…and it’s making me a little queasy. (apologies to REM)
I have always said that the end of the world would be televised. But when I said that, I was referring to a huge 2012 kind of apocalyptic ending. Cameras would roll to the last second and some junior reporter would be finishing his or her last live stand-up in front of an earth rending, lava spewing crevasse. I was not prepared, however, for how the world really ended or, for that matter, that end would come and go without anyone really noticing.
The Reality Game
The end of the world was not marked with lava plumes or giant CG inspired tidal waves or even a really big squid from outer-space. Nope. It was marked by a new show on Spike TV, Repo Games. The show is produced by the same group that brought Jersey Shore to our televisions so…at least we know it’s going be classy. Right? Right?
Repo Games is built on the premise that there are people out there who are so desperate, so down-on-their-luck, that they will
do just about anything to keep their heads above water for just one more day. So, halfway through an auto repossession, they are offered the chance to win their car back, paid in full, by answering three out of five trivia questions while being insulted by a repo man. All for our entertainment. The fact that people actually agree to this is testament to both the power of television and state of our economy. By sinking this low, by turning misfortune into entertainment, we are all diminished.
I watched one episode of Repo Games and it made me feel dirty. As far as game shows go, it just might be the worst ever. It isn’t fun and, unless you’re the kind of person who laughs when someone is hit by a car, it isn’t funny. The “contestants” are a cross-section of society but most are poor and uneducated. They are first hit with a notice of repossession and, during the initial shock, they are asked if they want a chance to win the car back…all while being insulted, put down and treated like a human joke. Answer three out of five trivia questions correctly, and the show pays off your car. Miss three questions and you get to watch your car roll off in the sunset.
The COPS Connection
Producers like to call the show a hybrid of Jeopardy and COPS. They are, of course, wrong on both accounts. We watch Jeopardy to see other people show how smart they are and we play along to see if we are just as smart. It makes us better if even by a little bit. COPS is also different. The people who make it on to COPS have done something to deserve being there. They have broken the law and even though the show states that everyone is assumed innocent, we also know that the producers of COPS aren’t offering Get-Out-of-Jail-Free cards to the good folks who show up on COPS. Jeopardy is a game show, one that has stood the test of time. COPS is, at heart, a documentary look at crime and law enforcement. But Repo Games? It is exploitive and it’s sad.
Don’t Get Me Wrong
I know that everyone who has ever had a car repossessed is having it taken back for missing payments. I understand that by signing a loan contract, the buyer is agreeing to make those payments on time and that after 90 days of missed payments, the car is going back to the bank. I get all of that. What I just don’t get is this…Why do we have to put it on TV for the entertainment of others? Not all repossessions are the result of “deadbeats” are they? The economy went in the toilet three years ago. People all over America lost their jobs and their income. They lost their homes and their cars. All because Wall Street treated American finance like a game and now we want to play out the extreme financial problems of our fellow citizens for laughs. It’s unacceptable and, as I said earlier, it diminishes all of us.