Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Too Much Drama, Too Little Effect

I am often astonished and appalled by the increasing amount of phony drama being all but inescapably paraded before us every day.  The juvenile and farcical creation of heroes and villains, of success and failure, and of winners and losers in these awful performances are as spurious as they're sad.

No I'm not talking about the bogus build up generated during the hackneyed and unimaginative (everything but) reality shows that dominate television these days, but about the ever increasing amount frenzy that the political parties and pundits seem to want to find in the run up to the 2012 election.  Of course the campaigns have now drug on so long that perhaps the only way they feel that they can keep the voter's interest is to manufacture a bit of hysteria where each of the candidates is concerned, but the hype of such histrionics cannot be confused with actual interest.

Like a movie director frantically attempting to keep an audience on the edge of their seats for the entire ninety minutes of the movie, all they end up doing is exhausting their audience.  Unable to build higher or even maintain the necessary anxiety for months instead of minutes, they've left all but the most fervent supporters bored with the process, wishing they'd gotten a larger bucket of popcorn so they'd have something to distract themselves with, and waiting for the final credits to roll so that they can escape a theater that's become little more than a prison.

Apparently however, a media that's already gone too far down the path of synthetic stimulation in its offerings to return, and either can't see or refuses to acknowledge that their audience is now mostly unmoved by the shabby performances being given by the bad actors who've taken the stage.  Only the critics (pundits) still seem enamored of the process and able to maintain any enthusiasm (perhaps because they're paid to) for a political puppet show that's gone on for far too long already.  Their continued attempts to exploit any crumbs of excitement dropped in their path are as inept as they are futile.

Perhaps the problem is simply that in today's version of entertainment (and they've turned this process into little else), people are used to far more variety.  If you don't like the reality shows, you can watch the game shows.  If those don't tickle your fancy you can watch a mystery series, a situation comedy, or a classic movie. Food is much the same.  If a steak isn't on your menu of choice, have a cheeseburger.  If you aren't interested in chicken, go Chinese or Mexican or Thai.  The veritable cornucopia of choices laid before us in every aspect of today's society is as varied as it's vast; and even with all of this potpourri available, we often find it difficult to choose.

Not so in politics however.  Not only do many of the candidates begin to run together like the ice cream in the bottom of the bowl on a banana split, but it doesn't take long for us to realize that none of them seems to be different from the others.  The miserable morass that congeals at the bottom of the bowl becomes little more than a tired memory of flavor, little more than imagined by the media serving them.  Sadly in the end, the dish proves mostly tasteless, even while being served in heaping quantities for no other reason than disguise the lack of substance. 

For beyond the individual candidates, we're ultimately left with the same two tired choices that we've looked at for a century.  Oh there once may have been actual differences between Democrats and Republicans, but these days it all seems to taste like chicken, and rubber chicken at that. Voters, long starved of anything of substance to choose from, have finally begun to realize that regardless of which party wins the Presidency, the House, or the Senate; things are likely to go on pretty much the way that they have been. 

And why shouldn't they understand this to be the case?  Republican Administrations expand government as much as Democratic ones do.  Party majorities in the House and Senate make little difference to the mountain of debt and the growing entitlement mentality that Washington continues to embrace and expand.  The mock battles that occur on the floor of the legislature or between it and the White House, more often appear to be both badly scripted and poorly performed, with their outcome as predetermined as a wrestling match.  The dramatic but counterfeit carnage created by these supposedly epic battles proves all but bloodless, and the allegedly hard fought peace that's eventually forged seems more like pointless capitulation than the common ground compromise that the combatants celebrate with a mixture of sadness and ceremony.

While there's little surprise that a weary audience has already lost much of its interest, perhaps there's a method to this madness as well.  Perhaps it's the hope of the two great acting troupes that by wearing down even the most dedicated part of the audience, our gratitude for the process finally ending will be so great that we will at least for a while ignore the fact that nothing has really changed.  Perhaps there is a method to the madness of the lengthy performance of this tawdry play, with the directors working feverishly behind the scenes to manipulate the 'sheeple' that most have become into quietly returning to the herd.

And while some few may remain untouched, crying out in anguish at the tired melodrama that they've been subjected to for little amusement and no entertainment; most will instead gratefully return to find out which "American Idol" will next be "Dancing with the Stars", and celebrating the political actors that haven't been voted off "Survivor: Washington DC".  Few indeed will recognize that the real "Undercover Bosses" of this nation have once again worked their magic, and that it's only in their efforts that we discover that "America's Got Talent".  It may make for little more than a Bread and Circuses form of entertainment for the masses, but for me it's far to much drama for far too little effect.

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