May 28, 2009

Cautionary Tale or Fairy Tale?

I didn’t want to watch. Really I didn’t. I just couldn’t help myself.

And I don’t think it’s my fault! Talk of them is everywhere—on the news, in the magazines, at the dinner table, around the pool, at book club, over lunch. Everyone, and I mean everyone, has an opinion. “It’s his fault!” “No, it’s hers!” “She’s a diva.” “He’s a slacker.”

A modern day “He said, she said” is playing out before our eyes and we can’t help but watch/gawk/stare. With the push of the remote control or click of a mouse we can satisfy our inner Peeping Tom and experience the train wreck of a relationship taking place before our own eyes.

On Monday night when the clock struck 10:30, I found myself sitting in front of the TV and succumbed to the temptation to tune in to the season premiere of Jon & Kate Plus 8. Turns out I wasn’t the only one. 9.8 million viewers—nearly double the audience for the Season 4 finale in March—watched. Chances are you watched, too.

Sad doesn’t even begin to describe the season opener. Painful, selfish, indulgent and tragic come to mind. Almost as soon as the show started, watching felt icky and invasive. No one should be witness to this. It’s none of our business. This isn’t just entertainment, it’s a real marriage and a real family going through a real life crisis.

At what point did the lifelines of fame, a new house, plastic surgeries, spa treatments, book deals, money and other perks become the noose that’s strangling them? When did they exchange good intentions for shattered dreams?

I’m not a fan of this show, or any reality show for that matter, but now I’m finding it hard to look away. I can’t help but wonder what happened to discretion? To privacy? To respecting one’s spouse? To knowing when to say, “Stop. This is enough!”

Heck, what happened to common sense that airing one’s dirty laundry in public is never a good idea?

The thing is, reality TV isn’t new. Ever since MTV set up seven Gen X-ers in a loft in New York City 17 years ago, almost no circumstance has been left unexplored by curious cameras. We’ve willingly gobbled up show after show, asking for more. So why all the attention to and criticism of this show? What makes it different?

Is it because it’s too painful? Too real? Too personal? Do we see we’ve crossed a line we weren’t even sure existed?

Imagine what a hit reality TV would have been in the 21st century B.C.! If ever a family was ready for prime time, it was Lot’s. And the sensual lifestyles in Sodom and Gomorrah provided a perfect backdrop.

We’d tune in each week eager to see what was in store for Lot and his family, knowing in our gut it wasn't good, but unable to look away. We'd watch a depraved community living the motto "If it feels good, go for it!" and family members so tangled in their own stuff they laugh at the idea of the Lord's impending wrath. We'd witness depravity, destruction and desolation.

You can’t write a better story than this! And it’s all in the name of entertainment, right? What’s the harm?

As we know, the story of Sodom and Gomorrah didn’t play out to entertain us but to warn us. It’s a cautionary tale of godless living and free will gone awry. Then as now, our choices have consequences—sometimes tragic ones.

Is being featured on a reality show the modern-day version of the American Dream? Are these shows harmless entertainment or the making of our downfall? Are they cautionary tales or fairy tales?

If we've removed all the boundaries, how will we know the difference?


Peggy said...

This is such a tragedy in our society today. What a shame on us to be sitting watching others struggle with their lives, jobs, children and all the other things that are produced in the name of entertainment.
I was raised in the age of the radio (there were TVs around, but not many)and we played outside all day, had family time at the dinner table every evening, and life was simple and good.
Most of the time you didn't know what happened behind the closed doors of your neighbor unless they wanted or need your help.
Sometimes I feel we need less reality TV and more of pure,loving and wholesome togetherness of family and friends.
I imagine it will be like that in Heaven, where we all get along and live in peace and harmony with one another.
Have a great day, love one anothe.
Blessings and Love....Peggy

Terri Tiffany said...

Excellent. I didn't watch the show but heard about it and saw ecerpts. When do they say stop? isn't it now? What do we do for money and fame? Lost the most important part of our lives? Our families?
Good post!

Jody Hedlund said...

