Thursday, June 30, 2005

Reality Shows I Haven't Seen 

I have to confess to not having seen this recent batch of reality shows myself. Of course, that won't stop me from mocking and commenting on their agenda-driven silliness anyway.

First, Debbie Schlussel reports on her experience with a "reality" show about a regular guy who lives with a Muslim family in order that he (and we) should learn what a great and non-threatening religion Islam is, and what a bunch of bigoted Islamophobes we all are:

Last year, I received a request to appear in Spurlock's new reality show, "30 Days." The six-episode series began Wednesday Night. The episode for which I was being recruited, "Inside an American Muslim Family," airs next Wednesday. It features Spurlock's childhood friend from West Virginia, David Stacy, spending thirty days "living as a Muslim" in the Detroit area.

While he is often referred to as a "journalist," and Spurlock touts "30 Days" as a "documentary," the outcome of the show was already decided before production began.

A show summary sent to me before taping began said, "This process aims to deconstruct common misconceptions and stereotypes . . . . [O]ur character will learn firsthand about Islam and the daily issues that . . . Muslims in America face today. The viewers will witness our character emerge from the immersion situation with a deeper understanding and appreciation for the Muslim-American experience. . . . The potential is great for this program to enlighten a national television audience about the Muslim American experience and increase their compassion, understanding and support."

I asked the show's executive producers--all of whom worked for Michael Moore--how this could be a documentary when they'd already decided the outcome. Wasn't it possible, I asked, that the subject of the program, Stacy, would come out seeing that there isn't Islamophobia to the extent that the Muslim community claims? Might Stacy see that there is disturbingly strong support in the Detroit area Islamic community for terrorist groups Hamas and Hezbollah--a fact regularly documented in the normally pliant Detroit media?

No, producers told me. "Morgan wants the show to demonstrate to America that we are Islamophobic and that 9/11's biggest victims are Muslims." With this in mind, I agreed to be filmed only with final approval of my appearance, which I never gave.
Then Salon alerted me to another upcoming show:

...PBS offers...: "Point of View: The Education of Shelby Knox," about a Christian teen who becomes an outspoken sex ed advocate...
You might tell me that the descriptions and links I present are misleading, and if I'd actually watched these shows, I would be weeping great big beautific tears of agreement. I can only hope you're right. But I can't help noticing the obvious commonality in what is presented.

Or, to put it another way, it's hard not to wonder about the shows we aren't seeing:

Terrorist goes to Temple: We paroled a Guantanamo prisoner for an uplifting and spiritual 30 day experience living with a Reform Jewish family in Encino California. Share the tears as the militant Islamist attends Synagogue for the very first time and learns the words to Kumbaya, as well as how to love the Other.

Survivor, Saudi Arabia: We dropped off 6 ardent feminists in the middle of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, with nothing but their swimsuits, a pack of matches, and a batch of pro-choice pamphlets. Watch the hijinx as they try to rent a car, and shop for food unescorted. We'll follow along as they discover deeper feminist truths, and cheer their spiritual growth as they happily adopt the hijab and burqa of their Muslim sisters.

Amazing Disgrace: Watch as Team Durbin competes with Team Amnesty, circling the globe in a quest to see who can expose the greatest global human rights abuses. You'll see the Auschwitz of fast food, a McDonalds in Alabama that skimps by 10% on the Super-size french fry portions. You'll be outraged by the Ghengis Khan of 3rd grade teachers, a callous woman who destroys sensitive young self-esteems by handing out grades lower than B. And don't miss the dramatic final episode when the teams enter North Korea to investigate a family that forces a puppy to sleep outside at night. Sadly, the season was dramatically cut short, the final 2 episodes unexpectedly cancelled as producers were unable to recover the teams from the warm North Korean hospitality to which they are still being treated.

They sound like sure-fire ratings winners to me. I wonder when they hit the air?

If you really, really liked this -- or even really, really hated it -- there's lots more: