I was flying to Los Angeles a few months back and struck up a conversation with the two passengers next to me, a very affable woman who worked as a crew-lady on various reality shows and an apple-cheeked, fresh-faced daughter of Dixie who was attending a Bible Camp in L.A, a concept I still haven't quite gotten my head around. Apparently the bible thumpers set up shop in the City o' Angels because their previous choices, Sodom and Gomorrah, didn't exactly pan out. So we got to talking and at one point the Bible Camp attendee asked, with a delightful absence of irony or self-consciousness "If you see a famous person there, like say Tom Cruise, can you just go up and start talking to him?" Spying a two-hundred proof sucker in my midst I had to bitterly resist the urge to say "Well no, actually there's a little zoo where they keep all the stars in exhibits that perfectly reproduce the penthouses of various 4-star luxury hotels. For a hundred dollars you can go up to the stars, pet their lustrous hair, pour Dom Perignon down their throats and hand-feed them Beluga Caviar. It's really the most civilized system imaginable." A little later I asked the crew-lady what show she was working on next and she replied, with a wholly appropriate tone of jaded bitterness, " I dunno. Some crap involving a cattle drive or something". Which brings me, in an aggressively digressive way (this is a blog after all), to the subject of my post, "Filthy Rich Cattle Drive", a show I've never actually seen but am nevertheless fascinated by. Judging from its commercials, I suspect that its premise revolves around a group of rich, whiny, self-absorbed children of privilege who are ridden like horses and branded like cattle as they make their way to a slaughterhouse where, in the final climactic episode, they will be herded onto the killing floor and transformed into "Mystery Meat" that will then be served to homeless people. Sadly, that's pretty much the only way the wealthy give back to the poor in W's America. Now I hate rich people as much as the next man, if not exponentially more, but I think this is just plain wrong. As worthless as these brats might be, they nevertheless should not be slaughtered and served as food. Of course, it's possible I misunderstand the premise of the show, but it sure seems like a real element of class antagonism underlying alot of reality television, that these shows are acting out as comedy and entertainment the very real anger and hostility alot of people feel towards certain useless souls at the top of the socio-economic ladder. In that respect, shows like "The Simple Life", "Filthy Rich Cattle Drive" and "Princes of Malibu" function as TV versions of Mao's radical "reeducation" of the educated elites where everybody's favorite writer of little red books would force the lucky book-learning rich folks he didn't kill outright to do the most soul-crushing forms of proletarian labor imaginable. At the same time these show's attitude towards class is incoherent and contradictory. On one level they play off people's desire to see the wealthy humiliated and degraded but at the same time they posit honest working-class labor as essentially a form of punishment, a grueling ordeal they only have to endure for a set amount of time before they can go back to their cushy, privileged real existences. Incidentally, one of these shows "Princes of Malibu" has been kicked off of FOX after just two episodes, though remaining episodes might end up on FOX's reality cable channel (shudder, shudder, shudder). Again, I've never actually seen this show but I think it involves schlockmeister songwriter David Foster yelling at his worthless step-sons for a half hour. Doesn't sound too appealing I must admit but I am saddened by its demise nevertheless because it means I'll have that much harder a time selling my new pilot idea "Diane Warren Bitch-Slaps Her Nanny" which I really think has a universal kind of appeal.
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