Tuesday, July 12, 2011

"Let the other forty million, three hundred and seven/People who want to get famous."

The Song: "Mr. Sellack," The Roches. Words and music by Terre Roche. Track 3 of The Roches, 1979.
When/how acquired: Purchased cassette, c. 1987
Listen/watch here.

Last night I turned on the TV when I couldn't work any more, and found absolutely nothing to watch. No baseball, because of the Home Run Derby; none of the usual Monday night shows, because it's summertime. Instead, I had my choice of reality-based shows. I did not want to watch "The Bachelorette." I did not want to watch "America's Got Talent." I did not want to watch "Celebrity Chef Housewives of Peoria." I wasn't even in the mood for the series return of "No Reservations," although that's one of the few reality-based shows I do watch.

I wanted a story. I wound up ordering Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part I on demand, because friends invited me to come along to the midnight show of Part II on Thursday. Most of what I watch on TV these days is movies, in fact -- not pay-per-view but Turner Classic Movies, the Sundance Channel, and the odd films that pop up on the Ovation network. I want to watch people pretending to be other people, not pretending to be themselves.

Something about that desperate desire to be on television breaks my heart. Are people so small, in their lives, in their worlds, that they need to be on TV just to prove to themselves that they exist? Do people think that being on television will turn them into something that they're not? I suspect they do. Of course, being on one of those shows does change them. For one thing, those shows need conflict to attract viewers, so I have no doubt that people being filmed look for opportunities to create that conflict. More conflict means more camera time -- more camera time that shows them to be people no one would want to know in real life. But they're famous, at least for a little while, and that seems to be the goal.

Where I notice this most of all, strange to say, is the supermarket checkout line. Tabloid covers used to be full of movie stars; now they're about reality TV "stars." This makes me weirdly sad, as I think about people looking through old copies of The Enquirer 40 years from now and having absolutely no idea who any of those people are. We're still watching 40-year-old episodes of "Bewitched." No one's going to be watching 40-year-old episodes of "Teen Moms."


AnswerGirl said...

Whoops -- if you checked in here earlier today, you saw an incorrect title listed for this song (although it was a song from the same album, same artists). This morning's blog post started as one thing, became something else. Hurray for the edit function.

Anonymous said...

I actually go out of my way to avoid television cameras. I've been on cable access a few times, and it made me ill to watch it. I can't stand seeing myself on screen, which is pretty odd for a guy who did standup for a year or so.