Wednesday, August 15, 2012 at 11:43 AM
Friends and family will attest that I spent most of the Olympics hurling profanities at NBC for the Taliban-like control it exercised over TV coverage of the Games. But my profane outrage intensified into righteous indignation every time it previewed (as it did ad nauseam) the coming attraction of its new “reality” TV show, Stars Earn Stripes.
Except that, at the very least, NBC showed an appalling lack of good judgment by promoting these war games during the Olympic Games. After all, the Olympics are all about goodwill among nations and are the very antithesis of war. And whatever homage might have been intended was plainly undermined by the mockery and greed inherent in casting Sarah Palin’s husband, Todd Palin, among the recruits for this show.
More to the point, though, it’s one thing to have third-rate celebrities pretending to be ballroom dancers, or wannabe celebrities pretending to be castaways on a makeshift Gilligan’s Island. It’s quite another to have actors pretending to be soldiers – not for a movie, but for a reality TV show which, by definition, trivializes the real life-and-death dangers U.S. troops face on the battlefield.
Indeed, there’s a reason previews for the war-themed movie The Expendables 2, which also ran during the Olympics, did not incite similar outrage: there’s clearly nothing wrong with actors like Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger playing soldiers in a (make-believe) movie.
To be candid, it’s unconscionable for NBC to claim that its TV soldiers are paying homage to men and women who serve by pretending to put themselves through the same rigors and dangers American soldiers face in war zones like Afghanistan. Not least because the difference between dodging bullets and bombs when you know they are designed not to kill you and doing so when you know they are designed to kill you is literally like life and death.
This point is brought into stark relief by stars earning their stripes in Hollywood getting to “wrap” and go home every day, while troops earning their stripes in Afghanistan have to cope 24/7 with the unnerving prospect of being shot in the back by a “friendly” Afghan as readily as being shot in the head by an angry Taliban. Not to mention the real-life, post-traumatic stress disorders real soldiers suffer even if they’re lucky enough to make it back home….
This is why I was heartened to learn that a group of Nobel Laureates shares my righteous indignation about this show. In fact, so much so that they published an open letter of protest to coincide with Monday’s premier episode. It reads in part as follows:
It is our belief that this program pays homage to no one anywhere and continues and expands on an inglorious tradition of glorifying war and armed violence. Military training is not to be compared, subtly or otherwise, with athletic competition by showing commercials throughout the Olympics. Preparing for war is neither amusing nor entertaining…
We, too, call upon NBC stop airing this program that pays homage to no one, and is a massive disservice to those who live and die in armed conflict and suffer its consequences long after the guns of war fall silent.
(The London Guardian, August 13, 2012)
Unfortunately, this is a network whose corporate conscience and public spirit are such that it saw nothing wrong with interrupting the Closing Ceremony of the London Olympics for a one-hour promotional showing of a comedy about animals. Therefore, I doubt it’s going to be too troubled by the sensibilities of a group of Nobel Laureates, even if among them is the irreproachable Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa.
NBC should stand for Nothing But Cash. Because raking in cash is its only guiding principle.
Apropos of which, network executives are trumpeting that all of the money stars win from competition on the show will go to a charity of their choice. Never mind that in Palin’s case that charity might be Alaskan Rednecks for Moose Hunting.
But this only compounds the insult the very premise of this show represents. For anyone who knows anything about stars who play for “charity” knows that the amount they make from competition pales in comparison to the amount they pocket for merely appearing on the show. In other words, stars earn cash!
Nothing epitomizes the unseemly blurring of reality and entertainment quite like Taylor Swift dating men to create fodder for her songs. And nothing demonstrates how gullible the public has become in this respect quite like this promiscuous and venal songstress making a fortune by peddling a plainly disingenuous virginal image.
What, she’s 22 and has already exploited about 22 boyfriends that we know of…?! Okay, that’s a slight exaggeration. But Taylor has millions of impressionable kids thinking that she’s addressing in her songs all of the problems good girls have dating boys. Yet I suspect the only problem Taylor has ever had with boys is Taylor herself.
In any case. her latest prey should give even (the parents of) her most devoted fans pause. For Taylor has stalked him to the point of buying a $5 million house across the street from his family home.
Of course, it would be troubling enough if this were any family. But that it’s the famous Kennedys of Hyannis Port indicates just how grandiose and unhinged her pursuit of fodder for her woe-is-me songs has become. For just imagine the drama that will unfold when she breaks up with this Kennedy boy she has now ensnared, which everybody knows she will do as soon as the time comes to write her next album.
So instead of glorifying Taylor as a role model for teenage girls, the media should expose her for what she is: a cold and calculating shrew who uses men the way a carpenter uses his tools. And this pathology is actually surpassed in its creepiness by what appears to be her psycho-obsession with channeling Jackie O. God help this boy and the entire Kennedy clan.