Bread and Circuses
Watch it, Flavius, or we’ll do a special on you.
Sadism: the derivation of pleasure as a result of inflicting pain or watching pain inflicted on others.
I’ve always thought that the initial mass-elimination rounds of American Idol were a high point in institutionalized cruelty: let’s all point and laugh at people who are perhaps less talented than they think they are, and who are foolish enough to trot themselves out on national TV with their somehow-criminally average singing voices. How pathetic they are. Let’s laugh and feel superior.
Fox has taken point-and-laugh-at-others’-misfortunes reality programming another step towards the completely excreble with its new show Somebody’s Gotta Go. Each week the program will drop in on a different small business that is facing the necessity of layoffs due to the bad economy. All of the employees of the company will be given access to their co-workers’ HR files (I can’t see how that’s legal) and the company books, and will vote each other out of a job, like Survivor contestants voting people off the island. Employees will “get a chance” –read be strongly encouraged by the producers— to tell their co-workers face-to-face what they really think of them. Well, gee, that oughta make the company stronger once the losing “contestants” are out the door.
David Goldberg, the head of the production company responsible for this atrocity, says, “For a lot of people, it takes the pressure off them…As a boss myself, I don’t want to have to make those decisions.”
Nobody does, David. But as “a boss yourself”…it falls to you. That’s part of being a boss. It’s one of the parts that sucks, sure, but one of the few perks of being a wage drone is that you don’t have to be the one to decide that Bob from Accounting –who has two young kids and whose wife was just diagnosed with ankle cancer—is gonna be out on the street tomorrow.
I really wonder who is going to find this entertaining. Americans who are going through layoffs themselves? People who believe their job is completely secure? Does such a person exist? Does the success of shows like American Idol and Jerry Springer, and the hideous promise of Somebody’s Gotta Go reveal something dark and nasty about the American TV audience? The advantages of reality programming over scripted programming are well documented. Reality shows are cheaper to produce, have less union issues…and of course allow us to be as sadistic as we want to be in the privacy of our own living rooms.