The other day one of my friends asked me, “What is wrong with this country?” We weren’t talking about war, politics, or crime. We were discussing Honey Boo Boo. Neither one of us can understand why her program is popular. I can’t understand why a mother would put her child on a program like this. I call it exploitation. Others call it entertainment. Then our conversation swung around to a woman known as “Big Ang”. In case you haven’t heard of her, Angela "Big Ang" Raiola, has her own reality show on VH1. She originally appeared on the show “Mob Wives” which was also shown on VH1. I have to be honest, I’ve never seen either one of these shows, thank goodness. I also have no plans on ever watching either one of these shows. From what I’ve read her show, “Big Ang”, centers on her experiences while running the “Drunken Monkey” bar. In one episode she gets a facelift in order to attract a younger clientele, hires a bunch of sexy young men to serve shots to her customers, and gets a proposal from her ex-husband. I’ll give you a minute to set your DVR’s so you won’t miss any of this. Finished? If you’ve never seen a picture of this woman you should definitely look her up. She has long black hair, a chest that looks like she’s had basketball implants, and lips that are impossibly full. In fact my lips once looked a lot like hers when I had an allergic reaction to fish. I went to the doctor to get a shot so they would go back to normal. She puts lipstick on hers.
I don’t have a problem with people trying to make a living. Times are tough and sometimes you do what you have to do. However I have to wonder how much real talent we’re missing out on because shows like these are becoming the norm.
I recently watched a program that showcased the opera singer, Kevin Thompson. I’m not really an opera fan but after hearing him sing I may well become one. They played a short segment of one of his performances in “Don Giovanni“. The music seemed to wrap around me even though it was coming out of the speakers of my ten year old TV. The richness of his voice and the depth of feeling he displayed in the music moved me to tears. His background story is one of devotion and hard work to perfect his craft. I could have watched an entire hour devoted to him. Unfortunately it was only a fifteen minute segment. Why aren’t there more programs devoted to people like this? Instead of showing a six year old singing and dancing like an experienced stripper why not follow the lives of real people who have struggled and made a success out of themselves? Instead of showing people throwing up on “Jersey Shore” why not show the people who work behind the scenes in shows like this. I would love to hear their honest opinions on Snooki and the gang. I wonder how long it will be before Snooki turns her own child into the next Honey Boo Boo?
It isn’t just TV that’s doing this either. When I was younger I use to go to the movies every Saturday afternoon. I grew up on Air Force bases so movies were a very inexpensive treat. When I lived in the Philippines my friends and I would walk to the movie theater, which was located next to the Bamboo Bowl, on Clark Air Force Base. I remember one particularly hot Saturday afternoon when we walked in ninety-five degree heat with two hundred percent humidity to see “Dr. Zhivago”. No one had to tell us to quiet down because we were so engrossed in the story. We were transported to WWI Revolutionary Russia and we actually shivered and had goose bumps while watching the snow and ice covered scenes. It was a real shock to walk back out into the heat when the movie was over. The movie took over our lives for a while and we talked about it for weeks. We all wanted to be Lara and we had major crushes on Omar Sharif. When’s the last time a movie made you feel this way? How many Dr. Zhivago’s have we missed out on because the powers that be thought we’d rather see movies like “Dude Where’s My Car”? Personally I wouldn’t walk across the street to see a movie like that much less walk through jungle-like heat. I also wonder how many writers would say they wanted to make a movie full of depth and believable characters but were encouraged to write something like “Dumb and Dumber” instead. In case I’ve offended any fans, I did see the movie “Dumb And Dumber” and it was okay. In fact, for some reason, my dad loves this movie so please don’t be offended. I just don’t consider it art.
Speaking of art.
I’ve seen several articles lately about artists who make sculptures out of feces. I’m no art expert but I know what I like and it isn’t anything that’s made out of something I would use a paper towel to pick up and throw in the garbage. In fact, in my humble opinion, it is garbage and not worth a second look. But people are giving it a second look and declaring it not only ‘artistic’ but a masterpiece as well. When I think of a masterpiece I think of Leonardo’s Mona Lisa and works by Rembrandt, Michelangelo, and Jan Vermeer. None of them, to my knowledge, ever put a piece of poo in their pictures. I’m almost sure that Michelangelo thought about throwing some stuff around year three of laying on his back painting the Sistine Chapel, but he didn’t do it as far as I know. Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel frescoes are five hundred years old this year. I haven’t seen one mention of this on TV or in the news. Do you think the feces sculptures will still be around in five hundred years? I don’t. How many potential Michelangelo’s and Rembrandts are we ignoring by paying homage to trash artists instead? If you have to explain to the masses what they should think or feel when they look at your art, maybe you aren’t conveying the message very well. Ditto if you find yourself calling them ‘trailer trash’ because they don’t see your vision. No one has ever had to tell me what I should feel when I look at the Pieta. I see the artistic message very well and it moves me. No explanation required.
Literature is suffering as well. The big book of the year is “Fifty Shades Of Grey”. I’ve wanted to be a writer all of my life. I want to write things that will move people, make them think, laugh, or cry. In fact if anyone ever asked me if they could publish some of my writings my first response would probably be, “How much do I have to pay you?”. But, if anyone ever asked me to write a book like “Fifty Shades Of Grey” I would have to say no. In fact the only way I would even think of writing a book like that is if my entire family were to suddenly disappear off the face of the earth. I just cannot imagine writing a dirty book and then finding out that one of my very southern aunts had read it. I could probably write under another name but I have a big mouth so I would probably let it slip that I had written it. I would hate to walk through my small town of Shelby and hear someone whisper, “There goes the lady that wrote that dirty book”. I’ve always been an avid reader. I read Shakespeare when I was only twelve years old. I didn’t understand all of it but I responded to the cadence and poetry of the sonnets. My favorite author when I was growing up was Charles Dickens. I’ve read “A Tale Of Two Cities” at least a dozen times and I still see something new in it each time I’ve read it. One of my other favorite books when I was a pre-teen was “Brave New World” by Aldous Huxley. I wonder how many teenagers have even heard of this book now? I cried when I read “Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee” by Dee Brown. I even felt the pain and horror experienced by the native Americans. You don’t hear about this book anymore either. Other favorites were “Catcher In The Rye”, “To Kill A Mockingbird” and, you won’t believe this, “The Godfather”. In fact I consider “The Godfather” not only to be a classic but also a darn good sex education book. I learned a lot about sex while reading it. This scares away a lot of potential boyfriends but that’s their problem as far as I’m concerned. I read all of Agatha Christies books too and I still read them. There are several authors today that I think are wonderful but, in my opinion, Mitch Albom stands out. I can completely see myself re-reading his books in the years to come. How many other Mitch Albom’s, Agatha Christie’s, or Shakespeare’s are there who will never get a chance to let their voices be heard because publishers think trendy is in and the dirtier the better?
I’m not saying we should completely do away with reality TV shows, dumb movies, or dirty books. They have their place and there will always be people who enjoy them. I’m just saying let’s make sure we leave room for the others too. People who will use their talents to move us and make us think. Someone who can make us cry with the strokes of their paint brush, feel while they lift their voices up in song, and feel wonder and sadness when we read their books. I, for one, can’t wait.