Thursday, May 5, 2011

Repo Games

Repo Games. This is a new “reality” show where burly, terrifying repo men, who have already hoisted up your car to be hauled away, ask the debtor questions for a chance to win their pink slip free and clear. I haven’t seen it and don’t intend to watch it, but nevertheless the promo spots caught my eye. They showed one of the contestants, a badly over-weight woman with leggings, struggling to answer. The question that stumped her? “The kimono is a native garment of what country.” Her befuddled reply? “France. No, wait; that’s a state.”
They didn’t reveal if she managed to solve the Japanese conundrum or not. My suspicion is “not.”
I did feel bad for her. Sure, she agreed to appear on TV, but it was still a showcase of her flaws and a mockery of her problems. Not only was she nowhere close to the societally-demanded standards of physical perfection, she was compelled to display her ignorance in the hopes of maybe winning back her car. It is an adult version of “keep-away,” that sick school-yard game that has been used to torment children since the invention of throwing: you have no choice but to embarrass yourself for the prize because it’s something you value.
You’ll notice I called her “ignorant” and not “stupid.” I have no idea of her level of intelligence. The fact that repo men are coming to your house (trailer, I think, in this case) to claim your vehicle is a sign that you have made some poor choices, but that doesn’t indicate idiocy. The way we’re raised teach us a lot, good or bad, and it is really hard to shrug off that indoctrination. Someone living on the edge of poverty (or below it) as this woman clearly was never did anything dastardly to arrive there. She was probably born there, or close to it, and lacks the knowledge/drive/opportunity to drag herself off to something better, and giving her a chance to win back a car that she can’t afford isn’t the magic bean that will change her life.
In short, the entire show is in extremely poor taste. How far are we willing to humiliate other people just to feel better about ourselves? I’ll confess that I watch “Canada’s Worst Handyman” or “Worst Driver” and think, “Wow, at least I’m not that bad.” But in those cases, we are watching people failing to perform specific skills that they suck at. In Repo Games, it looks like we will be watching people who are failing at life. Obviously there are plenty out there like that; it just doesn’t feel very fair to make them caper for trinkets.
Of course, my empathy could be entirely misplaced. The most eager fans of the entire “humiliate the common man” genre are probably those common men themselves. That still doesn’t make it right, so I will not be tuning in, voting as a one-man boycottl.

Let me know what happens, though, okay? I can always use a good laugh.

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