Tuesday, July 28, 2009

I Can't Turn Away from the TLC Freak Show

My bloggers, I have a confession.
I am obsessed with TLC. I know it's horrible, and it exploits people. I just can't help myself! The one I have the biggest problem with, and I will try to stop watching is Jon and Kate + 8. They've been all over the tabloids lately because of their divorce. But really, why should we care? All that lady did was basically have a litter, and she destroys their childhood with extremely frequent filming. That has made her shoot to celebrity status. Other than the fact that their kids get no privacy, and no choice in the matter, there are several things that bother me about the entity that is Jon and Kate. Here's the 3 biggies.
1. Extreme freebies
What family with 8 young children gets a mansion, free trips to Disney World, Hawaii, Colorado, Spas, and can still get hair plugs and teeth whitening? Well, Jon and Kate can! They have no jobs, at least not what normal people would consider jobs. So where do they get all their money? From selling their childrens' freedom and privacy for cold hard cash. They should have named their kids Money, Cash, Dough, Moola, Change and Bling, because it's obvious from watching the show that's all they see their children as. They say they will keep doing the show because they don't want to loose their house and all their things because the children will be sad. Yet doing so will continuously damage the children who have already started telling the camera people to go away, although they really have no choice in the matter. Now they will have to go through the pain of their parents divorce, with their parents profiting from their every reaction.
2. "It's for the Children"
That is their justification for doing the show. But really, what does it get their children but material things? It's the same as when they said they were "making memories" which is why they did the show. The memories they are making for their children don't seem to be pleasant ones. They will only remember being dragged across the country with their meltdowns, shortcomings, and parents' dysfunctional relationship laid out there for the whole world to see. Jon expressed worry about the day when the children are old enough to google themselves. Sorry to break it to you, but the 8 year old twins are already old enough to google themselves. It would be much worse if they were to google their parents. They don't need to google though, because Jon and Kate are constantly in the tabloids. And they do it too themselves!! They have a ginormous backyard, where the paparazzi, or "p-people" as they call it, can't see them. So why the heck do they play in the small concrete driveway.
3. The show is their "job"
When the show started, both Jon and Kate had a job, and it was about them struggling to make ends meat for 8 small children. Gradually, Kate stopped her job as a nurse. Ok, that makes sense. Someone needs to stay home with the kids and take care of them. Suddenly Jon quit his IT job and "worked from home" though he was never seen working, and eventually said he was a stay at home dad. They both stay home, yet they're no longer struggling financially. How does that work? Then we find out one or both of them are constantly on the road making speeches about their struggles, and later promoting their books. Their speaking fee is quite expensive. They are gone most weekends, leaving their hcildren with strangers. This is their "job" now. Without the exploitation of their children, they would have no job. Yet they aren't obligated, and probably don't, give their children anything. Something seems very wrong to me about people living off their children. I hope the Pensylvania labour board agrees, but I don't think they do.
Needless to say, I will no longer be watching Jon and Kate + 8.
The show will go on, and it must. Kate herself expressed that as her greatest concern in the monumental divorce episode. Why do we care about a family supposedly living their "everyday lives" in front of us? I think it's because it's not real. No one lives like that, and it's a disaster, and that's why we watch. It's the reason why people stop and watch a train wreck. New episodes will be starting next week, which shows these children didn't get a break. They are constantly "working" for their parents gain. This is not the only show on TLC that does this. There is Little People, Big Worlds, where we watch a family live their "normal lives" because they're little people with average sized children. There is the show 18 Kids and Counting, where the Duggars who have 18 children don't want to stop any time soon. There is the Little Couple, where we're expected to be interested in the "everyday lives" of newly weds just because they have different forms of dwarfism.
There is just something wrong when we are entertained by watching what people say is their normal lives. It's somewhat voyeuristic in a way. Nadya Suleman was just offered a show for her octuplets and 6 other children for a large sum of money. Shows likes these might be why she wanted so many kids in the first place. Having 14 children 7 and under and getting a show will probably just make things worse in the long run, especially for the children. Don't even get me started on the people with severe deformities who get specials, or the disaster that is Toddlers and Tiaras.
The only thing I've ever learned from "The Learning Channel" is how disturbing the types of things we like to watch really are.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Not knowing about Harry Potter makes you culturally irrelevant

You know who these people are and can give me some sort of fact about the movie they appear in, right? Good, because if not, I would be worried.

