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TV Bad: Did We Evolve From Primates?

Why do we watch mind-numbingly dumb television?

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Is there a God? Did we evolve from primates? Are there aliens? What killed the Dinosaurs? Did we really land on the moon? Did Lee Harvey Oswald really kill JFK or was it a conspiracy? Who shot JR? These are questions that many people have debated over for years. However, there is a question that is rising to rank among these immortal debates: 

Why do we watch mind-numbingly dumb television?

People eat this dumb stuff up like Fruity Pebbles (Derek Spahr does not advocate the consumption of Fruity Pebbles; however it is undeniable that this cereal is both fruity and delicious.) What is it that makes us captivated by these shows? Is it the quick-cuts? Is it our fascination with people this disgusting? Is it because value and wealth are now our most prestigious values? 

While I could probably go on for pages among pages about how much awful television there is on TV, I will instead focus my attention on one station in particular, MTV. Why, you curious reader might ask? Well because MTV is the metropolis of mind-numbingly dumb television. The New York City, the Los Angeles, the Houston, whatever geographical reference you want to compare it to it doesn’t really matter, MTV’s the biggest and it’s got most and the dumbest.

Now, perhaps the even bigger question is where to start. I’ll pick the most atrocious and most immoral, MTV’s I Want a Famous Face. In case you have not had the opportunity to view this fine display of lowered individual aspirations, what happens is some seemingly decent looking person who has low self-esteem feel that they need to alter their own face to look like a celebrity of their choosing. While MTV did not pay for any of the operations they documented, the fact that they decided to make this a part of their roster of television shows has some pretty big implications. This type of show exploits and preys on the participant’s low self-esteem. Not only are the characters subsuming to the celebrity standard of physical beauty, but hey are also falling for the allure of the television camera.

Cribs. Oh god I hate Cribs. Here’s the point of the show in a nutshell: take a celebrity, who may or may not actually be that famous, and let them show their homes to everybody who wants to tune in and check it out. Implicitly, it’s an excellent chance for celebrities to show off their pretty unattainable wealth and their massive homes. What makes this even more ridiculous/awesome is the fact that other celebrities watch Cribs; which then makes this incredible materialistic competition to have the most impressive/useless crap in your home. “Hey! Sweet gold-encrusted rims man, it looks good on each of your nine, incredibly useful cars.” Oh wow check that out, you’ve got people over grilling- what are the chances, just on the day the camera crew was coming by! Here’s a nice thing to put on television, look at the wealth of celebrities, see how expensive their crap is. Maybe someday you’ll be able to put a full movie screen in your convertible.

We’ll finish strong with the Holy Grail, the Stanley cup, the crown, the nuclear bomb of mind-numbingly awful television shows, My Super Sweet 16. This show features undeserving, self-centred annoying douche bags who put on the most over-the-top, see self-aggrandizing, parties for their sweet 16th birthday. While the concept is incredibly useless, what makes it even worse is the fact that it shows these awful humans continuously degrading and disrespecting their friends and family- who continue to stand by this person for no other logical reason than because they have a ton of money. Now Derek, you will undoubtedly say, doesn’t My Super Sweet 16 sort of make fun of its characters in segues between each scene? Yes, they do. But let’s look at it from that angle. MTV now has this show that exists solely for the purpose of making fun of these delusional fools. Is it really worth using a half-hour of programming just to make fun of some selfless kids? They could do tons of stuff with that time, like bring back Clone Highor, more likely, give another member of Bam’s friends a show where they destroy stuff and inconvenience people … which subsequently will be cancelled in 2 weeks and be replaced by re-runs of Laguna Beach.

As disgusting as all these shows are, we find ourselves watching them. The big question is why do we watch them? After going through these three shows, all of which I have watched on several occasions, I am left with a big “I have no idea.” I honestly don’t. I hate everything about these shows, yet I can’t stop from watching them. I don’t enjoy watching these shows. But I’m sucked in and I can’t quit.

Is there a support group for this?

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Make Dodgeball Great Again

Dodgeball is not an ‘unethical tool of oppression’ and to label it so is both ludicrous and dangerous. Have we lost our minds?

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I remember it as if it was yesterday. The recently completed gym floor was crisp, clean, and squeaked with almost every step of the overpriced sneakers that graced it. Battle lines had been drawn and there I was, locked and loaded in the far right corner of the gym. I had scanned the battlefield ahead, and saw that the opposition numbers were dwindling- falling like the cannon fodder they were. My fellow combatants were more than capable, some in fact, excelled like this game was art, like it was real battle.

Then I saw my target, arms to her side, nervously looking across from her side of diminishing numbers. Her eyes screamed ‘fear’ (or maybe indifference, but in my mind, it was fear) and I knew that there was only one thing to do. I gripped the foam of the ball with a vengeful firmness, loaded my arm with the fury of a Nolan Ryan fastball and let loose. My memory says the sound of the noisy gym was broken, and that all the fellow combatants and fallen brethren fell silent, stopped and followed this one moment as the ball left my hand to its intended destination. It was a glorious moment. Glorious because unlike most times, the ball flew through the air with unmatched grace. Unlike most times I threw the ball, there was no deviation, no broken flight plan. And unlike most times, where I’d luckily hit my target on the leg, or on the arm, it zeroed in with laser-like precision and exploded itself right in Annie’s* face. Bullseye. Like a bird exploding from a Randy Johnson fastball.

