The Amazing Race kicked off its All-Star season this week and the new season of Survivor is just around the corner. These are two reality shows I watch with a fair bit of regularity, primarily because I enjoy watching people do things rather than watch people acting like just-released convicts that won some sort of meth lottery. Although I must admit Survivor does have its fair share of devious behaviour, for the most part this is done in context, and is the “outwit” part of the game. The best part of The Amazing Race is almost always the challenges the contestants have to compete in and then playing along at home a game of “who among us would do what challenge and how would we stack up against the contestants?” That, and the way Phil pronounces Spa.
But what has marred my experience as of late is the amount of crying that goes on. I’m not talking about complaining; I mean the literal crying, you know, with tears, hitched voice, a bit of snot. That crying. The segment has now become a hackneyed slogan, a lazy form of communication that has become a stand-in for the person’s humanity. The same few, tired, phrases are used:
- My family/children/wife/husband (or any combination of such) are EVERYTHING to me.
- I’m doing this for my father/mother/children/my three legged diabetic dog with Tourette’s (huh? I guess he barks in church?).
- I want to show everyone out there that people with diabetes/leprosy/polio/black death/ a hang nail/a bad perm/an overbite/a blackberry phone/shingles/small pox can do THINGS.
I’m sure there are plenty I’m forgetting but these are the ones most commonly used. After each of these statements is made the water works kick in. Sometimes the wailing and gnashing of teeth is just too much. Jesus, we get that you love your family, and, no, I’m sure the doctor did not tell you, after being diagnosed with mild eczema, that you would never be able to do anything ever again (this kind of hyperbole must drive drs. crazy). It would be refreshing to have a contestant turn to the camera and say “I love my family, but man, they sure can get on my nerves. I’m out here busting my ass, I’m tired, hungry, and filthy, but, damn, the break from my three screaming whelps is sure nice.” Or even an “I’m doing this for me. I want the money. I want fluffier towels, nicer sheets, get my teeth fixed, or maybe travel, or just have all that security sit in a bank. But whatever I use the money for it will be all on ME. My goddamn kids can make their own way in the world.” That’s the kind of statement that might make me really root for that contestant.
You are on a game show in the wealthiest country in the world competing for, by the standard of any other countries except the Vatican, a massive amount of money. You do not really have any kind of sacrifice or hardship to cry over. Being separated from your loved ones for a very short period of time is not a hardship. And if you are healthy enough to compete in either The Amazing Race or Survivor you are obviously not in any immediate physical peril.
Has this become more prevalent recently or has this always been a trope of these shows and I wasn’t paying attention?
Are contestants performing almost ritual behavior that is a copy of a copy of how they think contestants should behave? and thus act as an echo chamber of blubbering?
Am I in the minority having concerns over what I feel is an attempt to be emotionally manipulated?
To end on a positive note, I am happy that the Twinnies have been eliminated after the first leg of The Amazing Race. Though I did find them funny at times I’m not sure how many weeks I could stand of these two jabbering “Twinny! Twinny! Twinny!” like a pair of hyperactive magpies.