Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The Bachelor gets my vote for worst show ever

Yesterday afternoon, as I sat next to my nine-year-old daughter,  I looked over and asked her, "Lauryn, who do you look up to?"

"I don't know. Why are you asking me that?"
"I'm just curious as to who kids look up to these days."
"Umm, well, you, I guess." That was nice to hear, if not completely heartfelt.
"Thanks, Laur. But I'm just wondering, of the people you see on TV or read about, whom do you admire?"
"I like Beyoncé. And Miley Cyrus."
"Would you say those are your heroes?" I tried to ask this without betraying any irony in my voice.
"Not really," she replied. "They're more like idols...oh! I know. The rescuers who pulled the people in Haiti out of the rubble and helped them. Those are heroes."

That was a refreshing statement to hear from my daughter. At least she can discern between true courage and true celebrity.

It seems harder and harder for our kids to make these distinctions. My older daughter has grown up witnessing a new class of American pseudo-icons—the reality television stars. One of her favorite shows is The Bachelor, where a large gaggle of Barbie look-alikes vie for the affections of one Ken look-alike. The premise is for him to find his soul mate within a few episodes, sponsored by Pepsi. The guy is portrayed as the man every parent wants his or her daughter to marry—handsome, smart, sensitive and, above all, wealthy. Call me old and cynical, but this is one of the worst television shows, let alone reality shows, I've ever laid eyes upon. The bachelor is forced to eliminate one candidate every show in "the rose ceremony," thereby sending her packing in tears with just a memory of what might have been.

The remaining contestants survive another week. I guess we have to assume that they're all equally in love with Joe All-American; this is prime time "love light," not "let's-start-out-as-friends-then-date-for-a-while-then-see-where-things-go-over-the-next-couple-of-years" love.

I doubt that either party to this faux-courtship series would qualify as a hero to my other daughter, the fourteen-year-old, but just the fact that she enjoys the show is a little disturbing to me. If I might climb into my Ward Cleaver "When I Was A Boy" Wayback Machine, my heroes were usually athletes or astronauts. In fact, I knew the name of each Apollo explorer, as well as the mission at hand, whether it was orbiting Earth, the moon or the big one—landing on the lunar surface. Neil Armstrong was the king of cool, and I would have easily chosen him over Joe Namath or David Cassidy to show up as a surprise guest to my ninth birthday party.

I'm thinking about instituting a moratorium on reality shows in our house. Either that, or for every reality show my daughters watch, they have to read an article about someone who has actually contributed to society, rather than someone who simply indulges the viewing public's 21st century voyeurism.

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