Boweling for Dollars
By R. D. Flavin
When I was a kid growing up in the Midwest and flipping through the various pre-digital cable UHF and VHF television channels for something entertaining to watch, I'd sometimes happen upon the franchised game-show, Bowling for Dollars (var. Candlepins for Cash and Duckpins and Dollars). I've never been a big fan of game-shows, though I do like competing. Actually, observing from the sidelines seldom appeals to me. Sure, lots of folks view golf, tennis, bowling, and fishing events and programs much like some take enjoyment in watching water boil, and ...to each their own, I guess. Our caustically cynical media seems bent on marketing "Boweling for Dollars" with nigh anyone willing to say mean (and often untrue) things being given a chance. Ouch! I suppose in a free and open society voiced violence will find a niche and I worry that when an audience is sufficiently sated with the innuendos, insults, and lies of such hyper-meanness, they'll clamor for more. Yeah, hate speech is a gateway behavior.
Our differences are easily exampled in language. We say someone has “guts” when we deem them brave and call them “gutless” if they're perceived to be cowardly. This is likely the result of hoary traditions involving battle and punishment. The ancient Celts are said to have nailed the belly-buttons of villains and the vanquished to a tree and wrapped their intestines counter-sunwise (Celt. Tuathal, var. tual; Ger. Widdershins) around the tree. In Christian scripture (Matthew 27:3-8, Acts 1:18-19) it's told that Judas the Betrayer hung himself from a tree and his bowels spilled out upon the ground. Beginning in the late 13th century of the Christian Era, the English took it up a viscous notch by disemboweling those guilty of treason and burning their entrails while they yet (briefly) lived. It stands, IMO, that someone who has no “guts” is associated with weakness and someone with “guts” is deigned to have strength. Weak, bad, and death contra strong, good, and life. Verbal evisceration is not uncommon or necessarily rare, as the insightful asides of a grandparent with a quaking rendement is evidence of this. Sure, cash walks beside faux critical commentaries and self-serving, opportunistic, and agenda-orientated rants often claim unsubstantiated suggestions actually change something or anything beyond their personal checking accounts or book-sales figures (usually one and the same). Beyond the next media-meal? We've been fed fake guts, instead of ...real guts. Well, most uncomfortably, there's been some of those, too, just not the right ones.
Our approach to sex and violence is the stuff of science and ethics, with 'entertainment' assuming the role of the excessively obese primate or pachyderm “in the room.” Sure, what we call human “nature” had antecedents in mammalian and reptilian brains, and likely extends back as far as those frisky and feisty single-celled eukaryotes of a billion years ago. Sex and violence appear reflected in our earliest prehistoric art, well represented during our so-called Western classical era of Greco-Roman times, and is suspiciously absent in reruns of I Love Lucy, The Andy Griffith Show (later, Mayberry R.F.D.), and most of the rest of the programming now showing on (MTV-owned Nick at Nite's) TV Land. And, embarrassingly, while some have argued for a “gospel” contained in Schulz's Peanuts comic-strip, one could equally argue for sex and violence, as the character Patricia "Peppermint Patty" Reichardt seems to jump over and climb under the fence, while playing on both sides, and occasionally strikes the fence in frustration. Anywho, enough about the Happy Snoopy Dance... [Note: Use the previous aside when considering the future employment of an editor for these columns.] How we accept (i.e. handle or deal with) sex and violence defines us, at least in part. Personally, I've had some experiences with sex, violence, and maybe, sort and kind of some sexy violence, however, we all have our limits and I believe I'm fast reaching one. There's too much and the sweet and the salty are both losing their respective flavors...
We try to differentiate between what's necessary and the gratuitous. An “ignoble” exposed breast on Delacroix's 1830 painting showing “Liberty” is apparently on par with Janet Jackson's wardrobe “malfunction” at Super Bowl XXXVIII in 2004 and some still complain about both. Justice Stewart's “I know it when I see it” comment from Jacobellis v. Ohio - 1964 still resounds with required candor. In my reckless youth (that would be anytime before the typing of this column), I held that our bodies were deliciously sacrosanct and removed from mere moral judgments and chump legal prosecutions. Sex? Invoking Billie Holiday, “Tain't Nobody's Biz-ness if I Do" ...or don't. Violence? I'll never forget the numbness I felt when leaving the theater after first watching Spielberg's Saving Private Ryan in 1998. See, it wasn't like watching a zombie movie, it was a re-enactment of history. Zombies don't exist (outside of the tetrodotoxin-using slave industry), though war remains ...hell. Okay, ugly skinny time, we wear clothes to hide our nakedness, when we take off those clothes many describe the act as being intimate, yet within the clothes, beneath the flesh is ...a final intimacy which is ...or should be, unspeakable. What's inside all of us... Yup, this is about “guts” and their ...place in our modern society.
