A few years back, an acquaintance of mine was producing a reality TV show featuring rap impresario Suge Knight as the star. My acquaintance, call him James, had a brilliant idea for an episode. Suge would come to the high school where I was teaching to be a guest lecturer in my class. It will be great, James promised. Suge could talk about the way he was in high school, his special memories, his life in the music business; you know, just some straight talk from a major player in the music industry, albeit one who definitely has some violent tendencies. Who did kill Tupac on that late summer night in Vegas?
I politely declined the offer, for obvious reasons.
In Los Angeles, everyone is rehearsing for their reality TV moment. Who will be the next Khardashians, on the road to millions just for acting like fools for a half hour a few times a week.
At the mall Saturday, I found a quiet corner in the food court to read while my wife finished her shopping. Suddenly, I was surrounded by six sets of parents with screaming babies and toddlers. They shoved together several large tables and haphazardly parked their convoy of carriages around the perimeter like cop cars at the end of a high speed chase. Soon, food arrived. The babies continued screaming, with one particular toddler yelling out over and over again: “Mom, mom, mom, mom, mom, mom, mom, mom, mom, mom.”
Mom ignored him and simply raised her voice to talk over her kid. In fact, all the mommies were screaming at each other like a bunch of Howler monkeys while the husbands stuffed their faces in silence, looking like they wished they were anywhere else but in the mall food court on a Saturday morning with their wives and screaming progeny. This reality TV show would be called “Best Mommies,” based on the inane dialogue I could not help but hear.
“Today, we’re trying car-rots,” one sang out, accenting both syllables.
“You know, Jeremy has an allergy to root vegetables, so we avoid them. It is a shame because I used to love them in my smoothies.”
“Oh, I’m not worried about carrots, but gluten is a huge problem.”
“My Johnnie won’t take the breast.”
“Oh, that’s not good. When I replaced my breast milk with formula, Stevie had diarrhea non-stop. It was green.”
“Come on, baby, stop crying, stop crying, stop it, stop it, stop, stop.”
“Mom, mom, mom, mom, mom, mom, mom.”
“My little Devin won’t sleep in his own bed. So we had a talk and I explained things to him, right honey?” The husband didn’t answer, and Devin was screaming his lungs out in his carriage and appeared to be less than a year old, so what kind of talk did mother and son have?
Worse, every time one of the mommies crowed about something ingenious she did with her child, she would look around as if waiting for all of us to leap to our feet and give her a rousing ovation.
Then there are those who fantasize about going on one of the dating shows like The Bachelor. People cry over this superficial tripe. Then, after the show ends for the season, we are treated to numerous issues of People Magazine detailing the ups and downs of the new reality couple, who in fact, are a complete construction for television, not unlike The Truman Show (1998).
Survivor? Isn’t life difficult enough without all the fictional trappings of an island in the middle of nowhere and a bunch of narcissists competing to be the last one standing? Do we really need to make this crap up?
Even the Food Network gets in on the act. Nearly every show is a competition, some determining who is the worst chef, the next Food Network Star, the best maker of cupcakes, the proud owner of a mall food court stand.
When did the entire world become eligible for fifteen minutes of fame?
With all the security and surveillance cameras, we are all closer to performing in our own reality show than we realize. In Great Britain, one report theorized, people are caught on camera up to 300 times per day. Do I need to use the cliché? Big Brother is watching you.
I recent article on the Discovery website speculated that we are living in a computer simulation. Our descendants far in the future, possessing greater technology, may have constructed the simulation to see how their ancestors lived. There are several inconsistencies in our universe that might indicate the presence of such a simulated construction.
So maybe we are all living within a gigantic reality show. We are always competing, auditioning, trying to lose weight, marry the bachelor, run our own rap label. We are always hanging around the pool in our bikinis, making sex tapes that accidentally get posted on the internet, and becoming famous for absolutely nothing. I am Paris Hilton!
If life is the ultimate reality show, that kid at the mall yelling: “Mom, mom, mom, mom, mom, mom, mom?” I’m voting him off the island.