The Cult of Mediocrity

In the slow march that American society makes towards evolutionary perfection, we must pause to note the cult of mediocrity that has infected the airwaves.

Oceans of cyberink have already been spilled about the subject of reality television shows, and what was once a minor irritation has developed into a full-fledged rash: everybody has a new reality show coming out, even the channels you’d never guess in a million years would have one. What used to be confined to Fox has now spread to the Animal Planet and the Discovery Channel. Remember when you could actually learn something on the Discovery Channel? Makes me nostalgic for the days of yore.

Of course, you’ll be shocked (shocked!) to learn that what drives the proliferation of these shows is the pursuit of advertising dollars. Gallons of money, gobs of money, money being made hand over fist, no matter how you describe it, that’s what is behind the never-ending spate of shows that give us seemingly inexhaustible forays into mediocrity. Do we really need shows about people re-doing your bedroom, your wardrobe, your garage, your house and your love life? Apparently so, because there are enough suckers out there to keep these cheaply-made shows in perpetual production. And coming soon: a reality show about an airline terminal. Then they’ll be one devoted to the baggage-handlers: who will make the cut?

But the real point of these shows isn’t showing us what not to wear, or getting men in touch with their inner faggot, but celebrating how mediocre people think appearing on these shows makes them not mediocre. The cable channels are stuffed with slightly less-than-average IQ individuals who whine, cry, bitch, moan and show-off their mendacity for all to see. It never ceases to amaze me that there is no shortage of people who participate in these “Survivor”-type programs who will cry their eyes out in front of the camera that another contestant was duplicitous. Seriously, how many people in this country think that you’re going to be on a show that involves only one person out of a dozen getting the million-dollar prize and nobody’s feelings are going to get hurt? That someone isn’t going to lie about something? Worse still, the cult of mediocrity has turned these dimwits into armchair psychologists who like to talk about other peoples’ “unresolved issues.” Yeah, whatever.

The unstated point of these programs is to show stupid people doing stupid things for other stupid people who feel smart because they would never have put themselves out for public consumption in the first place. Bad news here: the joke is on the viewer because you are indeed, just like the stupid participants trying to outfox the others for the grand prize. If the producers are telling us that these programs demonstrate that ordinary people can become stars or what not, they’re either lying or stupid themselves. And with so many advertising dollars at stake, it should be obvious that the producers are certainly not the latter.

Looking for Mr. Whoever
Nothing is more offensive than the hook-up shows, wherein twenty dumb women vie for the attention of one man seeking a bride. Or vice versa. On these shows, tears and stupidity are hand-in-hand: the mind is boggled and the jaw is dropped at how anyone with a few neurons firing can really think you can connect in a meaningful way with someone else, right before he heads off to the hot tub with the next available idiot to “connect” deeply and meaningfully yet again.

“The Bachelor” and its ilk are the worst of these shows because they pander to and reinforce stereotypes. Isn’t it every man’s fantasy to have a group of women fighting over him? Wanting to be his everything because with a posse of cameras, wires, cables, and crew, it must be true love? Isn’t that how you really get to know someone, by having the entire affair videotaped? Practically begging him to give you a rose so you can repeat the demeaning process for the next elimination round? Mark my words, with as sleazy as television programming is getting, “The Bachelor” will be fucking these girls and rating their performance as part of the stay-or-go torture session at end of each episode. (“I love Tammi, but Suze treats my balls with respect.” Puh-leeze.)

“Average Joe” fared no better in this, either, because in the end, the beautiful woman went for looks rather than what was on the inside. The second installment of this insipid nonsense promises to offer more of the same: mediocre people thinking they’re not, and mistaking those confessional-booth moments as proof that honestly, they’re just real people looking for love. No sir, no ma’am: you’re a moron. And goofy teens going through your awkward phase, pay attention: mom and dad were lying to you when they said that looks don’t matter at all.

Folks, there is no reality show (and there will never be one) that is real in any sense of the word. It’s all sleight of hand. A con. A flim-flam. But given that people like to watch other people look stupid and get humiliated, viewers will continue to perpetuate the cult of mediocrity for years to come. Or until they suddenly become unprofitable.