Is it just me, or is anyone else concerned about what seems to be a growing public appetite for watching real people fall on their faces in front of an audience? I’m not talking about actors. I’m talking about human beings having a terrible no good very bad day with a camera turned on them, and people think it’s funny, so it goes viral.
We can blame it on too much cable, too little material or the 24 hour news cycle or the possibility that the better angels of our nature have gone into hiding, but honestly, what’s so funny about a train wreck? What’s with the continuous loop showing a runway model or a pageant contestant falling on her butt during her big moment? Haven’t we all had that nightmare about walking out in front of people and realizing we’ve forgotten to put our clothes on? Has empathy gone out of style?
Front page of my hometown paper about a month ago: “The flubs heard round the world.” What passed for news: a small town news anchor appeared to be drunk during her newscast. I had seen the clip rebroadcast the night before—don’t remember what I was watching, but it wasn’t small town newscast—and I thought, this isn’t news, and it isn’t a joke. I was really disappointed to see the article on the front page of MY newspaper, complete with the handy dandy url so that readers could “Watch the now viral video’”! The next day the story was everywhere. London, for heaven’s sake. Not New London—THE London. And of course the Letterman Show aired “Top Ten Signs Your Local News Team Is Drunk.”
The part of the article that interested me—yes, interested me, I write character-driven fiction, after all—was the comment from a well-known local news anchor who almost lost his job about 20 years ago—before the days of viral video—over a similar incident. Apparently the broadcast hit the airwaves live—and, indeed, he was in his cups—but it was never shown again. The tape went in the vault for safekeeping, the anchor got sober and has enjoyed a long career. But he told the Strib, “To laugh at someone in this kind of dilemma is the same as laughing at someone attempting suicide on television.”
Has popular culture come to this? Are we headed for the coliseum or The Huger Games?
Not if purveyors and consumers of the Romance genre have anything to say about it. Empathy is our middle name. I’m just saying, Letterman, get a life. We know who’s fair game and who isn’t. The rest of you guys, turn off the loop on stuff like this. If it’s the world’s dumbest thief, okay, but the public humiliation of somebody falling on her face, come on. Let’s tell the better angels of our nature it’s safe to come out of the closet.
Have you had a why-would-you-ever-put-that-on-TV moment lately? Express indignation here.
Oh, and let me end on a really really high note. I got this beauty in my in-box today from Bell Bridge Books.
My first Bell is about to ring! THE LAST GOOD MAN will be available late January/early February for the first time in digital format as well as in trade paperback. It’s been out of print for quite a while, but it was a USA Today bestseller, and it’s one of my favorite stories. Yes, of course I’ll be talking about it in the coming weeks, but I just couldn’t wait to show off the new cover!