This summer we spent a night in a motel. After camping all week, the six of us crowded into a small motel room, mainly to take showers and sleep. What caught the kids' attention, though, was the big television, with all the cable stations. (We watch very little television at home, and we only get five channels.)
I am not sure how Shaggy Hair Boy ended up with the remote control. When I came out of the shower, he seemed to be in charge. Tired from travelling, I piled onto the bed with everyone else and watched the screen. Somehow, he had found a program that showed a big rock crushing machine. It was actually kind of interesting. This big machine took rocks from a gravel pit and crushed them into smaller rocks, the type that would be used for driveways and such. Mesmerized, we all stared at footage of this machine crushing rocks. And more rocks.
"Why are we watching this?" Daughter finally said, just when we were all in danger of being hypnotized. "All these channels and we are watching rocks getting crushed ... over and over again?"
She took the remote and said, "Hey, Mom, let's find shows you will hate."
It wasn't hard. Daughter clicked through a series of shows so bizarre that I felt like I was on another planet. One show featured celebrities who had apparently been told to lose weight. Well, the show said they were celebrities, but they were people I had never heard of. Anyhow, the pump but pretty celebrity would come out and weigh herself, and then a panel of other people, who I think were also supposed to be famous, would say really mean, shaming things to her because she had not lost any weight. Really. That was the whole show. An entire show based on shame about the human body. I am guessing the celebrities must have been the kind of people everyone loves to hate because otherwise I just don't see the appeal of that kind of show.
Another show featured a good-looking young man who apparently had so few social skills that he was relying on a television show to find him a date. The absolute strangest part, aside from the fact that there was somehow a group of equally desperate and good-looking young women willing to date this young man, was that the young man was told to go on a date with each of the mothers of the young women he was getting hooked up with. Yes, the mothers. Really. And the mothers were all women about my age. So this hot young man would take a woman my age to a sushi bar or night club or park, and then listen while she tried to pimp out her daughter. I wanted to start screaming about the whole premise of the show, which is that women are supposed to compete for male attention, but I couldn't even deliver my usual snarky trirade and gender analysis as I stared at the screen; the show was that weird.
We saw commercials, too, most of them promoting products that seemed completely useless. And the main message of the commercials seemed to be that there is something truly wrong with the human body. But not to fear, there are all sorts of products you can buy to cover up those defects. Gunk to put on your eyes and skin. Perfume that has special powers. Apparently, it even matters what detergent you use on your clothes. And what kind of shampoo. Choose the wrong shampoo, and you will never get a date.
I don't know how long we watched before I felt like my head was going to explode. I couldn't take much of it. Soon I was begging to go back to the channel that featured rock crushing. I wanted to forget this dreadful glimpse into the dominant culture and lull myself to sleep with the image of a big machine crushing rocks. And more rocks. At least there was something soothing about that image.