I don't really have the time to watch TV, for which I'm thankful! It's fascinating to think how low we can sink in our tastes for entertainment. Think of the Romans sitting in the coleseums watching the lions tear to part the early Christians. They loved it. Sick!

Sassy Granny ... said...

It's just one more line on the sorry epitath that is inscribed on our history.

You raise some truly poignant questions; questions I hope each of us wrestles with as we "choose this day Whom we'll serve". The world offers quite an assortment to choose from, some of it actually pretty compelling.

The Jon & Kate thing ... I haven't watched, but I've heard enough to conclude this marriage might well be sacrificed on the altar of vainglory. Why not cease & desist from the show while pouring heart & soul into counsel instead?

Anyway, it's got people talking & thinking. Perhaps that's the good that will come from it.

Be blessed,

Sue J. said...

I've commented on this phrase before..."Up close and personal."

ABC Sports...then News...started using it as a means to invite us to get to know the person of the athlete. It was a means to not hold up the athlete as a celebrity but to make them more "equal" to us, the viewer. These were real people, and didn't we know of other real people who might someday stand where these folks were standing?....

But, it's all so warped. Actually, do you remember the show "Real People"? Before then, remember "Candid Camera"? As a viewing audience, we love to watch other actual people doing things that we think we would never ever be caught doing--yet we all have, probably! But, somehow, it's better to watch someone else than ourselves.

Therein lies the rub, yes? If we really looked at ourselves in the light of God's Word, we would question, very quickly, being the "star" of that reality show. Woe to us!

I actually haven't watched this show nor do I know the background of this story. Your writing here (and one Yahoo headline) is enough for me to know that, as a society, we still haven't changed much since day 1. Thanks for the sobering thoughts!

Irritable Mother said...

Guess that's one of the benefits of not having cable or satellite TV. We only get a few channels, so I almost never watch TV.
Even so, I can't help but notice this family all over the magazine covers when I check out at the grocery store. I don't know what's going on with them, but I can tell it isn't good. And that is sad.

I agree with you about the trouble of these reality shows. We have lost our limits and are fascinated with the "real life" troubles of others. It is a sad commentary on our focus.

Susan S said...

Again we're on the same wavelength. I reread the S&G story last night. I can't get past Lot freely offering his daughters to those men. And then, they sleep with their father? Too much.
I too saw the Jon & Kate saga plastered on the magazines at the grocery store. The media loves to build people up only to tear them down. Definitely not encouraging.

elaine @ peace for the journey said...

Reality in our own homes is harsh enough; still and yet, I'm drawn to it and have to make a deliberate effort to "not" begin watching.

I haven't watched the show, nor do I plan on doing so. Marriage struggles are a painful swallow; divorce all the more. I know at a very personal level and all of this simply makes me sad for everyone involved. They won't understand the "devastation" of the matter until they lived with it for a season.

If only I could tell them...


Cheryl Barker said...

I haven't watched this particular reality show, though I like some of the others. This one sure sounds sad. Maybe we can hope some good can be salvaged from it all as the season goes on...

Lori said...

You have given us much to think about. I admit I am a fan of the Jon and Kate Plus 8 show. However, as I watched on Monday evening, I was so sad to see what has happened to this family. I don't think they understand what the cost of fame & fortune has done and will do to their family. I went to bed praying for their family to heal. But... I think in order to help that along the show needs to stop. Something, I don't know that they can do now after they have become accustomed to their present lifestyle.

It is sad, sad, sad.

Julie Gillies said...

I'm with you, Kelli. I'm not a fan of reality TV (please tell me American Idol doesn't count!). I can't help but agree with Jody's comments...we're turning into a bloodthirsty nation. (Especially if today's films are included in the mix.)

God help us!

Anonymous said...

Funny... I didn't want to watch either... but there we were (both my husband and I) sitting on the edge of the bed watching the whole thing go down. ugh. Thanks for your thoughts. In the end - we can all use a little prayer, right?

Nicole said...

So sad - worse, yet, I can't stop thinking about this family! You are right on with the boundaries issue! They need to STOP and save their marriage, if not the marriage, then the "family". Those poor kids!