Watching the new batch of reality shows, it seems that the contestants are getting nastier. We’re not talking about the clever sort of “evil” that defined Rich Hatch, but a pure vindictive nastiness. Why is this happening?
Is reality TV getting nastier? I have been thinking about this a great deal in the last few days, as I watched Love Cruise wind down, and try to get into the new season of Survivor, and watch The Amazing Race, which I really like. And maybe its my mentality, because I, like most Americans, feel our lives changed in September. The things that bothered me in the past no longer bother me, because having personally lost friends and colleagues in the WTC, I realize how precious life really is, and how it should be savored because, in a blink of an eye, you can be gone.
Which brings me to this essay. People thought Richard Hatch from S1 was evil. No, not evil. He was clever. Big difference. Will from BB2 was also seen as evil. Again, not evil, clever, and duplicitous. Big difference. But now you have people on these new shows, three of them come immediately to mind. And they are evil. Evil in the purest form of the word. Now I do not mean evil like what is happening in the world as I write. But evil in the way they manipulate people and hurt them intentionally. Evil in the way that they cause other people pain. Richard and Will never really hurt people. Yes they plotted and backstabbed and voted out, but it was all done within the rules of the game. They did not cross the line. I wish I could say that for Anthony of Love Cruise and Team Guido of The Amazing Race.
I started out actually liking Team Guido. I really did. They looked like a real devoted couple. And me, being the politically correct woman that I am, am happy to see people in happy relationships. Sexual preference does not matter. So before the reader accuses me of gay bashing, no, I am not. I am condemning their ACTIONS , not their lifestyle. There is a difference.
Team Guido, (and the name Guido comes from their little dog, a Chihuahua that looks like the Taco bell dog), like many reality show players, have found that the longer they play the game , the more parts of their personality are revealed. With some, like Colleen from S1, it revealed sweetness. With these two it is deception. Cruel Deception. Trickery. Winning at all costs. In the latest episode, they did some things to the other players that were cruel and despicable. It involved getting tickets in an airport and telling the teller in French not to ticket the other contestants because they were competing. Then bumping into Nancy, the mother of the mother daughter team. And then if that was not enough, they decided to hold up the line by creating a diversion, in the hopes of delaying the flight. All high school pranks, but mean. And the other players have lost all respect for them.
Another reality show TV player, Anthony from Love Cruise is another person who has shown he is nothing but Nasty. He seemed a bit angry in a couple of episodes, but on the last two episodes, he showed his true colors. Angry and hurt because he did not win $100,000, he baited two conversations which changed the whole show. The second to the last one, he angered Toni, the blonde with the falsies and whose eyes pop when she gets angry, and Jeannette. They had a cat fight , written in graphic detail all over the chat rooms and bulletin boards. Then Anthony, during the final hot seat round on the final episode, decided to bait Melissa by asking her about her boyfriend, and not Darrin. Well, not only did sparks fly, they exploded. And he was sitting there happy as a clam, because he has just started WW3 on that boat. Did he do it for any other reason other than that he was mad because he lost? No.
As I write this, I was going to make a nice little conclusion here, tying up the loose ends in a nice neat package as only an English major would do. But I also want to add my own opinion. Several years ago in New Jersey, there was a front page news story one county away from mine. It seems that two soccer dads (yes, Virginia, there are soccer dads), had a fight at their sons’ soccer practice. One father insulted the other father, who was coaching. It escalated, and instead of a fist fight, the one father killed the coach with a gun he had in the car. It even mentioned on Drudge and Rush Limbaugh at the time. Why would the father do this? Because he was trying to teach is son that winning is everything. You can’t be a loser. Because the father felt that to get ahead in this world, you have to be number one , and if you need to step over corpses to get there, you do. Contrast this to television’s father of the year (IMHO), Homer Simpson, who tells Bart and Lisa, “its okay to lose – after all, you’re Simpsons.” It seems more and more that children and teenagers are having problems because their parents expect them to be perfect. When I was in High School you had to make the honor roll. You had to get between 1500 and 1600 on your SATs. You had to go to an Ivy League College. Only losers went to Jr. Ivy League. A State College? Bury me now, the kid just killed me. In college you have to get perfect grades. You go to Law School, Med School, MBA. You get a job you make money. And by the time you are 40 you are miserable, wondering what you did to deserve what you have. You are not a loser. But somewhere along the line you lost your soul, your identity, your life.
And this is why I am so upset with Team Guido and Anthony. They are clearly in that “Winning is Everything,” mode and “I gotta be number one, and if I can’t then no one else will be.” What kind of lesson does that teach our children and teenagers? Sometimes you have to know when to get out of the rat race, let someone else take the spotlight, and acknowledge that sometimes you will not be number one. We are all put on this world to do something better than anyone else. Find it. Find your niche and be happy. You can’t win all the time. It’s a hard lesson. And I really, really hope that in Team Guido’s case, Kevin and Drew are the ones to teach it to them. Because if they don’t learn it now, they will learn it later, and to paraphrase Erikson, it’s a mess to learn something in your thirties or forties that you should have learned as a teenager.