Many doomsday freaks like to reference current geopolitical events as evidence that the end is near. I say a better argument that we are now living in the End Times can be made after watching a few minutes of Real Chance of Love.
In case you don’t know what that is, here’s a brief rundown of the genealogy. It starts with Flavor Flav, whose original schtick was being in Public Enemy, the world’s angriest hip hop ensemble, while being the world’s most lovable crazy person, while wearing silly sunglasses and enormous clocks around his neck. After some years of obscurity he resurfaced in the VH1 reality show, The Surreal Life, in which he embarked on a love affair with Brigitte Neilson, who played alongside Arnold Schwarzenegger in Red Sonja, then played Ivan Drago’s wife in Rocky IV, and then actually married and quickly divorced Sylvester Stallone, and whose schtick is now being a lunatic.
A spinoff of that show called Strange Love featured Neilson and Flav rekindling their incredibly creepy relationship in Milan because, well, that’s as good a place as any to have a creepy relationship. Alas, they weren’t meant to be, so Mr. Flav was given his own reality show called Flavor of Love, a Bachelor-style elimination show on which exotic dancers competed for Flav’s affections. The certifiably insane runner-up from the first season of Flavor of Love, named “New York,” then got her own dating elimination show called I love New York.
Two brothers nicknamed “Real” and “Chance” were contestants on the first season of I Love New York, and now they have their own show, Real Chance of Love, on which exotic dancers compete for their affections.
While “researching” this little six degrees of damned good reasons to move to an off-the-grid cabin in the Yukon, I drooled on my keyboard, lost 19 IQ points, and invited a nest of fire ants to take up residence in my eyes. Consider that during this bit of “research” I found out that the Flavor of Love 2 finale was the most watched non-sports cable show of 2007, and that a guy named “Tailor Made,” who won I Love New York 2, and was on an I Love New York/ Flavor of Love spin-off called I Love Money, is now running for New York City Council.
Now consider this scenario: You are trying to convince a sentient alien being that he/she/it shouldn’t destroy Earth a la Marvin Martian with his Illidium Q-36 Explosive Space Modulator. This being is neither benevolent nor malevolent, just neutral, and he’s doing a sort of cost-benefit analysis of whether or not to destroy our planet. He’s trying to figure out if Earthlings have anything to contribute to the galactic canon, so to speak. You’re trying to convince him that saving us is worthwhile, but then you somehow start talking about Real Chance of Love, and you end up assuring him that total destruction will be the most pragmatic choice, and that his view of Venus will now be unobstructed.
Late last year I left the United States for work, and I was gone for eight months. I already had a sort of hate-hate relationship with reality television, but while I was gone, I mostly forgot about the phenomenon. I had cable television, but the strange mix of international stations thankfully seemed to omit nearly all of these god-awful shows. My housemates and I, on the rare occasions that we did sit down in front of the television, were more inclined to agree on watching news channels, or a classic movie channel, or even Top Gear, which I suppose, technically, is a reality show.
Sometimes we’d watch more recent movies, and my housemate, an Australian, decided he would never visit the U.S. because he was sure it must be infested with zombies. His argument was quite simple and went something like this: Based on American movies, he reasoned that Americans were obsessed with zombies. Therefore, America must be full of zombies. I thought he was nuts, but when I came home and saw part of an episode of Real Chance of Love, I knew he was right.
I’ve never really been able to comfortably navigate the concept of celebrity, especially when people started becoming celebrities simply because they had begun to attain a certain level of celebrity, and not for being good at something, or really, even being able to do anything at all. Take Jon and Kate of the drippy show, Jon and Kate Plus Eight. When I left the country, they were merely two people who had an unfortunate fertility drug mishap that produced a family of sextuplets and twins. That’s eight children in two birth sessions in case you couldn’t work out the calculations. When I returned, Jon and Kate were plastered on the covers of every low-brow entertainment rag in every supermarket checkout line from here to Spokane and down to Albuquerque. They had affairs. They had hair implants. They had liposuction. They had plastic surgery. They had sex with bodyguards. They bashed each other and cried on televised interviews. In short, they were acting like celebrities and were therefore being treated as such. I don’t know these people, so I certainly shouldn’t hate them. Their situation seems as much a manufactured product of the entertainment machine as their own doing: a celebrity chicken-and-egg dilemma, if you will.
No one seems immune to the relentless assault of these shows on our daily lives. My wife watches some of them. She’s a social worker, and spends her days immersed in the sort of real real life that would cause most of us to crawl up in a dark corner with a handful of Xanax and a fifth of Old Crow. So when she gets home, sometimes she likes to switch off her brain by watching fake real life. Of course I love her unconditionally and I like to give her the benefit of the doubt, but she once shushed me during an episode of Keeping up with the Kardashians, which I think is legally admissible in a divorce case as evidence of spousal abuse. That, and turning into a zombie.