Our soap opera culture

Burt Prelutsky
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Posted: Jul 28, 2006 12:01 AM
Our soap opera culture

How, I wonder, did it come to pass that we’ve become a tabloid society? I’m not just referring to those junky scandal sheets they peddle at supermarket checkout stands. They’re just a small part of it, the tip of a sleazy iceberg. In the wake of Rep. Patrick Kennedy’s traffic accident, I was reminded once again what a glutton for soap opera melodramas we’ve become.

Kennedy, who has a long record of problems with alcohol and cocaine, fesses up to the fact that he was stoned out of his skull when he got behind the wheel of his car, and we’re all supposed to award him Brownie points for his honesty. The fact that he’s going back to the Mayo Clinic for a second round of rehab is supposed to provide an inspiration for all the other addicts.

What I’d like to see from Kennedy is his long-overdue resignation from the House of Representatives. The man is unable to control his addictions; suffers, he claims, from depression; and doesn’t surrender his car and his driver’s license even though he admits he can’t even recall the accident. Clearly, it was only a miracle that he didn’t kill anyone. How does such a person consider himself qualified to vote on taxes, defense budgets and, oh yes, the war on drugs? And how hard up must the voters of Rhode Island be that they keep electing this idiot? I know it’s a small state, but it can’t be that small!

I realize that I’m not speaking for the rest of you, but I am sick and tired of the rich and famous going on TV to broadcast their sins and shortcomings while the studio audience gives them standing ovations for having the courage to go public. I save my applause for people who quietly go about trying to fix what they, themselves, broke in the first place, people who refrain from turning bellyaching into an art form.

In the recent past, ex-basketball player Charles Barkley and professional golfer John Daly have been playing a bizarre version of Can You Top This?, boasting about the huge sums of money they’ve gambled away. Why that should be of interest to anybody who doesn’t own a casino is beyond me. But even I, who doesn’t watch very much TV and who never turns on the tube during daylight hours unless the Yankees are playing, have not been able to avoid seeing these two shmoes vie for the Schmuck of the Year award.

Perhaps it’s just that I’m stone-hearted, but I don’t like to see people indulging in gross displays of self pity. If you insist on bragging, please make me envious, not nauseous.

And what is it about TV that makes viewers at home think they’re the near-and-dear of those who appear on it? For instance, I was always a fan of Michael J. Fox. I thought he was a swell actor, and I was sorry to hear he was ill. But why should Americans in general, none of whom have ever met the man, be more concerned with stamping out Parkinson’s than Alzheimer’s or Sickle Cell or leukemia just because the fellow who played Alex Keaton suffers from the one and not from the others?

Speaking of TV personalities, I must confess I’ve never seen Katie Couric. I have heard her described as perky and bubbly, even effervescent, as if she were actually carbonated. As you may have guessed, anybody who can be that way early in the morning is nobody I want to be around. However, I don’t care how much they pay her to be a news anchor; it’s not my money. Furthermore, I don’t know why anybody watches the news on the three major networks. In the course of a 30-minute broadcast, after all, half the time is spent selling detergent, cars and denture crème, and the other half is spent pitching the liberal agenda.

My problem is that when my new book comes out in September, I’ll want to go on Oprah’s show to plug it. But, for the life of me, I don’t know what we’d talk about. I’m not on drugs, I’m not gay, I’m not a member of a cult, I’m not a plagiarizer, I’m not going with Angelina Jolie and, despite rumors to the contrary, I’m not having Tom Cruise’s baby!