This isn’t some come-to-Jesus I finally met myself and my life changed due to the fact I haven’t seen the world for what it really is kind of post.
It’s a frustrated post about having seen something that simply disturbed me.
In checking through my iTunes store in-between duties at work today I noticed something particularly odd and weirdly disturbing. In looking at the number of “new” and then “popular” items on the television section of iTunes I had to sift through dozens of things simply to find something that wasn’t dubbed a “reality” show.
I’ve posted here before . . . I watch one or two of these. My daughter likes to watch the horrifically egomaniacal Tyra Banks on her show America’s Next Top Model. I don’t worry all that often about what she gets from the show, we poke fun, talk about who we think is cute, how we can’t stand Tyra, all of those things. But I’d never really thought about what kind of message kids today – particularly the younger ones in my family – might be getting with all these shows.
16 and Pregnant is there, matched with Jon and Kate Plus 8! meeting The Jersey Shore and Snooki and J-Woww along with God knows whatever else. I started thinking about the fact that . . . somewhere in this vast wasteland of video we’ve lost track of the fact that we’re telling the world that we value fame. We don’t imply that you work really hard to get the fame, we simply tell the world that the goal is to become famous. (I’d prefer to say infamous, but . . . ) I’m disturbed by this because the world seems to both embrace and celebrate Kim Kardashian like she’s a role model and authority figure. Make no mistake . . . to quote the comedian Ralph Garman . . . she’s a porn star. That show she’s on is neither real nor worthy of respect. She was rich before she became famous. She had sex with a guy on video, the tape was “leaked” and then she sold millions of dollars worth of herself. She wants people to take her seriously and then talks about her ass being her biggest . . . ahem . . . asset. She gets married for less time than the warranty on my iPad.
I saw an Olympic boxer who said she wants to punch Kardashian – because her little sister wants to grow up to be like Kim Kardashian. I can tell you – with absolute certainty – that I’d fall to my knees if my daughter told me she wanted to “be like Kim.”
I spent the weekend with my oldest in New York. I bring this up because my daughter understands that I value different things. Over the weekend Ella Rucker, assistant and right hand to Rene Syler, picked Abbi up at the airport. We talk a lot, Ella and I – over email and Twitter. I hadn’t met her in-person. I knew Rene, Rene trusted her, and Rene had an amazing life story. She’d worked with me in Dallas. She made it to the network morning show. She was diagnosed with breast cancer, was fired from the Early Show, and then had to have both breasts removed in the same short timespan. Meeting both women they were full of life, energy, vigor and verve. Abbi saw why I value their opinions and friendship.
On top of that Abbi sees who I value in my life. Sure, I love the music of BB King, Eric Clapton, Robben Ford, Dave Brubeck . . . you get the picture. Still, if you asked me who my hero was I’d tell you it was my Dad. Abbi knows that for a myriad of reasons. Sure, I value Slowhand’s music. I love listening to Layla over and over again. But I don’t know or understand him. He’s made some insane life choices. He’s been married, divorced, lost a child, dated a number of people I’d not have dated . . . these are not things I idolized. I just like what he can do on a stage.
I heard an interview with the musician Derek Trucks once. He and his wife, Susan Tedeschi won the Grammy this year for best blues album. During the interview he commented on how he could see the difference between two groups of people at the awards banquet. There were those there meeting their heroes and boosting their abilities . . . and there were those who simply wanted attention. The difference between those asking Neil Young how he had such an amazing comeback and those who arrived carried inside a plexiglass egg while wearing a meat suit.
We done see that fame is a curse, not currency. We fear intelligence rather than celebrating it. We put down those with different and innovative ideas. We wantonly encourage lewd and destructive behavior with our indifference and indulgence of these shows, giving them the title of “star” rather than head case. We watch a girl get plastered, get into fights in bars then get pregnant and seemingly not know who the father is on one show and then give her yet another show to talk about how she’s going to get through her pregnancy. We watch a show about pregnant teens but in reality give them so much publicity they can’t handle when they have the kid and have to face responsibility instead of the Kliegl lights.
I want my kids to look to their grandparents, their friends, and others around them. I want them to value hard work and tenacity and feel like if they work as hard as they can they can be successful. I don’t want them to measure their success in terms of cash but in satisfaction. I don’t care if you’re eating Ramen noodles for dinner if you’re smiling after finishing your work every day.
I want them to face reality . . . not chase it.