Monday, 20 December 2010

The Propagation of The Deathly Hallows

During the globally-warmed episode of snow and frozen tundric conditions that have assailed my little market town, I have found myself once again in the grips of a considerable sojourn. This has placed me in my house for extended periods of time, with a need to fill time for me and the ankle-biters. Some of the time, we have built a globally-warmed precipitation person, and at other times, we have watched the goggle-box. 

This weekend reminded me of something that  has troubled me on various occasions during the year, but which had been cast off the radar screen in favour of the next battle-royal with Twins Aculae and their domestic routine. After being forced to sit and watch Annie [Tomorrah, Tomorrah, Eyell Luvv Ya Tomorrah - bleh], I fast discovered that it was succeeded by the magnum opus that is Deal or No Deal. If you are unfamiliar - it is a quiz show; well, not even that. Some people open boxes and win cash depending on the numbers in said boxes - simple as that. It has an audience, which numbered four more this weekend, because we were imprisoned by a globally-warmed two-foot of snow and my creative juices had all but dried up.

Then something happened which upset me all over again. Its contestant of the day, a lovely girl I am sure, approached the place where she would be called to make her choices about boxes to open, and as often happen, was asked a little about herself. Then it happened. It happens in lots of places I have noticed, not just here. After a sentence, she got weepy and confessed to millions that she had fought and won cancer. Lots of weeping, spurious hugging from strangers, game commenced, she won twenty-grand. 

I am a very sympatheic human being. I am married to woman who lost two of her closest friends to cancer before any of them were old enough to vote. I have lost relatives of my own - rather a lot I think given the size of my family. I work alongside those who are dying or are facing that prospect - and I know how devastating and overwhelming it can be. I feel some flavour of their pain, and I even cry for them in private at times. I am not a cold-hearted soulless monster, but yet I am upset by the narrative delivered in the context of my mindless Sunday afternoon-in-the-snow TV. 

As I have said before, this seems to happen a lot. Once, a telly-contestant would tell a whacky story about meeting Rolf Harris (I met him once), or a daft anecdote about the dog dancing with the cat. Then you would go on to dance with chance and win a teasmade. Not now - it seems that the producers need tear-jerkers not whackos for their programmes, and I can almost imagine the application forms now. I do not doubt for one moment that all of these people are genuine and have fought and won against the worst of things, but I question the place of that account in a mundane quiz show. How are we meant to be left feeling? Why was that story just told? I try hard to fight my own battle with the niggling sentiment that it is the Tellyland's new weapon of choice to win ratings, but I am gently losing.

I think this speaks of time and place. Family time TV quiz shows are not a time, I would argue, for a woman to break down after being invited quite deliberately to tell her story of her fight with cancer. My kids don't understand why she is crying, and I am not equipped to explain why. She is on that programme to win some unearned cash - bottom line. Let's not convince ourselves that it is anything else.

1 comment:

  1. Deal or No Deal is a very interesting (and to my mind rather disturbing) example of where our culture, or a section of it, has got to these days. Although we used to calll this type of thing a quiz show, the curreent term is "game show", which more accurately sums up what it is about.

    My wife did a "cultural exegesis" exercise on the programme as part of her Reader training a couple of years ago. The rather muddled and superstitious worldview it promotes to me bears out Chesterton's view that "When people stop believing in God, they don't believe in nothing -- they believe in anything."



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