Monday, October 18, 2010

My Age or The Age?

My curmudgeonly side interests me. Not because it's original, but because it's not. I am curious about what exactly provokes the disapproving old man in me...aside from my general sense of the decline of the West, for example.

Ironically, I disapprove of television shows and movies which make the human race seem contemptible.

My favorite movie is Federico Fellini's Amarcord (I Remember), in which he unfolds the various loves, ambitions, flaws, quirks, sins and gifts of the people in his Italian town during Mussolini's time. No one escapes without being exposed, but exposure does not mean degradation. You recognize these people --full of desire, fear, ambition, ignorance--see them without romance, but you often like them, or more; at least you don't hold them in contempt. And you leave the film feeling something of the same way about yourself. There's a humanity there, whether it's a personal gift of Fellini or something in the sunny but unblinking Italian soul.

It seems to me that if you are going to expose the flaws in the human race, it ought to be from a moral viewpoint that knows what it really is. Otherwise, what you have is simply nihilism: that humans are trash. And a lot of what I see on television --both in the form of reality shows and of comedy-- simply exposes the ugliness of the race...for no other reason than to make them look bad.

Here's where my age comes in. True or not, I have the sense that comedy used to make fun of people but didn't rob them of their likeability. Now it seems more vicious.

It's not that I am concerned so much about the people so exposed. Whether it be the vile circus of Maury Povich and Gerry Springer or the contrived class-upgrade of the Housewives shows and its new and grotesque gay version, The A-List, they are all volunteers. They deserve what they get. What concerns me is the effect these shows have on the viewers: constantly seeing humans at their worst, for the sake of entertainment. What does that do to your soul? Our media version of the Coliseum games?

(Note: even serial murderer Dexter has more dignity than the humanoids mentioned above!)

So is this the diminishment of humor in an aging man or is this the diminishment of humanity in this age?

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