Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is a cerebral guy. That’s not a newsflash. But Kareem putting an intellectual spin on how reality TV shows like the “Real Housewives of …” have made America better is an interesting topic. Especially in light of the backlash that some of these shows have received for bullying and violence. But Kareem makes a few valid points about how people are seeing themselves in the “characters” on screen. It’s sort of like the saying if everyone was to throw their problems in a pile, you’d quickly grab your own back.
Check out some of the Captain’s observations.
On the genius of Andy Cohen:
I’m not being sarcastic. I’m a fan. I think that Andy Cohen, the brains behind Bravo’s Real Housewives franchise, is the Andy Warhol of the 21st Century. His version of Warhol’s Campbell’s soup cans and multi-colored Marilyns are the table-flipping divas and surgically-buoyed breasts he puts “on display.”
Lesson #1: They force us to redefine our notions of “reality.”
We are a nation that gets most of its information from TV, movies and the Internet. But how real is that reality? We were told, with charts and visual aids, that there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and we went to war based on that “reality.” Yet, it wasn’t true. Several studies of news viewers have concluded that those who watch Fox News are significantly misinformed. Yet, those viewers vote in elections based on this “reality.” A recent article in the New York Times Magazine about one of my favorite authors, John Le Carre, whereas he discusses how the Bush Administration manipulated public opinion in support of the invasion of Iraq. Le Carre called it “one of the great public relations conjuring tricks in history.”
Lesson #2: Art is everywhere.
Daily life skews our perception, but art holds up a mirror of behavior that allows us to see ourselves clearly and act on it. Anyone who’s seen a movie, read a poem, or heard a song that inspired them to make a positive change in their lives knows what I mean. So, if we look at certain reality shows as art (like a novel) rather than a source of gossip or feeling superior to others, we can not only enjoy them, but learn from them as well.
Lesson #3: Rich folk be crazy.
Plenty of people have pointed out the real housewives aren’t a real representation of average American housewives. Most of the housewives are rich, some super-rich. Most are white, with the exception of the Atlanta cast, which is mostly black. But there are no Hispanics or Asians. That’s okay, because racial balance isn’t the prime ingredient here. Money is.
This focus on wealth makes the show play out like a classic Shakespearean tragedy. The fabulous homes, clothes, shoes, servants, and opulent parties at first make the viewers admire the housewife and wish to be like her. But soon we see the “real” person, whose hubris reveals a deep unhappiness that they, being unreliable narrators, deny. However, the rampant drinking (which is often disguised as being “classy”), the numerous divorces, and the desperate need to show themselves better (as parents, as businesspersons, as friends) than the others prove the point. All the fancy trips to Africa or Tahiti or Paris don’t hide the churning insecurity and baseline misery. So, as with a tragedy, the show warns us not to follow in their arrogant footsteps, least we also are destroyed by pride.
There are more fascinating comparisons. I appreciate his take on it. He understands the main goal is to entertain and he acknowledges he receives that from these shows but also uses them as sort of modern day fables to break down the current pulse of American culture. Deep stuff from the shallow end of the pool. Make sure you checkout the complete piece at the Huffington Post.