Sarah Sheard's Thoughts and Theories

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Culture of Rudeness

Many popular reality shows have a premise that it’s ok to be rude to others. I can’t speak for the “put people into a situation together with the promise of eliminating one at a time, and see what happens” genre because I can’t stand to watch brings back painful memories of sports in school. I tend to watch the shows that have lessons for us all, whether it’s managing a handful of kids, obtaining medical care for a rare conditon, or upgrading your home’s design or your body’s appearance.

I have noticed in some shows that what apparently makes money for the show is people being rude to one another. As a not-unique example, let’s look at “What Not To Wear”. Some makeover shows involve volunteers; this one tapes friends and family saying negative things about someone’s appearance, “ambushing” the person (their word!) and then bribing the person to subject herself (usually; occasionally it’s a man) to a public literal dressing-down that may be replayed for decades, with the allure of $5000 of new clothes, fashion lessons, a haircut, and a trip to New York.

Ignoring for a minute how much less $5000 is worth than it was when the show started five years ago, what really happens in this show? People are ambushed, their taste is laughed at, and at the end they thank the show for the wonderful experience? I suspect the show is highly edited and in fact the most outrageous things insults that the hosts lay on the victims are aired whereas behind the scenes a lot of encouragement is considered not press-worthy. Example dig: “You look like a part time secretary in a women’s prison.” (Um excuse me, why is being a part time secretary in a women’s prison a bad thing? She looked conservative and modest to me.)

I hope that the US is raised to a higher standard by our new commander-in-chief, who apparently will not say a negative thing about anyone, given any number of chances. I hope we realize that feelings do matter and it’s not funny to publicly abuse anyone, for lack of taste (and money; it’s very clear that the show is insulted if anyone ever dresses inexpensively) as well as for any of the reasons that were popular years ago, like race, impoverishment, short stature, delayed mental capacity, or medical deformities.

Please people, bullying is on its way out. Let’s see nice become popular.


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