Friday, June 1, 2012

The Children are Watching

There is an “Anti-bullying movement” going on, and practically every state in the union has some version of an anti-bullying law on the books.  If you Google “anti-bullying movement” you can read about all kinds of efforts on the part of legislators, schools, parenting groups and even students to stop the spread of bullying.  I just did and was compelled to collect my thoughts and blog for the first time in 2012. 

I’m going to go ahead and say that I would bet big money that a majority of the individuals striving to “stop bullying” by day, sit down in front of their television many a night for what I think is a major bully-fest:  "Reality TV."

I’m quite well aware of the fact that since I don’t watch reality TV I can hardly pretend to be an expert.  I also know that mine is a minority opinion and that it’s commonly accepted that most reality TV shows are just good-natured contests.  But I disagree – I’ve seen and heard enough, and I think it’s just plain old public humiliation-- and our kids are watching. 

As a kid I remember being uncomfortable watching “Candid Camera.”  It made me squirmy with embarrassment, and I felt so sorry for the people who were “tricked” so everyone could laugh at them.  When I was older I watched “Trading Spaces,” a program in which couples swapped houses and redecorated.  I didn’t like this version of reality TV any better.   I was annoyed by the sanctimonious comments of the show’s designers passing judgment on the homeowner’s d├ęcor taste with witty comment such as “Seriously? Those curtains!  What in the world were they thinking?”  I can’t say I don’t think things like this all the time, but I don’t say it out loud on national television. My mother would not approve. 

Then there was the infamous first season of “Survivor.”  If it isn’t painfully obvious that voting people off the island is major bullying then I don’t know what is.  It brings back memories of “Lord of the Flies,” which I think it was meant to, but when my class read that book back in high school, our English teacher never appeared to glory in the boys’ descent into savagery.  I can’t say as much for “Survivor” viewers.  Anything goes in the quest to win millions. 

In my very first blog post I suggested that it might be good for the soul and the body to exchange a few hours of reality TV for some good old volunteering in the community.  I still think so.  I also think that reality TV is sanctioned bullying and less of it would be good for our kids.  But as much as I wish the reality TV fad would pass, it flourishes, like bullying, on TV, in our schools and on the Internet.  We have thought up more and more downright mean-spirited ways to publicly humiliate people on national TV than ever before! And as long as the adult role models continue to vigorously root to vote people off the island, off the runway, off the stage and even out of the kitchen, the kids will continue to be watching.