I love (most) reality television. Big Brother, America's Next Top Model, The Real World. Stick people in a house with hidden cameras and I will probably watch. But even I have my limits. And my limits are being tested by a show currently running in Holland (originator of most competition-based reality shows that we have today in the US), called The Golden Cage.
This show is what Big Brother would be if it exchanged its anti-psychotics for PCP. Contestants are locked in a house and asked to live like millionaires, with the winner receiving a multi-million dollar prize at the conclusion. There is no orderly way to remove other house guests, however, as there are no nominations or evictions. Thus, the contestants resort to bullying and harassment, hoping to annoy or intimidate their opponents out the door. The results, as I'm sure you can imagine, are disturbing and uncomfortable to watch. In one particular clip, a number of house guests target a female contestant and her boyfriend. While the latter is forcibly restrained by other men, the women rip off the clothes of his girlfriend as punishment for "acting like a princess." The producers, I might add, insist that they take no responsibility for the psychological or physical well-being of the participants.
National petitions and attempted intervention by politicians have not been able to remove the show from the air. And now, thankfully!, the rights have been purchased by ABC for America's enjoyment. But how far away from this type of programming is the US already? Earlier this week in the Big Brother house, a forty-something year old man who calls himself "Evel Dick" sexually harassed, verbally and physically assaulted a much younger female house mate and received only a verbal warning from the show's producers. After all, Dick and his tirades bring in the ratings that CBS so desperately needs. I signed up for alliances with ridiculous names and food competitions, not watching a creepy old man berate the nanny from Beverly Hills. Earlier this year on the same channel, a Survivor hopeful ate a live snake in his audition video.
People have been arguing that television programming has crossed the morality line since its inception. But, I mean, really, this is just too much. Is it Holland that has gone too far? CBS or ABC? Reality television? The American public? Whatever the reason for this debauchery, I will not be tuning into this Golden Cage business. I'll stick with Tyra Banks, thank you very much, whose models are hungry and cranky and sometimes crazy, but always in a good way.