The other day I was listening to TV critic David Bianculli list the best and worst shows of the year in an interview with Terry Gross on Fresh Air. I haven’t been watching TV lately, so I wasn’t paying a lot of attention until he played this excerpt from his choice as worst show of the year, Fear Factor:
Inside this tank is over 3,000 gallons of cows’ blood. … One at a time, you will alternate dunking down into that tank, retrieving a cow heart and then stuffing it in to your partner’s mouth, who will them attempt to spit it into that box. The team that transfers the least amount of cow hearts in three minutes will be eliminated today.
All I could think of was the final scene in the movie The Magic Christian, in which the character played by Peter Sellers throws a vast amount of money into a vat filled with shit and people dive in.
I saw The Magic Christian when it first came out, which is so long ago that I have no idea whether it was a good movie or not. I’d forgotten everything about the movie except the vat of shit and money, but that image came immediately to mind when I heard the lines from Fear Factor.
I also recall my feeling of smug superiority from watching that scene: My hippie peers and I would never dive into shit for money.
It occurs to me today that it was a lot easier to be self righteous back then.
Still, it never crossed my mind that someone would actually put on a show — for entertainment purposes, no less — in which people would do increasingly gross things for money (and perhaps for a little fame).
What’s most interesting to me is that I never doubted that people would dive into the shit. That was what fueled my self-righteous attitude: I wouldn’t do it, but I knew other people would.
In the same way, I’m sure that people can be found to go through all the horrible stunts dreamed up by so-called “Reality TV.” (Reality is diving into a vat of cow’s blood?)
So I’m not sure why it surprises me that such an event is on television, but somehow it does. I guess I thought society had some restraint, even if individuals don’t.
But it looks like the makers of The Magic Christian were right, even if the Wikipedia entry says critics panned it as heavy-handed satire.
Satire becomes real life. No matter how extreme you get, you really can’t make this stuff up.
Flashes of Illumination, a collection of my short-short fiction, is now available here from Book View Cafe. This 52-story ebook collects the flash fiction I published weekly during the first year of Book View Cafe, and adds in a few later stories as well.
My novella Changeling remains available as an ebook through Book View Cafe. It’s a coming of age story.
Both books are $2.99 and available in four DRM-free formats: mobi, epub, prc, and pdf.