March 18, 2005
Blame it on Paris
the election wasn't decided by cultural values, after all. The
New Yorker reported that top election pollsters determined that
many voters instead made their presidential choice based upon three
ominous numbers: 911.
While I've no reason to doubt the pollsters, I can't seem to erase
the buzz term "cultural values" from my mind. Nor do I want
to. Especially as our government prepares to slash one social program
after another and is ready to cut food programs for the poor to save
farm subsidies, some of which go to rich New Yorkers who've never
even been on a farm.
Following the election, I landed a part-time job researching and
summarizing daily news and entertainment for the networks. Under usual
circumstances, this would be a great job for a news junkie like me.
But it also meant I would have to cover George Bush, ad nauseum, for
"four more years," which for approximately one-half of those
who voted, sounds more like an extended prison sentence than a reason
But I also cover entertainment "news." This is true nausea.
I can honestly say that before the election, I didn't know who the
hell Paris Hilton was. Nothing against Paris, per se, but it's like
covering the life of a human Barbie Doll. One entertainment episode
followed her as she walked up and down a New York sidewalk and shopped.
Another featured the gifts her Chihuahua received for Christmas.
Even the First Lady appears on the entertainment programs, discussing
"important" topics such as her fashion designers of choice
and daughter Jenna's love life. Laura's jet-setter twins receive almost
as much coverage as Ashley and Mary Kate Olsen.
I could be mistaken but I don't ever recall seeing Hillary Clinton
on Insider or Entertainment Tonight while Bill was in
But what I find disconcerting is that there may be "average"
Americans who seriously follow these shows of conspicuous consumption
and empty lives. And that some of these viewers while they
may not have decided the presidential election voted against
the cultural values depicted by Hollywood in these programs.
Americans have often based their perceptions on TV
and Harriet, Ward and June Cleaver and Dick and Laura Petrie. These
'50s and '60s sitcom characters gave us idealized marriages and separate
Only later did we find out there usually was more going on behind
the scenes and between the sheets.
When we watched The Brady Bunch in the '70s, little did we
know that actor Florence Henderson a k a "Mrs. Brady," was
trying to bed actor Barry Williams, who played her teen stepson "Greg."
This sounds more like a premise for one of today's reality shows.
But even the reality shows are reportedly scripted and as far from
most people's reality as one can possibly get.
How many people really believe they can find a soul mate on live
television in a mere matter of weeks? And how many dwarves do you
know who dump a Playboy Bunny wife to dine off the body of a nymph
on television? Of course, the latter episode is from the Surreal
Life so at least it's appropriatelynamed.
We are a society addicted to television and this medium shapes, in
part, our life perceptions. But it's unfortunate that it also may
have determined for some voters whom they elected, or didn't elect,
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