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An honest day’s work

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In my last post Our fascination with stupidity and chaos, I mentioned that I had quickly grown weary of what I call train wreck television. While shows like Toddlers & Tiaras, The Jersey Shore, Dog the Bounty Hunter, Keeping up with the Kardashians, Hoarders, Say Yes to the Dress, My Strange Obsession, the now cancelled John & Kate plus Eight and others all have seemingly different subject matter, for me, the underlying message for all of these shows is the same: The people on these shows–whether it be because of choice, circumstances or both–are less than you are, and are therefore open game for your disapproval and mockery. Why push ourselves and strive to be better when we can just turn on the television and breathe a sign of relief that we’re not as bad as these idiots on TV?

Last year I began to see promos for a show on the History Channel that appeared to be another along this same vein, which is why I made a conscious decision not to watch it. Partly because, as I’ve said, I sick and tired of these shows and partly because the participants were some of my neighbors to the east–South Louisiana. Having worked around and befriended many transplanted Cajuns here in Houston, I didn’t want to watch a bunch of Hollywood types make a mockery of the lives and livelihoods of folks whom I know to be good people. People who talk very different from most of us, whose lives are simple not because they are simple minded, but because they choose to live their lives simply.

But then I accidentally watched a full episode of Swamp People, and despite my earlier reservations, I am now a big fan. I’m not sure if the show’s creators intended to or not, but after watching these men (and one sharp shooting woman named Elizabeth), there’s no denying the obvious. These are hard living, hard working, brave people making a dangerous living and providing for their families just as their ancestors have done for decades before them. Swamp People reminds us of how we used to be, of what we need to return to. No, I don’t mean moving to the sticks and killing alligators for a living. I mean doing an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay and not being afraid to get our hands dirty.

I’m looking forward to the next alligator season and one of the few reality shows I truly enjoy.

Laisser le bon temps rouler!

Our fascination with stupidity and chaos

image courtesy of John Saddington (aka @tentblogger) taken while on a visit to Houston

Stupidity is fascinating, isn’t it?

Why else would I be sitting here attempting to write to no avail because I can’t tear my eyes away from the local new coverage?

Coverage of what, you ask? Severe thunderstorms, hail, a couple of funnel clouds spotted and at least one tornado which blew through someone’s garage. Which actually is pretty newsworthy considering the severe drought we’ve been experiencing. But that’s not what’s got me glued to the boob tube.

Instead, I’ve been sitting here for the past 30 minutes or so as the new anchors continually cut back to a reporter standing on a sidewalk as car after car drives into a flooded street. Car after car stalling as the floodwaters splash over the hoods of their cars. In a city where anyone who’s lived here more than a year knows which streets flood quickly during a heavy rain, where we’ve adopted an official slogan of “Turn around and don’t drown” because this happens so often. Where the most prudent and logical thing to do is to simply pull into the nearest parking lot and save their car, people instead choose to believe that their car will be the one that will make it through the water.


Live and in color.


Which is not to say that I am immune from blatant acts of stupidity. I’ve committed a lion’s share of those. Fortunately, most of those acts were committed before the invention of phones with cameras and the explosion of the interwebs, before there was such a thing as reality television, where it seems the stupider the actions, the higher the level of chaos, the better the ratings. Why is that?

Because we are fascinated by train wrecks and remarkable acts of stupidity, as long as they’re happening to someone else.

I was introduced to reality television in 2000, when I watched the very first season of Survivor. I believe that first season set the tone for all subsequent seasons and the plethora of reality shows to follow. I’ll admit I was fascinated with the participants and how the interacted with one another, but my fascination turned to disgust when the winner turned out to be Richard Hatch, whose actions and interactions on that show colored him as a pretty deplorable human being. As uncomfortable as the following speech was to watch, Sue summed up fairly well what I find so offensive about this show and the hundreds of others that followed:

If you have cable or satellite television, the sheer number of reality shows to choose from is staggering. The subject matter of said shows varies wildly, but most have a common denominator: People whose lives are a bigger mess than yours is, usually by their own stupid choices. They make us feel better about ourselves in comparison, don’t they?

