Monday, August 23, 2010

American Idle

Get it? "Change" ?
I just had an idea for a new reality contest show.

I'm at my usual Brand-Name-on-Request Coffee Shop this morning when I notice a gigantic SUV pull into the parking lot. The thing is so massive that it has to sprawl diagonally across two spaces, and even then its back end is thrusting way out into the lane behind it, making it difficult for other cars to get around. The thing is festooned with American flag decals and bumper stickers, some of which read "I'll keep my money and my guns & you can keep the CHANGE" or "Pray for Obama | Psalm 109" (I'm able to check this particular scripture on an app on my iDevice and find that 109 is a ranty prayer for God to kill the entire family and descendants of descendants of someone who had evidently dissed the author--King David, presumably). The Bible is such a useful resource for hate-speech.

So, having observed the obnoxious Land Deathstar take up most of the available remaining space of the parking lot,  I can't wait to see what cloaked fiend emerges from the cockpit.

But when he comes out I'm disappointed at how predictable and pedestrian he is; no Stygian black cape, no Mexican wrestler mask, no claw for a left hand. He's just a 50ish white man, looking to be in about in his third trimester of pregnancy, polo shirt tenting his belly and providing an awning over his white tennis shorts and skinny legs. And, of course, those regulation white tube socks and sandals.

But then comes the connoisseur's touch of true assholery. It's not the white socks and sandals that make one  an everyday villain, it's the gestures. As Captain Psalm 109 slams the car door to walk into the coffee shop, he leaves his engine running! Why? To keep the air conditioning on so the cabin stays cool on such a hot day? Excellent touch. Once inside he lingers for at least ten minutes, chatting with his coven of fellow roly-poly Tea Partiers, apparently heedless that his vehicle is idling away in the parking lot the whole time, carbon monoxide filling the air, burning about a gallon of precious Terrorist-Supporting-Regime-Brand fossil fuels a minute. It's like a live-action rendition of that animated movie, Despicable Me. Only that character gave into common decency to turn off his engine when he parked. Not Captain 109.

I'm not exaggerating or making any of this up. Really.

But here's what sparked this idea of a reality contest show about everyday villains. In the current generation of such shows, the contestants all have some degree of baroqueness; either too fat, too shallow, too obnoxious, too dumb, too spikey, too clueless--anything that furthers the Freak Show theme of American broadcast entertainment. The key thing about all of them is that each of these contestants seems to be in on the fact that he or she is grotesque and goes as far as he or she can to exaggerate that effect. That's what draws the ratings. Snooki isn't popular because she's nice and wholesome. She's popular because she's a cartoon villain come to life.

So why not a reality contest show about villainy? Not the epic villainy resulting in genocide and terrorism, but the common, ordinary, household variety resulting in nothing more sinister than pugnacious people taking up two parking places and leaving their engines running while they just run in to buy a few things; they won't be a second. It could be called (to extend a franchise) America's Got Dick, or So You Think You Can Get Away With That?  or Oh, No You Didin'! or The Biggest Loser (...wait...that might be already taken).

And the show wouldn't just have to focus on right-wing villains. I would want to be completely ecumenical here. Last week I saw a left-wing equivalent to Captain 109 ordering coffee in the same Big-Name-Brand Coffee Shop. He was a ropey ginger who rode up on his bike; baggy painter pants; Boy-Scout-surplus backpack; industrial-sized gauges in his herniated earlobes; sparse orange chin hairs (about 16 total, held together with a bead); wall-to-wall freckles; and a red pony tail made from some sort of dreadlocked substance (orangutan fur, maybe?) that came down to mid-calf, suspended not from the back of his head (that would be far too conventional) but from the side--a nice touch of extra irritation. This was all topped by a red-green-black-yellow knit hat thing that hung town the back of his head like a snood.

But wait, there's more.

So, in his own lefty expression of everyday villainy, Mr. Ginger did the personal-space equivalent of taking up two parking spaces with his SUV by sort of just kind of, you know, spre-e-e-ading out in front of the condiments stand to prep his soy-pumpkin-latte. It wasn't exactly that he was deliberately blocking other people from accessing  the half-n-half, but how he just took up about 11.7 square feet of space at a critical choke point. And what our Rasta-ginger took up in space, he took up equally in time, making Einstein proud. How long does it take to dispense honey in a cup of coffee and stir it until it's dissolved completely? Let's see...

It made me think of the way some grocery store customers always manage to park their carts across the entrance to an aisle while they reconnoiter ahead, or, worse,  stop smack next to another parked cart midway down an aisle so you can't get by without "aheming" them. Everyday villains are everywhere, every day. They're all around us, looking for opportunities to piss us off, trying to recruit us into doing villainous acts ourselves in retaliation, and so increase their numbers.

So these contestants, from all political and religious persuasions, could square off against each other, trying to impress a panel of expert judges. Dick Cheney's not busy, or Michael Moore, or Tiger Woods, or Mel Gibson. And, hell, whatever happened to Ann Coulter?

Wouldn't that be a great show?

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