Sunday, September 23, 2007

America's "reality" culture

I was watching college football yesterday when I saw an advertisement for a Ford minivan. The advertisement depicted a woman who supposedly had her Nissan Murano switched out for a Ford minivan for a week, and was giving testimonials about how much better she liked the Ford than the Murano.

All good, right? Well, this is what the narrator said:

We switched her Murano out for a Ford somethingorother. We told her it was marketing research, but we were actually from Ford!

Umm...I work in marketing research. Have for a decade. In my time, I've been around a lot of automotive research too. And guess what? Having someone use a diferent car for a week and then asking them what they like and don't like is a standard company-sponsored marketing research activity!

So basically--presuming the advertisement was based on a legitimate marketing research study--it was marketing research and they were from Ford. But could the advertisment actually say that and be honest? No.

Instead, we get subjected to this lying, manipulative crap about how the woman in the advertisement was supposedly duped or deceived. We, as a culture, have an increasing, and increasingly incomprehensible, obsession with "reality" programming--namely, any show where supposedly "real" people get duped, deceived, hurt or humiliated by others--or do those same acts to themselves--so that viewers with apparently nothing better to do can feel better that they're not quite as bad off as the people on the show--and that, only because their own humiliating experiences haven't been featured on camera just yet.

Now, it's one thing to set someone up to be "punk'd" from the beginning. I understand why that can be entertaining. But seeing this form of entertainment gain such widespread popularity that we must start taking acts that were perfectly legitimate and giving them the cover of illegitimacy purely to increase their entertainment value makes me retch.

At this point, we're just barely above Idiocracy. Remember what the top-rated show is in that movie? Well, at the rate we're going, it's not going to take us 500 more years to get there.

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