Monday, January 18, 2010

Reality

Reality TV may be more than Satan's little time-killer, I almost thought one night recently as I watched two shows back to back, though I'm not proud of it.
The first was Hoarders which routinely documents the progress made by a team of removal professionals and clinical mental experts as they enter the homes of people who are clearly on the outer edges of sanity and try not to vomit as they survey scenes of chaos that can only be described as augean.
The owners of these homes, or what once must have been homes, seem outwardly normal though the mental wiring has very obviously become tangled. For the viewer, horror, pity and amusement become tangled as well, watching the poor helpless victims lead the stranger into (what once must have been) the living room and try to be casual about it ("Yes, well, this is my messy living room ..."), the word messy being pushed into a service well beyond euphemism, just as "clutter" doesn't begin to say it.
Things might well have kept going on as they obviously have been going for a very long time, had there not been a civic threat of eviction or possession of the children. That's how bad things have got. Though the process starts off well enough as the removers begin chucking mountains of debris and animal droppings into trucks, it usually doesn't take long to see the owners' defense systems begin to crack as they see their treasures crudely swept up and removed. They "need" these things, though they will never likely see them or even know what's there. Sometimes it doesn't work out. They're too far gone.
There seems a purpose beyond voyeurism to this documentary series on consumerism gone epically wrong. You may sense this feeling the next time you open your fridge and notice that it's only the shallow little bay of utility nearest the door that you seem to use anymore, and that it's been that way for quite some time now.
The other show seems even more moral, an animal rescue show run by what looks like a team of five bikers. They're all beefy and reticent and speak in rough accents of the outer boroughs of New York. That they really do love animals seems undeniable as, hearing rumors of a neglected rottweiler or pit bull terrier, they more or less badger their way into the house of the heartless owner and with a forceful tact, demand that things improve. Commonly they somehow manage to take the dog away for care and medical treatment. Then they return it with clear threats to follow up with as many unannounced commando checks as it will take.
It does work, apparently, or it can, to go by one case study of a hispanic who'd been mistreating his dog by ignoring him. By the time it had finished its therapy it was hard to say who'd got the better of it, the dog, or the owner in his now much spruced-up house. There suddenly seemed to be a genuine affection for a fellow sentient being.

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