I like this list in the Washington Post, all about things in American culture we should really do without. My personal favorites: auto-tune, small talk and smartphones. None of those things are going away soon, of course, but it’s always pleasant to imagine a world without them.
Anyway, the list got me thinking about items I’d add to it. First: Reality TV. I’ve long considered myself immune to the corrosive effects of this genre, since I no longer have cable. But recently I stumbled across an Anderson Cooper “Ridiculist” in which he mocks a number of fourth-tier celebrities who have recorded horrible songs through the irresponsible use use of, yes, auto-tune. The list includes some “Real Housewives” and other narcissistic swine who have become semi-famous as the result of reality television. This is a national tragedy: A season or two on a popular show and suddenly idiots become singers, and authors, and life counselors, and judges on other reality shows.
That’s when it hit me: Unearned fame has achieved critical mass in America. Even if you don’t watch cable TV, reality shows so permeate popular culture that no one can escape the harm they cause. You might encounter it innocently cruising the internet, as I did, or you might run into some foul-mouthed jerk in the grocery store or theater who is being dramatically rude because she was raised on a diet of reality shows and Hot Pockets. Can we all now agree that reality is overrated, especially when it’s on TV? I call for the entire genre to be phased out by noon tomorrow.
What else must go? Oh, yeah: Anderson Cooper. I realize he didn’t create the phenomenon of celebrities being bigger than any story they cover, but come on. The man long ago abandoned any pretense of objectivity and now has forsaken any caution regarding overexposure. He’s everywhere, ginning up the drama and being the story when he should be reporting it. It just ain’t an earthquake without Anderson standing in the middle of the wreckage looking for somebody to blame. This country needs fewer telegenic camera hogs and more journalists. Catch you later, AC.
Finally, maybe we can start doing without fatuous lists on the internet, since they have eroded American productivity — and capacity for critical thought — about 98 percent in the last decade. Time Magazine is the worst offender. Time‘s newest list: “Top Ten Reasons Why Top Gun is Still Awesome.” Really. I’m not going to link to it because it’s so stupid you should probably just Google it yourself.
Once you check out that list, you will find yourself clicking on one more list, and then another, until much of the day has gone and the bills remain unpaid and the eggs have boiled dry and the kids have wandered off. Sorry about that. Top Ten lists are the crack cocaine of the internet and sooner or later they will cost you your job and your marriage. Who can resist powerful opiates like these?:
- Top 10 Famous Stolen Body Parts
- Top 10 Celebrity Meltdowns
- Top 10 Things You Didn’t Know About Passover
- Top 10 Songs With Silly Lyrics
- Top 10 Strange Mass Animal Deaths
You know, to differentiate between the Mass Animal Deaths that are not strange. That would be another list. You get the idea. We’ve got a list pandemic going.
You can see why: Amusing lists are easy to write and even easier to read, and they tend provoke indignant comments among readers who wonder why you left out that one particular Mass Animal Death, which any dumbass knows should take precedence over all the others and you didn’t even mention it, lol.
Lists must go. In my comprehensive list of things to get rid of, I really should put it at number one.
John H. says
Number one best use of “Top Five” lists: the book “High Fidelity” by Nick Hornby (or the movie adaptation).
Richard Crowson says
I blame it all on David Letterman.
Jessie K says
It’s hard to take Anderson Cooper seriously as a hard hitting newsman when he dishes oh so gleefully on this fluffy pop culture stuff.