Maybe Jack Nicholson Was Right…

…maybe we really can’t handle the truth.

In order to set up the topic on which I’m about to write, I must first make a confession to the general internet public, and it’s a confession that, honestly, I’m not too comfortable making.  Even as I type these very words, I am thinking to myself that I don’t have to write about this, that I can just skip it, or write something about something else completely, and avoid having to expose what I’m about to say.  But in many ways this will be a post that centers around honesty, and if I’m to live up to that trait, I must confess my own personal truth, so here we go: since I have moved into my own place, where I am working and living my own independent life, I have started to partake in a certain activity that is, in many ways, questionable at best as far as its value to my well being.  It’s mindless, it’s uncreative, it’s… oh heck, I’ll just come out and say it: I’ve started… occasionally… watching… television.

There.  Not so bad, I guess.  It’s just that during college, unless there was a sporting event of some kind, my TV mainly stayed off, and I kind of liked it that way.  I had my own conversations, I lived my own storylines, existed within my own life independent of the visual entertainment that today is shamelessly and flawlessly intertwined with so many people’s lives.  But living alone has slowly had its way with me, and has aided in my occasional viewing of… said visual entertainment.  And, in watching, I came across a program that I feel demands some sort of discussion.

I’d seen advertisements for this program before, as it was hyped to death on FOX during last year’s football season, and now after watching it, I can say without any level of exaggeration that even without any graphic sexual content, without extreme violence, without severe profane language, this is easily the most offensive and terrible program I’ve ever seen on television.  And it’s a game show.

It’s called “The Moment of Truth,” and it’s awful.  The premise is this: real, live, flawed people submit themselves to a private lie detector test during which they are asked extremely personal questions about their lives, their relationships, their personal flaws, their past sins, anything.  During said lie detector test, they can answer these questions either truthfully or not, but it is assumed that the lie detector will determine what the actual answer is.  After all the questions have been asked, the contestant is then brought on the show, where they are asked the same exact questions they have already been asked, but this time in front of a sea of millions of television viewers, and all they have to do is tell the truth.  The more questions they answer truthfully, the more money they win.  Simple, yes?

Not necessarily so.  As I said, these questions are invasively personal, and there is no shame in asking any of them.  Have you lied to your boss to get a promotion, have you stolen money from your parents, are you having an affair, are you racist, do you think marrying your spouse was the wrong decision…?  No topic is off limits.  And, as it makes for good entertainment, the questions asked are usually the ones which expose the contestant as fraudulent, dishonest, immoral, or unethical.

But that, good viewer, is not all.  Not only does the contestant have to answer these questions on television, but often the people who are the subjects of these questions are present in the room during the show.  Contestants bring close friends and family on the show with them to sit on stage, so when those contestants are asked questions like, “Do you think your wife is still beautiful?” that wife is sitting fifteen feet away as her husband flatly says, “No.”

And the show is shameless in the way it tries to make the average person look villainous.  The host will deliberately set up questions to make people look like a jerk, a la this example:

SMARMY HOST: So, it says here you volunteer at an animal shelter.  That’s very noble of you.  Do you have a love of animals?

CONTESTANT: Yes, I love all God’s creatures, and think they all deserve care and affection no matter how small they are.  I love working at the shelter.



CONTESTANT: Well, um… I… uh… Yes, I have.

Perhaps the only thing more shocking than the questions is the apparent nonchalance with which the contestants answer these questions.  People on this show seem unaffected in admitting their deepest, darkest secrets, and I think that says something.  Perhaps we’re victims of our own tabloid infested society.  Are we jealous of those ‘celebrities’ who have no privacy?  Maybe the fact that Britney Spears can’t take a dump without twelve photographers capturing the moment and selling it to a magazine has given us a twisted view of what a completely exposed lifestyle is like.

Or maybe I’m the wrong one, and we should be applauding these people for their honesty.  These are difficult questions, ones that I wouldn’t want to be asked, let alone made to answer on national television, and these people are doing it in stride.  Granted, they are getting money for doing it.  So the question the show truly asks, I guess, is if your pride was for sale, what price would you take for it?

All of the sudden “…one dollar, Bob” seems like kindergarten.  The way I see it, absolutely nothing good comes of this show.  Nobody wins.  Contestants are exposed as the dishonest and disgusting humans they are, and the show is exposed as a voyeuristic tool for ruining people’s lives.  And maybe we knew both of those things already, but we most assuredly don’t need to broadcast it to the whole world, no matter how desperate we are for summer programming.

So I guess the real question remains… in spite of all that, with all that is truly and utterly wrong about it… why couldn’t I turn it off?

Perhaps there’s no shame in any of us these days.


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