Did I revel in the glory of that standstill moment? Was the brazen destruction of a fellow combatant as cinematically award-winning as a Spielberg movie? The truth is, that wasn’t the case. Amongst the fleeting chaos of the game, no one saw. No one stopped and watched my moment, and that in reality, it was a split second that remains animated only in mind. I recoiled in shock, partly because it was not my intention to hit someone in the face, no matter how unintentionally glorious it was. But partly because my gut instinct was to slink away into the back of the pack to hide unseen- like a cowardly saboteur responsible for the wreckage, eager to hide from the blame. I didn’t even look back at what I had done.

I don’t remember who won this particular game (safe to say it wasn’t Annie), but it was all part and parcel to the wonderful school-time game of dodgeball.

One that has come under scrutiny, and under the threat, by the researchers discussed in this National Post article, who have labeled it an “unethical tool of oppression”. With such hyperbole, you’d think they were talking about a population who lived under a military dictatorship, or a segment of that population threatened during mass rioting. Not surprisingly, I lived through both of the latter, and no, dodgeball is nothing like either. They are talking about dodgeball- a mostly harmless game (unless you are Annie) played by children during recess and PE class.

The article goes on to say how dodgeball, along with other forms of games played during PE class are sports of “sport of violence, exclusion and degradation” and that dodgeball in particular, is “not just unhelpful to the development of kind and gentle children who will become decent citizens of a liberal democracy. It is actively harmful to this process.” Sounds like it was written by someone picked last in gym class.

We can argue endlessly about the participation-trophy culture that has permeated the discourse of children’s sports (they couldn’t even settle on a winner at the Spelling Bee). But the truth is, I fear greatly for the future of democracy if we equate the game of dodgeball to actual, real oppression. Sure, Annie probably doesn’t like dodgeball all that much, but I too was hit plenty on the dodgeball court. Like I was on the basketball court. But it’s all part of growing some thick skin in this very real world where people don’t throw soft, red balls at you. The truth is, most kids would probably benefit from getting hit in the face with a dodgeball a few times, it’ll be good for them in the long run. This I’m certain of.

I had a lot of fun playing dodgeball as a kid. It’s an absolute shame that there are “scholars” and “researchers” who equate it to very real life issues this world faces. Teaching kids that life isn’t fair from a young age is a good thing. Participation-trophy culture is not. I don’t need a Ph.D. to know so.

Dodgeball teaches you a great deal in a simple game. And if dodgeball supposedly teaches children lessons of democracy, then I sure as hell would want the future leaders of whatever world we venture towards to be able to dodge a wrench when someone throws one at their heads.

*Annie is not her real name. C’mon, how much of an asshole do you think I am?

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The Art of Corporate Pandering

Corporate pandering is at an all-time high and it seems that even the communities they pander to see through it.

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In a recent Spectator article, politician Craig Kelly calls out the hypocrisy of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream as it attempted to insert itself into the climate change debate. In the piece, Kelly details the ice cream giant’s position as; “deceptive, misleading and breathtakingly hypocritical … holding hands with anti-capitalists that would seek to destroy them at first opportunity. They are effectively feeding the crocodile, hoping it will eat them last.

It is not the first time the ice cream company has attempted to insert itself into controversial, political issues. However, Kelly’s point that Ben & Jerry’s insertion into debate is another opportunity for “the sanctimonious to virtue signal” seems to be a common thread amongst many brands today.

Brands are becoming more “woke” in this day and age, finding opportunities to push agendas while selling everything from razors to soda. Some companies really have turned it into an art. But what in essence does all this corporate wokeness actually do? Does an ice-cream company selling sweet dairy products while pushing for marriage equality actually help those who are fighting for it on a grassroots level? Are all these brands genuine in their quest to improve the world or, as many expect, just pandering to whatever current hot button topic is in hopes to sell a few more units? It is possible for companies to support a myriad of human rights campaigns without splashing it all over their products? I suspect not.

This month is Pride Month and we’ve seen countless brands around the globe adorn rainbow flags and push for equality. Rainbow flags on your Nikes? Sure, but why not all year round? Do equal rights in one country matter more to Nike than it does in another? I can’t speak for the LGBT community as an outsider, but here are some thoughts of someone from within the community in regards to these multinational corporations jumping in on hashtags:

Like Ben & Jerry’s, the hypocrisy is real. Charlatans in woke clothing. If you’re going to take blood money in one hand, don’t try to shake mine with the other claiming it’s clean.

Corporate pandering is at an all-time high and it seems that even the communities they pander to see through it. Does a shaver company really care about trans rights or does it just want to appear like it does, so people will buy more shavers? The answer is obvious.

I feel like it won’t be long before an automotive brand panders to my Asian heritage during some Asian Heritage month by using technological advancement in self-driving and self-parking automobiles as a way for more Asians to buy their cars. Ok well, maybe just for the Asian women then.

Is there a problem with responsible corporations? Absolutely not. But corporations exist to do one thing and that is to make money. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with that either. Make a great product that I like, and I will happily purchase said goods. Just don’t try to blow smoke in my face as I, like I hope most people do, see through their smokescreen of insincerity.

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