Wow, long time no blog! I guess I get too busy with other things. Since I have last blogged, I've still been reading a lot of Chuck Klosterman, specifically the book 'Chuck Klosterman IV' and his many Esquire articles online. Once again I think that man is brilliant and am driven to blog by his articles. Not about what he knows, this time. More about what he doesn't know. I'm also here to muse about how someone who loosely defines himself as a pop culture critic knows nothing whatsoever about one of the biggest defining cultural phenomenons of a generation.

In his article called "Death by Harry Potter", which appeared in Esquire in 2007, he admits to knowing nothing whatsoever about the famous boy wizard, or the books series that has enthralled millions. The first thing, I, a super Potter fan, though while reading this was "How the hell is that even possible?" I mean where does Klosterman live, under a rock? Has he never watched television? Does he not know someone who knows something Potter related? For someone who talks about being so culture oriented, how could he not have the faintest clue about Harry Potter?? He talks about ignoring the books and movies, but with all the press both have gotten, and all the hype surrounding them, I don't think you could ignore it so much that you haven't at least picked up bits and pieces. Even just paying attention to the news would get you the basic storyline.

I'm not saying everyone has to be as obsessive as me; knowing every single fact, reading the books and watching the movies multiple times, and even dressing up. Some people can even hate Harry Potter, and I know many who do (admitedly, not too many). Those people, however, have some basic knowledge of the story, and have never appeared as clueless as Chuck Klosterman in his article, even if they have never read a book or watched a movie. I just don't understand how someone who talks so much about other pop cultural phenomena can be ignorant of one that has in recent years become ubiquitous. In the world of popular culture, not knowing the bare necessities of Harry Potter is akin to not knowing that the music video for Michael Jackson's Thriller involved zombies.

What exactly is so wrong about this lack of knowledge? It was hard for me to separate my obsessive fan outrage with the actual possible reasons. One thing Chuck Klosterman admits is that it creates a generation gap between his generation and the one that I belong to, the one he says in the article will probably go on to control the mass media. I've noticed some of this generation gap in his writing already. He talks about some bands, shows, and celebrities that I am completely unfamiliar with sometimes. I am guessing they were most popular some time before I was born, most likely in the 1980s. He was, however, more relevant than other writers on similar topics, which is why I kind of like him. He does say that not knowing about Harry Potter may be detrimental to his career, which is likely. Pop culture is about right
now and if you don't know about something so essential to the culture of the moment, that puts you at a major disadvantage.

Harry Potter is probably the biggest literary phenomenon of all time. That in and of itself deserves at least some notice. It's something that everyone, no matter what their age or interest, knows something about. For my generation (and I hope that makes no one older who happens to read this feel old), it is also something we've grown up with. I was 8 when the first book came out, and 17 when the last came out. I'm 19 now, and the 6th movie has just come out (it was awesome by the way!) I grew up as Harry did, and like watching Sailor Moon and liking the Spice Girls as a child, it is a common thread that connects me with any new person I meet who is around the same age as me. I don't think that Star Wars, which Klosterman uses as an example in his article, ever reached the same amount of popularity with all people of all ages all around the world.

There are certain things that stand the test of time in the world of popular culture. These are things that everyone knows about, no matter when they were born. These things stay popular even if they really haven't been for many years, at least not in their original way. I know about the Jackson 5, even though the height of their popularity was when my mother was a child. I know vaguely of the Mickey Mouse club, although I think it was cancelled long before I can remember. I know about and love Monty Python, and was shocked when my mother told me she watched it when she was my age. Harry Potter is most definitely one of those things. My grandmother's 70 year old friend knows about it, and so does the 4 year old I used to babysit. That to me shows it's pretty darn special.

I've heard that the media is ubiquitous. Well, as long as you don't live under a rock in the middle of nowhere with your eyes closed, so is Harry Potter.

Below is a link to the article, just in case anyone's interested.