The Reality of 'Reality Entertainment'
It is neither reality nor entertainment!
Network Gnosticism runs rampant as those who worship at the altar of the world, the flesh and the devil seem to be dictating morals or should we say amorals in their pathetic programming. What if they used those talents for good? Is that too much to ask?
"The first point to be made here is that the so-called reality, which these programs claim to portray, is not reality at all but a very superficial, trivial, mindless, immoral, materialistic, relativist, and distorted sense of reality. This reality is no more than the virtual reality, which this society wants us to accept as reality. In fact, this fašade is both a lie and a truth, if such a dual character can be present in the same thing."
Anyone living in this country knows that the biggest phenomenon in television over the past few years is the sweeping popularity and growth of so-called reality shows which have come out of nowhere to grab huge ratings and generate mass popularity. Everything from Survivor to Fear Factor to The Great Race to Big Brother to American Idol to Extreme Makeover to Home Makeover to The Apprentice to even more sleaze shows like Forever Eden and Playing it Straight, not to mention the Bachelor or Bachelorette and everything in between has converted American television programming into one big "reality check". Aside from its inane, superficial, mindless, and downright sad nature, what does this reality wave tell us about this society, its entertainment and, most importantly, its relationship with God Almighty?
A Virtual Reality
The first point to be made here is that the so-called reality, which these programs claim to portray, is not reality at all but a very superficial, trivial, mindless, immoral, materialistic, relativist, and distorted sense of reality. This reality is no more than the virtual reality, which this society wants us to accept as reality. In fact, this fašade is both a lie and a truth, if such a dual character can be present in the same thing.
The lie is, of course, the notion that these programs are completely free of manipulation, planning, agendas, and pre-conceived directions. Another lie is the idea that these programs depict real people going through real life situations. Yet another deception is the tale that these programs tell us what reality is like. The final fraud is the concept that these programs teach us any valuable lesson in and of themselves or that they serve any purpose in the path to human happiness.
While these shows are loaded with deception, fraud, lies, and distortions, they do, in fact, contain truth! Observed from the proper distance and with the proper armor of God Almighty's Truth, these programs are clear advertisements of a world gone mad and drunk with mirages and delusions. Theirs is a virtual reality which both distorts yet focuses the reality that we should and must see in order to find salvation and, most importantly, God Almighty.
Someone somewhere got the brilliant idea to create drama by making fiction look like non-fiction. If the audience was led to believe that what they were seeing was somehow real then the dramatic tension and reach could be amplified many times over. Thus shows like Survivor and Big Brother pretend to give us a view of people trying to "live normal lives" in difficult, abnormal situations. We are led to believe that anything can and will happen, and that we will be witnesses to these things. Another dramatic element found in these programs is the idea that normal people will do unusual things if put in unusual circumstances. Thus we see people eating bugs or walking tightropes in Fear Factor and contestants doing all sorts of absurd things in The Mole or The Great Race just to win money. This leads us to the notion common to all of these programs, which is that money is worth doing almost anything to get. Yes, perhaps many of these people would do what they do just for fame (an off-shoot of money) or some kind of personal challenge, but the majority are putting themselves through this for money, which is their one, true, god.
Yes, the lure of money is found throughout these programs, and that lure is combined with power and materialism in The Apprentice where people perform weekly tasks with the ultimate goal of becoming one of Donald Trump's well-paid employees.
Perhaps the most disturbing trend in these programs is their tendency to become more and more trivial and distorted as they progress through their program life cycle. Nowhere is this more evident than in the Extreme Makeover and Home Makeover programs, where people either get their bodies and faces or their homes redone and beautified. What once started out as seemingly innocuous although admittedly superficial improvements has now subtly distorted exactly what is really need into greed. While some of the people really did have some facial or body problems, which affected their lives, these improvements seemed to aim for overkill, trying to convert these people into models.
While some of the families really did have problems with their home or living space and were deserving of help, others needed improvements like going from a very nice kitchen and den to a ridiculously fancy and modern kitchen and den. Yet, in all fairness to this particular program, last night a very deserving poor family run by an incredibly giving, generous, and religious elderly African-American woman named Sweet Alice was given a beautiful home and toys for neighborhood children in the very poor and dangerous neighborhood of Watts, the infamous section of LA. It really was sweet for Sweet Alice for the group of workers on the show also helped spruce up the neighborhood homes a bit. The first thing this God-fearing woman did, upon seeing everything so transformed, was visibly and publicly thank God Almighty for her good fortune, almost in tears. Her son was also seen kneeling down and thanking The Lord. I think this was a start in illustrating a positive example of the good these shows can do and how the recipients should act! Truly a beautiful and touching episode and promise for the future quite possibly for next up they will be helping a handicapped young man. That should also be touching and hopefully the direction this show should take.
However, sadly, such touching moments are few and far between. For the most part these programs, which claim to help those in need, are increasingly merely helping those in want to end up with faces, bodies, and homes the rest of us do not have. We should encourage more of the type of heart-rending shows like Extreme Home Makeover gave us last night.
