It isn’t just the fact that mass media glorifies beauty over substance a la Jersey Shore, ridiculous extremes over the plight of the everyday man a la 19 Kids and Counting, negative over positive a la every news story you come across on any given news network, and fantasy over reality a la every happing ending in every movie that ever existed. It isn’t the hypocrisy of the media allegedly reflecting the constantly changing tides of society, and yet still can’t give the Asian girl a solo on Glee over the pretty, thin, white girl. It isn’t even the mind-numbing internet comedy that caused my own little sister to forget that there are still many words in the English language that contain vowels.
It’s the fact that in spite of promoting all of these delusions of grandeur, insane reality shows, and mindless internet drivel, it still finds the liberty to mock anyone who’s willing to break the hegemony and admit they like something else. For I have yet to meet a single portrayal of a character on TV who played Dungeons & Dragons and wasn’t portrayed as a stereotypical ‘dork’ who was both snobby, unrefined, and painfully ignorant of basic social skills.
D&D is outside the realm of what the mass media defined as ‘normal.’ Why? Because it’s an adult version of playing pretend, only with more statistics and less fairy princesses. Honestly, I find a group of adults who want to sit around and pretend like they’re slaying a dragon much less absurd than a group of fake-Italians who put more grease in their hair than Danny Zuko and set out to make themselves look like insipid jerks on television. And yet which of the two groups of adults are turned into overnight celebrities and which are socially mocked and ostracized?
And that’s just one example. I’m not sure what causes trends to drift the way they do with regards to pop culture. I’m sure there’s some odd formula out there that reveals everything, but the lowest common denominator really that low? I feel as if the media is sorely underestimating both the intelligence and the dignity of the billions of people it reaches in some form or another every day.
I might even go so far as to state that the absolute lowest common denominator is not the audience, but the players themselves. If you look at Toddlers and Tiaras, for an example, the show is not meant to exploit reality. It’s meant to exploit the tragic mental breakdown of mothers who insist on putting their very young children through the flaming hoop like a trained dog. Dressing your daughter up like Vivienne from Pretty Woman in her famous prostitute costume is highly inappropriate. If I took a poll of a thousand mothers of two-year-old girls out there today, I am willing to bet that less than ten would admit that they would agree to do something similar.
Reality today is more fantasy-based and exploitative than ever before. It’s the evolution of the genre that should have died years ago.
I find the same thing happening in music. How many rappers talk about having sex with random, barely-dressed women and sing about their lack of respect for their partners these days? How many more rap songs discuss gang violence like it’s as typical as a McDonald’s on a street corner, and perhaps even idealized? How many people in America today WANT to get involved in gang wars? How many men really see women as dispensable sex objects? Does the public really condone rape culture? Or is it the media romanticizing street life to that absurd, dangerous level?
Maybe I sound like a narc, but in truth, looking at it that way answers a lot of questions, as well as keeps alive the spark of hope I have left for humanity. I only wish the mass media would recognize that and kick Toddlers & Tiaras off the air, replacing it with entertainment that people can actually relate to, for once.
That’s why I turned to the BBC early on. I find much more in common with a 950-year-old time-travelling alien than with a girl crying hysterically because her Super Sweet 16th was Super enough.