(just stuff I happen to be thinking about)

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Unreal America

Governor Palin talks about "real America" as if there were some other place. This has bothered some people, and, while I would not want to overthink her position and she might have meant it exactly as it sounds, it has led me to think about "unreal America".

Unreal America is the America of Seinfeld, Friends, and Sex and the City, and if those who are not from New York begin to conflate unreal America with New York or big cities in general it could be because this is where all these shows were set. These shows were good shows, well-written, well-acted. They would not have been so popular otherwise. Yet they were a progression of anti-morality. More than anything, these shows spread a message that normal people derive most of their happiness from a continuous stream of meaningless sex. Something that is only true in unreal America.

From the early 90's to the first part of this millennium the morality of unreal America has been moving at an astounding rate. Imagine some of the shows that worked so well for Seinfeld having been in Sex and the City. They would have been meaningless. The show about homosexuality where the catchphrase was "not that there's anything wrong with it" would have been senseless on Sex and the City where this fact had been clearly established.

Slowly, the anti-morality of such shows has pushed and pushed until the whole consciousness of the world has been moved a little further toward the desired outcome. When will television have gone too far? Never. There will always be an audience of some to enjoy that which the many are not yet ready for. Then, when a great cast and good writers come together, the many will begin to watch what they are not ready for, perhaps even rejecting the premise while enjoying the show.

Perhaps people always knew that to live like Jerry and Elaine or Rachel and Monica or Carrie and Samantha is to live a broken life, unhappiness ending in depression, but the shows were funny, and what problems could not be resolved in one episode just left the country anxiously waiting for next week. And this is unreal America, because in real America people try to imitate the shows and achieve different results. These shows should have carried the Mythbuster's warning beforehand about trying any of this at home.

When Governor Palin talks about "real America" perhaps she means the place where traditional morality still holds sway and people love their country because it is their country, but real America is more complex than that. Real America is a place that has almost completely subsumed the morality of unreal America, yet lives with the consequences. Real America is a conflicted place, because what we here in real America know to be the "real truth", as opposed to what we learned in Sunday school, the "real truth", as received from unreal America, is constantly contradicted by reality, leading some to seek a new reality, others to seek a new truth.

Real America is right there in Northern Virginia, but it is also just as present in New York City. Real America can be found in nearly every place in this country but not on TV. Real America is no utopia of upstanding citizens, just a place where people suffer the consequences of their own actions, something rarely seen in unreal America.

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