The feeding-frenzy popularity of The Hunger Games — in which young people fight to the death for scraps in a post-apocalyptic society — makes me squeamish, partly because it seems only one part fiction and three parts foreboding. And why not usher in a gladiator-esque fight-to-the-death era of entertainment? We are already there.
Reality TV trains us to sit on the sidelines while we watch young people claw their way to fame or disaster — from such gong shows as American Idol, So You Think You Can Dance and Project Runway to those that gauge survival skills a la Survivor and The Next Great Chef (OK, I don’t really have to know how to julienne carrots or reduce stock to consommé to survive).
There seems no end to the vicious voyeurism in our TV diets: We have competitions in the workplace (The Apprentice), in love (The Bachelor), in travel (The Amazing Race) … it’s no wonder Americans have an obesity problem (The Biggest Loser).
Rather than experience triumph and defeat firsthand, they’ll (we’ll) sit with preferred joy-stick device, whether smartphone to text in votes or an ADHD-enabling remote control, the modern equivalent of the king shouting “off with their heads!” when a jester fails to please.
Only in America do we turn every aspect of living into a Super Bowl. Makes me want to gag order.
While waiting last night for my husband to join me at the altar of the mammoth flat-screen where we’d summon DVR’d episodes of our nostalgia-laced intoxicant Mad Men, I stumbled across a penultimate episode of The Voice.
Sucking me in: One of the four finalists was a folksy-bluesy singer-songwriter whose career my daughter had followed the past decade, as he played small coffeehouses and clubs from suburban D.C. to L.A., New York to New Orleans. Tony Lucca, by now famous for being one of the few Mickey Mouse Club alums (alongside Justin Timberlake, J.C. Chasez, Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera) to not scale the pop charts, he instead rambled the rocky road of hard knocks. His gritty, grinding, gutsy musicianship reflected that hunger.
Last night, under the tutelage of Maroon 5 front man Adam Levine (as contemporaries, they are three years apart in age, and Tony is older, at 36), I hardly recognized him. Simply unreal to see him there. He seemed ice-cream-man creepy recast in his boyish Mickey Mouse Club persona, clean-shaven with a wannabe hat, as the camera panned for reaction from his proud “old lady” and androgynous progeny. Still, I had to watch and get his digits, to give him whatever small boost I could.
I know he won’t win tonight. Mostly because pop-packaging doesn’t suit him. Tony Lucca is a cool dude, not a puppet, and as much as I wish him success and an eternal meal ticket to go with it, he shines best as a starving artist — not so starving as to sell out to the star-making machine. Part of me is thrilled he finally found this stage of mass consumption, but I don’t think I can sit and watch tonight as more life-long dreams get decimated. America’s appetite for this kind of thing seems insatiable.
Pipe in captive Billy Pilgrim’s command to a captive audience of Tralfamadorians, who greedily watched him mate with an Earthling porn star in his space-dome prison in Slaughter-House Five: “Now we would like the night canopy.”
Same here. Privacy, please. I don’t want my Reality TV. I can no longer stomach it. Give me true fictional drama, or give me death! (a la The Hunger Games. See? You knew it’d come back up.)
- Tony Lucca: I’m sorry for my role in ‘The Voice’ drama (marquee.blogs.cnn.com)
- “The Voice’s” Tony Lucca “Over” Christina Aguilera (fresh1027.radio.com)