I'll Never Write a Novel

The Memoir of a Personal Essayist OR Confessions of a Theatre Widow

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Tapping into Pop Culture

The husband and I were chatting the other day about what I know anything about. The fact is that I know a little bit about a lot of stuff. I am the Queen of Useless Trivia, so to speak. We concluded that pop culture is really my area of expertise. I have no idea what I am supposed to do with this information.

In any case, I was brainstorming on all things pop-culturey I might want to blog about yesterday, and I thought about reality TV. I am not a big reality TV fan, as such, because none of it is "real." I think of it as commensurate to having conversations with total phonies who say, "I'm just keeping it real," which is code for, "I am full of it" or "I don't care about what my actions have to do with anyone else." They may not know it's code. Reality TV is full of it, and it shows no concern for consequence, so it's all kind of the same gig to me.

But, I loved the first couple seasons of the Real World. It appears that it has now sunk to desperate lows of depravity, but the first few seasons were like gold to voyeurs like me. The people on the shows had no idea that they might become "famous." They worked real jobs and had real relationships with their roommates, for better or for worse. The first meetings weren't set-up as the "who would I like to screw?" intros that they are now. I loved the first couple seasons of American Idol, too. These were real unknowns who just wanted to sing. Most of the contestants just wanted a chance to sing for an audience. No one was being courted by celebrity fashion designers to wear their clothes during performances. They took it seriously, but not too seriously. And they didn't talk back to the judges. Contestants honestly say stuff like, "Who are you to judge me?" THEY ARE THE JUDGES.

So, I know the names and story lines of the first couple seasons of both shows. I couldn't tell you the names of anyone from "The Amazing Race," "Survivor," "Big Brother," "Beauty and the Geek," etc. And, I grow to hate the current seasons of anything "reality," more and more. But, I thought that I might start blogging about the pioneers of reality TV. I know Kevin from the original Real World, New York, has been writing for Vibe magazine, and is very politically involved. Heather, also from NY, started producing hip-hop music. Judd and Pam from San Francisco got married. What became of the rest of them? These people who basically gave their lives for the new face of TV, actually wanted to go back to their real lives. And they live real lives now. They aren't trying to work their way onto TMZ, just to stay in the spotlight.

I was thinking that maybe I would start a series of posts dedicated to the "whatever happened to..." of legit pop culture icons. And, I was wondering, just yesterday morning, where could I start? Then, I turned on MTV at 10 p.m. last night. I never watch MTV anymore, but last night I thought, why the heck not? And you now what was on, "The Real World Awards Bash." They were pimping the next season of the show while looking back at the last 19 parts of the series.

It was a bizarre coincidence to find this on last night. And it was one of the weirdest things I have ever seen on TV. It was crazy to see what has become of most of the people. The most legit people were on via video clip. They were too classy to show up for the pool-side booze-fest. Yes, there was a pool. And, yes, people ended up in it. Big surprises abound. As I suspected from my earlier musings, I didn't recognize about 80% of the people. From what I could tell in their clips and from the awards, I believe that none of these people have jobs, and have embarrassed themselves beyond the point of no return in their appearances on the show. Seriously. I was embarrassed for them.

My hubby came home partway into the spectacle, and was shocked to find me watching it. He knows my deep and abiding loathing for programs like, "Girls Gone Wild," and this basically looked like 90 minutes of that. He asked me to justify why I was okay with this and not with GGW. Girls Gone Wild is the ultimate example of what I hate about current popular culture. While I was pregnant I'd see those ads and completely freak out, yelling at the TV. So, so awful. But, all I could think to answer the husband was, I was watching to see the what's become of the blueprint for current television and what people want to see. I like to be in the know. Sadly, in all its hideous, exploitative, embarrassing, self-indulgent, wrecked messiness, this is exactly what that blueprint built.

And, for the record, I don't need to do all that much research. The starting point is all pretty well done for me. Check it out here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Real_World. And for more that is the abomination of the Awards Show you can check this out: http://www.mtv.com/ontv/specials/real_world_awards/.

Maybe I will see what else I can dig up here on these Internets another day.


Blogger Ginormous Boobs said...

Guess what it was like working at a talent agency repping reality TV for 3 years?

12:20 AM  
Blogger Kate said...

Hey, Noreen, whatever happened to that girl from "Real World London"? You know, the one that I was super-close friends with in high school? The shy, quiet, artsy one? Do you remember her? I've always wondered whatever happened to her.

11:12 PM  
Blogger Kate said...

I realize that the sarcasm of my last post doesn't really come through. It's always weird for me to think that I went to school with (and was friends with and lab partners with and went to slumber parties with) someone who was "The Real World."

2:05 AM  
Blogger Cary said...

The only reality shows I can stomach are the ones that have some redeeming value to them, like "Intervention" and "The Surreal Life." And while both have their share of exploitative and contrived moments for entertainment's sake, both do offer value in the form of seeing people truly (or they've really fooled me) caring for others and trying to help them.

I will never forget the moment on the very first "Surreal Life" -- which, yes, I watched not expecting anything but a spectacle -- when M.C. Hammer took the cast to his church, brought Vince Neil on stage, and had the entire church pray for Neil, still angry and grieving over his young daughter's death from cancer. It was a touching moment, and nice to see people like Survivor's Jerri Manthey and Corey Feldman -- people no one really considered human to that point, just punchlines -- shedding tears and showing real compassion for Vince. It made humans out of all of them, especially Hammer (another punchline), who was the conscience and father figure to the entire group.

12:52 PM  

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