This week has illuminated a terrible truth about our country: we almost killed Lamar Odom. It’s no secret that America has become a consumer culture, but what’s not talked about is that in addition to needing a smartphone, an organic salad and a smart car, we now need to consume people to make us feel better.
Odom was found last week unconscious in a brothel outside of Las Vegas and remains in stable condition in a hospital. Reports
Bill Plaschke, a renowned sports reporter out of L.A., wrote a story this week about Lamar Odom’s recovery titled “Kardashians’ freak show capitalizes on Lamar Odom one more time.” It painted Odom as someone who desperately needed help, but more so — it highlighted the way reality TV transformed society’s perception of Odom.
Odom was a distinguished and very well respected player in the NBA and according to Plaschke, who seems to have developed a close relationship with him over his 18-year career as a sports reporter, Odom’s reputation, accomplishments, and triumphs were stripped from him by the paint thinner of our pop culture: the Kardashians.
The aftermath of Odom’s ordeal has been nauseating because the
and through our silence and continued consumption of them, we consent to allow them to bastardize our culture and therefore, we are at fault.
To be clear, reality TV is not only destroying our culture, but also our consumption of it makes us bad people. We act like the big tobacco companies of old by pretending that reality TV isn’t bad for us, but we all know that it destroys people’s lives and we’ve known it from the beginning.
We’ve come to a place in our society where we celebrate other people’s failures and we condemn their successes unless we can somehow share in those successes. And whenever someone is confronted with their consumption of reality TV, whenever they’re asked, “how can you watch that garbage?” you hear the same excuse every time: “it’s my guilty pleasure.” I’m putting this in writing: reality TV is sadism, not a guilty pleasure.
If you want to buy a bottle of red wine and a bag of Godiva bite size chocolates on a Tuesday night, go home and watch reruns of “New Girl” and call that a guilty pleasure, go ahead, because that’s exactly what it is. I’ve never heard anyone say their guilty pleasure is to sit at busy intersections and wait for car accidents to happen so they can watch and say “at least my day isn’t as bad as theirs.”
We have given our country to the highest bidders in prime time television to be able to escape facing the realities that make us feel uncomfortable. It’s not fun to think about the Social Security fund running dry with no system in place for when it runs out of money. It’s not fun to think about the fact that we in Illinois have let our government overspend our money to the point that it’s no longer paying out lottery winners or that the state pension funds are grossly underfunded.
It’s not fun to think about Gov. Rauner’s job, because he has to cut programs and funding across the board, which has left many people without services that they depend on to stay alive, and it’s not fun to think about the fact that doing that is only half the job, because after we cut programs we depend on, we’re going to have to significantly raise taxes and it’s still going to take years to pay off our debt.
So, we have implicitly given the Kardashians permission to entertain us at others expense, all the while we continue to call this sadism a guilty pleasure, and it’s killing people. Not figuratively. Literally. Our consumption of reality TV is destroying people’s lives and driving them to their deaths, or to the brink of them.
Think about that the next time to turn your TV on. Think about Lamar Odom the next time you watch “Real Housewives.” Think about whom we’ve elected and what we’ve allowed our government to do with our futures the next time you check in on your favorite characters in “The Bachelor.” The next time you get stressed out about looking for a job when you’re done with college, or the next time you get scared of the thought of entering the “real world” because you feel like you aren’t ready, think about Howard Montague.
Howard Montague, who when he was 18 years old was drafted into the Navy and without a college degree, was an electrician’s mate on the USS Jesse Rutherford, a destroyer escort. He shipped out to the western Pacific Ocean because someone he never had any contact with bombed a state that was closer to where he was deployed than it was to where he grew up in upstate New York.
And as you think about Howard Montague, imagine explaining to him that watching “Keeping Up With The Kardashian’s” is a guilty pleasure and it’s not bad because the people on the show choose to be on it. Explain to him that you’re scared about what you’re going to do after college because you don’t really want to work in the field you got your degree in, and assure him everything is okay and you’re sure he just hasn’t heard from his brother since he landed on Iwo Jima because he probably just didn’t have time to write.
And when you’re done thinking about Howard Montague, who with his brothers in arms defeated the Axis Powers and banished the Nazis from the Earth while they were teenagers, ask yourself what you did in the year after your 18th birthday, and then decide if it’s worth it to tune in to “America’s Next Top Model.”