Monday, October 19, 2009

Balloon Boys and Boobs; Give The People What They Want


"Give the people what they want
You gotta give the people what they want
Blow out your brains, and do it right
Make sure it's prime time and on a Saturday night.
You gotta give the people what they want
You gotta give the people what they want
Give the people what they want
Give the people what they want
Give the people what they want"
"Give The People What They Want" by the Kinks

Last week two stories became media sensations, and a week later people are still trying to figure out why. Conservative blogger Meghan McCain posted a picture of herself on TWITTER, a self portrait, wearing a low cut top that partially exposed parts of her breasts, but never revealing anything that is not seen on daytime TV. Within minutes the photo became the talk of the the blogesphere. Much of the talk was critical, some of it questioning Ms. McCain's morality, some coming from conservatives, some coming from liberals. Within hours Ms. McCain removed the photo from her TWITTER page, debated closing her TWITTER account, and felt compelled to write a retort in The Daily Beast titled " Don't Call Me a Slut". The mainstream media picked up on the coverage, and the picture that was pulled by Ms. McCain became part of internet domain. GOOGLE "Meghan McCain" and you'll see a subcategory on the drop down menu; "Meghan McCain's breasts".

This blog's coverage OF the coverage of this story can be found here, as well as the link to McCain's post on THE DAILY BEAST, and some reactions to the story.

But that was really small potatoes compared to the saga of young Falcon Heene, the six year old boy from Colorado who was believed to have accidentally flown off in a hot air balloon, as a nation followed with its collective breath held. The media was all over this story from the gitgo. Nothing else mattered; it was three hours of "drama" played to the hilt by CNN, MSNBC, FOX, the broadcast networks, and hundreds of local stations throughout the United States, and before the world.

But even before little Falcon was found hiding in his parents home, the story had a strange smell about it. Some media types (ie CNN"s Jack Cafferty) seemed to sense that we were all being punked. And as the facts began to unfold, and the bizarre story of dad Richard Heene and what may likely be a conspiracy to get this family from left field a reality show more than a few people- not just in media, but on the street- were all thinking the same thing....we were suckered.

PT Barnum said that Americans love a humbug....and this was the latest bit of proof.

Rather than go into chapter and verse of what transpired in the "Balloon Boy" saga (here's a link to the latest on "Balloon Boy", if you must), and give the Heenes more publicity than there entitled to, let's just call them out....these are two parents who have exploited at least one of their children, and have probably put them in danger while storm chasing with their three young sons in the car. These are people obsessed with this pseudo celebrity culture spawned by the unreality of "reality TV".

The old movie To Die For with Nicole Kidman and Matt Dillon told the satirical tale of a beautiful but shallow young woman who actually believed that you were nobody unless you were on television. The film was released in 1996, and predated the era when the networks kept feeding the public more and more unscripted TV. But one of the points this allegory made- that there are individuals who seek validation and meaning of their lives by being on television- has never been more relevant. The internet has given everyone a shot of 15 minutes of celebrity, even more if the 24 hour news media pick up on a person or subject. And one thing the whole Falcon Heene story does bring to focus is that there are persons who will go to any length to manufacture news in order to gain celebrity status.

And we the people eat this stuff up.....and the Big Four networks, the basic cable stations, the 24/7 news media are only happy to oblige- unreality TV is cheap to produce, you don't have to worry about writers, unions, or strikes, and as soon as the "stars" start to lose their luster, you dump them and get some other poor sap with little or no shame.

Remember the good old days when VH1 was actually about MUSIC, and not the mind numbing, unwatchable crap they present now? Back in the day that network, and MTV, were run by music fans, not B-school wonks who only look at the bottom line.

Mr. Carlin....you were right.

Life is a freak show, and in America you have a ticket to the front row.

But you guys are asking for it...

And too many of us....myself included....are aiding and abetting.

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