So I caught the tail end of an Extreme Makeover during Thanksgiving break. I don't usually catch the tail end of anything as I don't own a TV, but over the Holidays I watched a bit. In any case, I hadn't seen an episode of this show since its early days, and what really surprised me was the house they built for this poor family. It was huge, beautiful, lavish. It was, essentially, the exact sort of house we should not be encouraging people with modest means to want. It struck me as culturally just another way to create envy. We watch this show and think, well I'm struggling, when is somebody going to come along and build me that mansion?
What the show should be doing is teaching viewers ways that they can achieve home ownership for themselves; teach viewers how to build energy efficient, green domiciles; and preach the message of modesty rather than luxury.
A few decades ago houses were smaller. They were more basic. In the decades that lead to the present day, we had an opportunity as a people to make those houses better, more efficient, cheaper, etc. Instead we threw those houses out and started building gargantuan, hard-to-heat, hard-to-clean castles.
I watched this down-on-their-luck family getting so excited over this house and thought: "Well, how are they going to afford the property tax? The utilities? How will their peers treat them now?"
But more importantly, why is this show doing this at all? Do they think that each episode needs to trump the last? I imagine so.
Well how about this then? How about lose the entire "home" thing and move into public works? Go rebuild schools or medical centers. Go work on communities. Be realistic. Don't push this Hollywood, uber-capitalist fantasy on to your viewers like every other show out there. This is a show that's trying to help people, right? To do good?
So do good. Quit adding to the misery by promulgating this nonsensical dream. I mean, how many shows have this sort of opportunity to actually do good? It's a shame it's been so squandered.
Speaking of role-models, I just had to include this picture of environmentalist Al Gore's house. Lest it be forgotten, it's incumbent upon Americans to know that actually having a mansion leaves a lower carbon footprint than having a small home of modest means--but only if you purchase some of Al Gore's carbon credits. Also, said carbon credits will purge you of your immortal sins and allow for a place in the rather cool and pleasant heaven--not in Hell, which has suffered many epochs worth of global warming...
I don't mean to be especially hard on Al Gore here, but he fits right in with the Extreme Makeover people. They're both in a position to lead by example. Al Gore preaches, but he most certainly does not live his gospel.
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