What is Human dignity and are we aware of it, of our own human dignity and that of others. Today I was in a waiting room and it seems that waiting rooms have certain type of television programs and they are geared to captive audiences in waiting rooms may it be the car dealership, the dentist or the hospital. Maybe they have those shows on because it allows you to forget why you are in a waiting room, car dealerships service centres are particularly depressing given that you really never know what gem they will come up with to get you to spend more than you intended on your car. At the dentist it is to make you forget about that tooth ache or root canal.
So there I was waiting for my name to be called and I get the tail end of The View with Whoopi Goldberg who has put on a lot of weight and looks like one of those old opinionated wind bags dispensing platitudes on life. She certainly appears to know it all. The crowd mostly women, jumps up and down screaming and applauding, I wonder why, she did not say anything in particular worth a second glance. The show ends with Whoopi telling us that she has invited X who is apparently famous and funny, the crowd roars its approval and condescendingly Whoopi tells the audience they have been good and invites them to come back to the show, the crowd is ecstatic.
Next comes Ellen, again the crowd mostly women jump up and down, applauding and screaming as Ellen struts on stage, she has been doing this shit since 2003, is that possible. She looks decidedly bored with the job of host, she comes across as distant and cold. Two women in the audience have their names called out and they come down, they are so excited, Ellen has chosen them, they try to hug or kiss Ellen who backs out displaying her obvious disdain, she is only doing this because the producer of the show says so. Now this segment of the show before the usual boring interview with guest ”Star” and I use this word loosely, involves a game where if you humiliate yourself in public you can win big Cash $$$ up to $10,000 dollars, which is the price of a cheap car, probably second hand.
So these poor women have to answer inane question like name a donut shop in New Orleans, I am not making this up. The first one to answer has to go stand under an umbrella and pull on a cord. If she wins, money will drop from the ceiling if not it will be some kind of substance like jam or water coating the poor person and ruining her hair and clothes. They do this for money, imagine, why not prostitute yourself while you are at it. Now in today’s episode the same women got two wrong answers so she got some sort of jelly like white substance all over her and then buckets of water, finally on third try she got $1000. and the crowd roars. She is so happy, believing she is famous because this happened on television and she won a prize.
Ellen is in a hurry to move to the next segment of the show. She does not care for these contestants who are mere props for her show, they are quickly moved off stage.
The public seems unaware that they exchange their dignity for fleeting minutes on stage or appearing on camera as it span the audience. The producers get ratings and money and so does Ellen. In their evaluation the audience is a commodity to be used.
This reminded me of a book I read some years ago by John Dickie entitled Delizia! or the epic history of Italians and their food. In this book the author tells a story about the various festivals during the Middle-Ages and the Renaissance, the Nobles and the Town gentry had to amuse themselves and such carnivals and horse races were good excuses to invent a game and make the town folks and the peasantry able participants. Since the cost of meat was prohibitive, only the well to do could afford meat and eggs. The 99% ate greens, bread and maybe some eggs at Feast time like Easter or Christmas if they could afford it. This is how pasta and Pizza came to be, invented to supplement the meagre diet of the ordinary folks, poor people food.
One such tournament found in cities like Florence, Sina or Pisa, the merchants and nobles would offer a prize of raw meat to anyone who could win various events including climbing a tower while fighting off other contestants, the one to make it to the top got the prize, this event often involved violence in order to win. The Nobles, bankers and merchants wanted their fun, so the poor contestants had to debase themselves in order to win this meat prize worth a fortune.
Sad to see that things have not changed much in 500 years. Today it is for TV ratings and popularity with show host who exploit a gullible public, all the while posing as your friend, someone just like you.
I am sure that neither Whoopi or Ellen would think of themselves as vulgar entertainers exploiting others to make as much money as they can.