I readily admit the mundanity of my television viewing habits. Thursday nights with NBC, beginning with The Cosby Show in 1984 and continuing to the present with Tina Fey's 30 Rock, remains “Must See TV” for me. Well, there have been exceptions, as I've never watched more than a couple of minutes of Seinfeld and I'm not crazy about the current Outsourced. Still, from Cheers to ER, through Friends and into My Name is Earl, a tip of the hat with an appreciative grin to NBC's Thursday night line-up. However, may the peacock forgive me, after 2001 when CBS's crime drama, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation (aka CSI: Las Vegas), assumed the middle-evening slot (9 PM-EST/8 PM-CST), my attentions would occasionally be turned to Marg Helgenberger playing Catherine Willows, one-time exotic dancer and current supervisor of the night shift for the Clark County, Nevada police crime-scene investigations unit. As a forensic scientist, Willows specializes in blood splatter. As one of television's most consistently popular shows, CSI is best known for its risque gore and borderline pseudoscience, and since its 2000 premiere many other shows have followed the formula (e.g. CSI: Miami, CSI: NY, Criminal Minds, NCIS, NCIS: Los Angeles). Great ratings, terrific rerun syndication sales, many merchandizing tie-ins, solid fan-bases, and unfortunately a significantly negative impact on the general public's working perception, commonly referred to as the “CSI effect.” about how crimes are solved and exactly what today's science can and cannot do. Too many believe local police departments have crime labs capable of a CSI level of high-tech investigation which is usually reserved for spy thrillers or science fiction, that is, exaggerated and impossible by today's standards. In other words, it's fake, full of lies and misrepresentations. Recently, ...which, BTW, wicked way exceptionally upset me, CSI showed a dead girl, and the medical examiner made a small cut on her belly, then lifted out a ridiculously huge section of bowel. Yuck factor aside, it didn't look real and such casualness in the handling of a girl's guts, an act about as intimate as one can get, should not have been featured on prime-time network television. Maybe cable; I think it's all about cash...
into my twenties, the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA)
would usually approve full-frontal nudity before allowing a
disembowelment to be shown. I'm not an expert, by any means, but
sideways recall an unspoken MPAA ratings no-no trilogy of 1) no child
torture or killing, 2) no
intestines or other guts, and 3)
male sexual organs. Hey, it's my inexact memory and it can be
about some things if it wants to! American neo-puritanical views
(read: most everyone's opinions other than myself and a half-dozen
folks I can personally vouch for) would rather eat their young (or
nearest relative) than turn a cheek to the cheeky. I've written
hyper-gore, maybe one day I'll write more of it, but I never imagined
such gratuitous schlock would make it into prime-time network
television and also be the editorial agenda of way too many
newspapers, magazines, books, web-sites, radio and television
programs, and eventually become the grisly tea-baggers (a)moral
platform. Who knew? ...Mamma always told me not to look
into the eye of
the Sun, and Dad told me not to soil myself. We should think for
ourselves and stop drinking so much
bottled water. In many science fiction scenarios, aliens take
our planet for our water, and
that they eat us as well is just a
nasty consequence of genre fiction. Dear me...
Yeah, hate speech is a gateway behavior... I've always been comfortable with the sports quasi-metaphor of victory at all costs, yet when the game is over all are regarded as professionals. Participants compete with blustery braggadocio, often attempting verbal evisceration through threats of pain equal to, but not greater than, actual physical evisceration. Going for the throat has become passé and we currently (as per our entertainment, news, and political habituations would seem to indicate) go for the soft underside, the belly, the guts, and the absolute worst shock inanity which can be tolerated in a free society. I know we can do better... Perhaps not in the accuracy and sensitivity of our evening television viewing, but with civil and civic positivism. Bacon is our friend and should be respected.
Thinking about Door Number Three,Rick