There are a few things popping up over the wires in the coming weeks that can only be described as symbolic pre-cursors to the fall of modern American society. This is the short list.
Figures 1 and 2: Sarah Palin’s Alaska and Real American Stories
After the election, I thought that this would go away. I naturally assumed that everyone was on the same page about Sarah Palin; that she’s sort of like a fame-hungry T. rex and if we all stand completely still she might just move on. I was not banking on the legions of blissfully uninformed Americans who hang on every “you betcha.”
The irony is almost too much. After all the campaign vitriol about Obama’s “celebrity appeal” and comparisons between Hollywood and Washington, Palin stepped down from a respectable post to become a celebrity (and she’s bringing Bristol along, too!). Somehow, she’s managed to maintain a bit of political heft … with the Tea Party, so I guess that doesn’t really count. (Just remember, every time someone says “Palin 2012” a kitten dies. Sorry, kittens.)
People will watch her religiously because they like her, or because they’re waiting for a reprise of that Katie Couric interview. Maybe to open her first episode of Alaska, which airs on Discovery Communications-owned network TLC, she could read this passage from her book:
“I always remind people from outside our state that there’s plenty of room for all Alaska’s animals — right next to the mashed potatoes.”
I admit that I watched season one. Like everyone else, I was in awe of the total shit show that was happening in Seaside Heights. Each episode was so quotable, so guffaw-inducing that it was hard NOT to watch. Within days of the premiere Italian American groups wanted the show canceled, stating that it was an embarrassing and unfair representation of their culture.
If that weren’t enough, MTV aired REPEATED shots of Snooks getting her clock cleaned by a (male) gym teacher as a teaser for the following episode.
Over and over again.
It took days for the network to respond, apologize and censor the clip. But MTV keeps on doing what it does best – creating programming that makes the rest of us feel better about our own lives. Viewers simultaneously hate and pity what they see, but are nonetheless unaffected by it. At the end of each episode, we can at least tell ourselves that we’re better than them as we suck the Flamin’ Hot Cheeto dust off of our fingertips and change the channel.
It should have ended there and faded off into reality TV obscurity, only to resurface as pop culture trivia at some point in the distant future. Instead, promo tours ensued. The line to see The Situation’s glittery abs and pat Snicks’ poof was around the corner when they visited Decibel in February (at $20 a head). Now season two is on it’s way, and this time they’re getting paid. To the tune of $10,000 per person, per episode.
Figure 4: Whaaaaaaaaaat?
Christ, things are not looking good for New Jersey. Last month, a 40-something resident of the Garden State hit the interwebs to publicly declare her “fantasy” of eating her way to 1,000 pounds. Somehow, she wants this to parlay into a life a fame and wealth, though it’s unclear exactly how that will work. Her goal is to consume about 12,000 calories per day until she reaches her target weight, and as you might expect, the grocery bill gets to be pretty steep — about $750 a week for her alone, not counting her family. She’s requesting that people send her food, and in exchange she’ll post videos of herself eating on her YouTube channel. And people are doing it.
I can smell a sponsored gastric bypass surgery coming any day now. A dime says that Jillian Michaels, Dr. Drew and, somehow, Nancy Grace will all be involved.
Figure 5: The Double Down
Two kinds of cheese, bacon and a slathering of mayo-derived sauce, nestled between two fried chicken-like breasts. These aren’t the contents of Paula Deen’s purse, but rather KFC’s newest abomination, The Double Down. It’s real and it comes out on Monday. Even KFC’s website has to include a “this is not a joke” disclaimer.
It comprises about 33 grams of fat and about 1,800 grams of sodium, which is almost double what you should consume in a day. I’m sure people will eat this, if only for irony’s sake. Is it a love of low culture, or just the notion that most people are willing to sacrifice health for lower prices that keeps crap like this in business?
Meanwhile, using food stamps to buy organic produce is vilified, and the president is still considered an esoteric prick because he knows how much arugula costs.