his own nipple with a weed whacker and then chug a beer doesn’t make me feel better about myself. It does make me feel like locking my children in the closet until their thirties and abandoning all lawn care. Likewise, watching hoarders doesn’t make me want to clean my living room. Instead it leaves me with a strong desire to douse all of my possessions with gasoline, set them on fire and move to the Blue Ridge Mountains where I would live off of bear meat. Incidentally a bear would never take off his own nipple with a weed whacker or live under a pile of old garbage, which puts them ahead of us on the evolutionary scale.
I could climb up on my high horse and declare that we shouldn’t reward people who behave badly with fame and fortune, but I got rid of the nag due to the fact that it kept leaving really big piles of horse poo in my living room. And also it would be a little hypocritical to wax moralistic since I enjoy comedians like Chelsea Handler, who revels in her own bad behavior and love of vodka. Does Chelsea not offend me because she has the ability to craft her antics into amusing anecdotes (and also because we’re on a first name basis)? Probably. I feel okay padding her pockets because she is in on the joke. In fact, she wrote the joke. And the joke is funny. Unlike the guy with the toy Uzi who is the last to know that he is a horse’s arse.
If I’m going to watch something unscripted, I want to see people doing amazing and inspiring things–things that make me want to go out and chest bump some random guy outside of a Starbucks in a celebratory salute to the awesomeness of the human race. For instance, I saw a story on Bethany Hamilton, the girl whose arm was mistaken for a cocktail weenie by a shark. She came back to surf competitively with one arm. With one arm, people! And the girl has a great attitude. I became surly and nihilistic when I couldn’t find the breadcrumbs in my freezer last night. If I tune in to any television show involving Navy SEALs, I start to think I can eat bugs, suture my own wounds and rescue hostages from African warlords. Television like this makes me want to challenge myself–be a better human being and less of a whiner. God hates a whiner. So do Navy SEALs.
I need to focus on one-armed surfers and Navy SEALs so that I can continue to have faith in my fellow man, because living in the Blue Ridge mountains removed from society is probably a really bad idea. I’m pretty sure I’d make a terrible hunter, I don’t know how to prepare bear meat anyway, I’m not into log cabin chic and I’d never be able to find impractical high-heeled boots or another Chelsea Handler book. So I guess I’m left with no other feasible solution other than setting our television on fire, throwing it out the window and camping out in the Inspirational Biography section of Barnes & Noble.
See Dad, I can be reasonable.