Sunday, November 27, 2005

Entertain Me, America!

When channel-surfing before dinner, invariably we gravitate to the America’s Funniest Videos show. Never underestimate the entertainment value of drunk and stupid people riding their bikes off roofs and obese women on children’s playground equipment. It’s funny stuff. Trust me.

As I’m watching a segment last week that had some skinny little kid screaming his tonsils out on a roller coaster, I realized that I was witnessing yet another dividend of economic globalization. Sure, my closet is full of cheap Nikes and I’ve enjoyed my inexpensive microwave made in some Southeast Asian sweatshop, but I honestly never had imagined the far reach of globalization in my nightly entertainment.

After the kid and his older brothers won the $10,000 prize for the “best” home video, they explained how it was made. The youngest boy, probably 10 years old, was mortally afraid of roller coasters and both of his brothers knew this. The oldest brother, about 16 years old, “made” his younger sibling go on the terrifying roller coaster just so that he could film his death screams and submit them to the video show. Needless to say it worked.

The show is increasingly entertaining as more and more people have access to video camera equipment, and that equipment is cheaper and more available to the average consumer due to globalization. When Uncle Elmer gets drunk on Thanksgiving and decides to drive his ATV off a makeshift ramp into the creek, it’s now much more likely that Cousin Sadie has a Sony digital movie camera running. Little Vern sets his pants on fire with a roman candle on the 4th of July? Don’t worry, Pa has it on the Samsung camcorder.

I know that video shows have been around for at least a decade and who can forget the Jackass movies, but my point is that never have the quaint activities of Americana been so available to the viewing public, and it’s always funnier when it happens to someone else. It’s as if every backwater and trailer park has constant surveillance video running just for our entertainment. Did Thomas Friedman ever see this coming?

Every baby who pees on his Dad or pours spaghetti sauce on Grandma’s dress is recorded for TV—their fifteen seconds of fame, and a chance at $10K. So, keep the cameras running, America. Otherwise, I’ll be forced to watch the news with my dinner.

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