Speculative fiction writer Harlan Ellison, during the 1960s, coined the phrase "glass teat” for the television set. Since Ellison is still alive and working, I wonder what his take is on cable's limitless channels. Or what would be the opinion of educator and philosopher Marshall McLuhan, who said "The medium is the massage"?
At no time was this more lavishly illustrated than last Sunday, with "60 Minutes " juxtaposed against "Orange County Housewives." I am not, by any stretch of the imagination, a news show junkie, but "60 Minutes," with its venerable history and in depth reporting, is a far cry from the relentless repetition format of some networks.
Let's put it this way: people in Wilmington, Ohio, are hurting, badly and desperately, in an economic way. Houses are being foreclosed on, children are being forced to quit college, families are being forced to choose between groceries and medicine. This village of 12,000, located in the southeast quadrant of the state, is a symbol or is typical of what is happening in so many areas of our country.
In the case of Wilmington, the culprit is a company named DHL, the German corporation which swallowed the former Airborne Express shipping company in 2003. Bad business policies and a rocky mergerled to delays and broken commitments, which led to loss of customers, which impacted the hardworking people of Wilmington, to the tune of layoffs numbering, not in the hundreds, but in the thousands. In some families, not just one wagearner worked for DHL; as is often the case in small industrial towns, both husband and wife often work for the same employer.
The purpose of this column is not to criticize DHL. I haven't the expertise and the results are what matters- as one resident who lost his job said, "You can't go backwards."
Rather, I am struck by the contrast between the real life problems of the middle class and working class folks in Wilmington, and the shallow, vapid world portrayed in "Orange County Housewives."
The most crucial choice facing these women is whether they should wear the black or the burgundy to a cocktail party, which boat they will choose to party on, and how they will find something with which to fill yet another pointless, wasted day.
It really is "airsick bag TV" at its worst.
It's not that I don't feel for these women, and their very meaningless problems. It is just that, as my dad used to say when we would whine and expect sympathy, " I feel for you but I just can't seem to reach you."
I have an idea. Remember the other pointless reality show, "Wife Swap", now reincarnated on CMTV? How about we take the pampered polystyrene princesses from Orange County, and swap them with the formerly middle class folks from Wilmington, who are currently trying to figure out how to pay their property taxes, keep the mortgage, and buy groceries, all the while searching for another job to replace the pretty good ones they had?
Clyde Davis is pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Portales and a college instructor. He can be contacted at: