The door banged closed, the jet engines began to rev up, and the steward came on the loudspeaker to announce coyly, "Welcome to American Airlines Flight 1250 to Reality." As the plane roared off the runway, over the rugged hills of St. Martin, and across those beautiful, soft turquoise Caribbean waters, I was left to ponder what news I'd missed from the land of Reality during the five days I'd fled.
I'm back in the office now, and having caught up on some reading, I can only conclude that if our popular culture is an indication, the world of Reality just couldn't get more unreal.
I'd missed Bill Maher, host of ABC's late-night "Politically Incorrect," talk about Rep. Gary Condit after Condit's interview with Connie Chung. In a very real sense there is nothing politically incorrect about Maher. He is, in fact, the very personification of what political correctness is in Hollywood. If the trigger issue of the day is scandal, particularly of the sexual kind, you can count on Maher to be dismissive of its importance, because in the morally relativistic world of Hollywood, very little can ever be "wrong" unless it's an action by man to possibly endanger a species you've never heard of. His proposed statement for our former Commander-in-Chief to make during the Lewinsky saga: "I apologize for nothing. The relationship was inappropriate, and, boy, that really made it good."
Now we have another elected official who cheated on his wife who knows how many times; who lied to the public about it; and who lied to federal investigators. One of Maher's guests that night was Charmaine Yoest of the Independent Women's Forum, who stated that "the way (Condit) has responded time after time after time has made him look horribly guilty." How can you refute a truth like that? If you're Maher, you do so thusly: "To you. To people who hate him anyway and basically hate sex, he looks awful."
The driving impetus in pop culture's Reality isn't just that all sex is good at all times, it's that every kind of sex should be present for all audiences all the time. "American Pie 2" is topping the charts. Forget the Deep Thoughts from the critics. Like its predecessor, the movie has only one theme: sex, and it's a movie aimed directly at teen audiences. It's rated R, meaning that unescorted teens aren't allowed to watch it, yet millions of teens are flocking to theaters to watch it, and no one finds anything amiss here.
Once upon a time you heard stories of aspiring young actresses forced by directors to sacrifice their morals and clothes as the price to pay to enter the movie business. In today's Reality, the roles are reversed. Britney Spears, the celebrity role model to millions of impressionable children, will be starring in the upcoming film "What Are Friends For." US magazine reports that she "kept begging the director to (let her) do a topless scene, because she wanted to show off her body."
On television it's the same. UPN, whose driving mission is to put raunch in front of children, is preparing to launch the newest "Star Trek" series. Spock need not apply. According to TV Guide, "Enterprise" will feature a male and a female character in a "sensuous near-nude decontamination scene" in which they "rub phosphorescent gel on each other's hard-to-reach spots," and one character who "titillates (another) with tales of his sexual encounters with the three-breasted women of the planet Draylax."
MTV's obnoxious "Jackass" series has come to an end, but in its last episode it went out with a typically antisocial bang. It featured a fake kidnapping of Brad Pitt -- and it was Pitt's idea -- that looked so authentic many people were calling the police. The police didn't think this was funny. LAPD spokesman John Pasquariello called the stunt "a dangerous and irresponsible act in the name of entertainment. Something terrible could happen -- what, in the name of ratings?"
That's the point. In the land of Reality everything is entertainment, and anything that gets ratings, numbers, is good. It would explain why 33-year-old Paul Morgan plans to use a guillotine to lop off his feet, paralyzed in a 1986 accident. Inside.com reports that on Halloween he will chop them off -- for you. For only $19.99 you'll be able to access the live webcast of the dismembering. The proceeds will enable him to purchase prosthetic feet, and his Web site explains that it "will enable him to walk at a normal pace and ... even (to) run."
Such is life in the land of Reality.