Upon hearing that Courtney Stodden — you know, the trashy teen who married that much older dude from LOST? — would be appearing on VH1’s reality show COUPLES THERAPY, I couldn’t help but think of Russian roulette.
How, you might wonder, did I make the leap from the human freak show to a game in which people willingly put a gun to their heads and hope it’s not loaded? I blame the movie Live!
In the 2007 flick, Eva Mendes plays a network exec (Hey! It could happen!) who is desperate for a hit. Off a casually flip remark from a co-worker, she comes up with the idea to telecast a game of Russian roulette. Five contestants will walk away with a cool $5,000,000 each… and one won’t walk away period. What ensues is a fascinating debate about what can and can’t be aired on television. But just as important is the parallel debate between what people will and won’t actually tune in for.
Would America really watch a show that, in essence, boils down to assisted suicide?
In the movie, the answer is “yes.”
And I can’t help but believe that the same would hold true in the real world. Sure, we’d all put up a big fuss about how disturbing the concept is and how demeaning it is to reduce life and death to a game show, but come the big night, we’d tune in. If asked why, we’d shrug and say, “How could I not?”
As farfetched as it sounds, it’s easy to see that this is the direction we’re headed. How much longer can our appetite for human suffering be satisfied by what Aaron Sorkin’s THE NEWSROOM called the “human cockfighting” that is the REAL HOUSEWIVES franchise? (Which, it’s worth noting, brought us one ghoulish step closer to live executions with the BEVERLY HILLS season that allowed us to watch in hindsight the events contributing to Russell Armstrong’s suicide.)
Stodden’s life — complete with leering husband and fame-hungry mom — is a train wreck. And as happens with every accident, we can’t help but gawk. We want to mock, judge and, at heart, be part of the jeering crowd.
Ask most people, and they’ll proclaim from the rooftops that they want the Stoddens, Kardashians and Hiltons of the world to go away. We rarely bring up their names during conversations with our friends, yet behind closed doors, we indulge in our collective secret, shameful past-time by watching shows and reading magazines devoted to detailing every insufferable moment of these people’s lives. We ask “Why are these people famous?” even as we make them exactly that.
As good as we, as a nation, are at scapegoating others, we have no one to blame but ourselves. And that’s as true today as it will be on the night when in record numbers we turn on our televisions to watch a live execution.
And you know we will.
Richard M. Simms is the author of Crimes Against Civility — which can be downloaded to any Kindle or Kindle reading app free until midnight Friday — and has no problem acknowledging that he loves BACHELOR PAD. Thus, his opinions should be taken with a grain of salt. Or a salt lick.