The cast of Jersey Shore

I grew weary of these shows a long time ago, but not all of them. There are a few that don’t fit the mold of train wreck television. I’ll spotlight one of my favorites, along with others shows you should be watching this year.

Until then, what’s the most horrible reality show you’ve ever seen?

What reality shows do you like?

Pardon me while I rant incessantly: Foregoing innocence

With very few exceptions, reality television is a cesspool of everything that’s wrong with the moral compass of society.

Feeling guilty about how messy your house is? Just watch Clean House or Hoarders. Comparatively speaking, your home is a showplace.

Wondering if your consumption of Diet Coke borders on addiction? At least you don’t secretly eat the stuffing out of sofa cushions or find yourself unable to communicate with people without the use of a puppet like the folks on My Strange Addiction.

Think your daughter’s wedding day expectations are unreasonable? Just watch an episode or two of Say Yes to the Dress, Whose Wedding is it Anyway?, Bridezillas, or the mother of all bad bridal shows, Bridalplasty:

The show follows 12 engaged women who are competing for the wedding of their dreams and their dream plastic surgery procedure. Each woman must complete a plastic surgery wish list and complete wedding-themed challenges in order to win the surgery of her choice. The winner of the week’s challenge gets one plastic surgery procedure from her wish list.

The winner of the competition will get a wedding of her dreams and multiple plastic surgeries from her wish list. The husband will not see his fiancee until the wedding day, when the bride reveals her new look. (Source: Wikipedia)

Regardless of how base and degrading your behavior may be, thanks to reality television, you can always find someone whose actions are more base and degrading than your own. Hurray for you!

And while I can largely ignore or make light of most of this nonsense, there’s something especially disturbing when the subjects of these shows are children.

Enter the world of baby beauty pageants seen through the lenses of the creators of Toddlers and Tiaras. My personal opinions aside about pageants in general and children’s pageants in particular, I know there are some contests for kids where glamourous make-up and costumes are not only not discouraged, but not allowed. I suppose these contests are the lesser of two evils, but I still think it sends the wrong message to the children involved.

Recently, a four-year old contestant made the national news when she appeared in a Dolly Parton costume complete with big hair, fake boobs and a padded butt. I considered posting her picture here, but then I suppose I would just be adding to the circus. When she appeared on Fox News with her mother,  her mother said she was surprised at all the outrage over this costume. “It was a theatrical costume (she wore) for 90 seconds.” When asked about charges of sexualizing young children, the mother replied: “There are people who are going to take everything to an extreme, but at the same time, people have Facebook posts that are 10 to 15 (years old) and all of their friends in bathing suits running around taking sexualized pictures, but because this has been brought into the national news spotlight people feel like they have to jump on it and correct me, when there’s other things going on on a daily basis that are so much more concerning.”


Thank you for restating my original argument. People can justify their own actions because there’s always someone taking things further than you are. Those are the people that really need to be stopped.

People like the subject of the latest outrage stemming from Toddlers and Tiaras–a three-year old whose mother recreated Julia Robert’s prostitute character in Pretty Woman. Yeah, this one:

I’m not terribly concerned about how shows like this will effect my 10 year old daughter, because the only time we ever watched it together she was as disturbed by it as I was. My concern is for the little girls and boys involved in these shows.

Many of their parents will argue that most of the time their kids are just that–kids. What they may not be considering is the fact that their kids get the lion’s share of attention when they’re strutting around looking like adult beauty queens. I suppose I’ll buy the argument that many of these tiny beauty queens think the pageants are fun, even though the frequency and voracity of the tiny temper tantrums on that show leave me less than convinced. I’m less inclined to believe they enjoy being spray tanned, wearing painful hairpieces and false teeth over their own called flappers.

The message? You are a beautiful child, just not beautiful enough without all the extras. This is the wrong kind of attention. And it’s not okay.

As much as all the primping and yes, sexualization of children on this show bothers me, what bothers the most is that these little girls and boys most likely think people watch them with admiration, when in reality most view the show for what it is: a freak show.

A big, money-making freak show.


This post is part of the One Word at a Time Blog Carnival: Innocence, hosted by my friend Peter Pollock. To read more on this topic, please visit him at