For practically all the others we see that these so-called reality shows either depict some absurd staged reality claiming to be truth or some equally distorted superficial and extreme improvement.
While much about these shows is fake or at least distorted, what is not false or unclear is the message they convey to viewers. Their false reality is laced with images of extreme materialism, relativism, greed, selfishness, and disrespect for others, and a misguided sense of charity. They are, indeed, reality shows, for they show us the ugly reality that this society buys into on a daily basis.
The most popular of these shows, American Idol, entices its fans and aspiring contestants with the apple of fame and fortune amid public rejection, ridicule, and even humiliation. Yes, one winner will perhaps touch a dream, but how many rejected, dejected, angry, bitter contestants are left on the road? It says much about both this society and its definition of "idol" that its modern idol worship involves a microphone and a recording contract. For every positive role model singing out there in the music industry, there are 100 so called "idols" who are pathetic egomaniacs or superficial airheads who think that singing a tune qualifies them to wax poetic or profound about world politics. Never have so many been so mesmerized by so foolish! You might call them the American Idiots!.
God Almighty's Version of Reality
I do not think that the idea of Reality Shows is such a bad one. What I think is tragic is that its potential for good, productive truth is ignored to please and likely dictate the popular fascination with the trivial, the inane, and the excessive. What if Extreme Makeovers and Extreme Home Makeovers provided more of what aired last night and focused on helping accident and birth defect victims find help and the homeless find homes? What if Fear Factor showed us people overcoming their regular fears and doubts instead of eating bugs for money? What if The Apprentice helped the jobless find work and if Survivor showed us real life stories of people who have overcome great tragedy and obstacles? What if American Idol had audiences vote for people who give of themselves to help others? Wouldn't such programs both focus on reality and yet convey the kind of themes, which Christ embodied? Wouldn't these kinds of programs feed our minds and souls with the beauty of true charity, selflessness, and love on which our Faith is based?
The problem with all of this, of course, is that the New Secular Order's version of reality, its version of need, of improvement, of survival, of fear, and of makeovers is quite different than Christ's. Instead of seeing much less helping those in real need, the New Secular Order sees the need to gain power, money, excess luxury, and overabundance as viable and worthy goals. If it doesn't sell, forget it. Instead of helping people get a face where one has been lost, the New Secular Order helps people get a nicer nose or perfect teeth. Instead of helping a jobless man or a homeless family find solace, the New Secular Order helps successful executives find greater power or a family with a home get a home few dream about. Instead of seeking love of people and love of God, the New Secular Order seeks love of things and love of earthly values. Yes, the kind of reality shows we could have would be constructive and positive, but they would not fit what this New Secular Order is all about.
We must recall that this New Secular Order is the child of satan, who longed to be like God and to look upon others as ants to be observed and manipulated. This he does today as he struggles to claim as many souls as he can before his time runs out. Thus the heart and soul of the kind of reality shows we see today are the desire to observe, to manipulate, to revel in others' agony and admire others' power and wealth. It is the fascination with pain, suffering, greed, and control as gods in themselves.
The Original Reality Show
If we think about it, the perverted, twisted, distorted reality that these shows depict began with the original reality found at Calvary. There evil sought to depict grave injustice, hatred, and sin as justice, truth, and good. That evil sought to paint a fraud upon the Truth of God's Plan.
Christ came to proclaim an end to the reality of man started by lucifer's revolt and usher in the reality of God. The reality shows of today do no more than perpetuate that false, distorted reality of man while ignoring and concealing the ultimate reality of God. As Calvary led to Easter, so too the New Secular Order's false reality shall give way to God's Truth. Where the New Secular Order and, sadly the New Order of the Novus Ordo tells us that there is no sin and no hell, that all religions are equal and from God, and that salvation is guaranteed for all viewers, God's reality and Truth tells us otherwise.
While the ideal solution is to turn off the television and get down on your knees in repentance, reality dictates otherwise because so many people are addicted to television and this new scintillating fare that lowers the value and quality of man, made in the image and likeness of God. Instead these reality shows mirror the false promises of the father of lies.
Thus, in the great world of reality,
it is up to each of us to decide which reality program we will embrace. Think about it for you have a free will. Consider it your chance to win. Choose now: either the true reality show of our eternal salvation or the reality of everlasting perdition. How you answer and react will determine the very fact that your life lies in the balance and no programmer can change that fact.
Editor's Note: We are pleased to announce Gabriel Garnica will be contributing many articles in 2004. Heaven is once again under attack by those who would seek to ignore and overthrow God's majesty and authority. Gabriel Garnica, educator and attorney, will submit regular insights and commentaries to remind and help guide readers toward a deeper and more assertive faith. Touching on topics and issues ranging from personal faith, doctrine, education, scripture, the media, family life, morality, and values, Gabriel's notes will be music to traditional ears but unpleasant tones to those who have bought into the misguided notions so prevalent and spreading in today's Catholic world.