Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Strip Club

The other day I happened to catch a new (in India) reality show called the Moment of Truth. And yet again, I was amazed at how people are willingly to ruthlessly sacrifice everything - their self respect, relationships, dignity in the quest of big bucks.

To give a brief background, the contestant is strapped to a polygraph and asked a series of personal question in escalating order of repercussions ( from a relatively innocuous quirks to potentially life altering ones), for increasing sums of money. The polygraph evaluates whether the person has responded truthfully and accordingly he/she can progress to the next level.

And here is the beauty of it, even if the contestant has won x-amount of money, it can be wiped away at the blink of an eye if a false answer is detected by the polygraph. So essentially one is not only gambling the deepest, murkiest aspects of one's life for money, sometimes one is risking it for nothing at all. Not to mention any future monetary implications (a physical trainer being asked whether he had “touched his female clients more than strictly necessary” –heck, who is going to get trained by him after that?)

To give a flavour of the kind of stuff we are talking about, the episode I watched, One man was asked questions in this vein "Have you done anything after marriage which might make your wife stop trusting you anymore - if she knew about it" and the even more brutal, " Is it true that you have delayed having kids so far because you’re not sure whether your wife is going to be your life partner for the long haul" and the wife who had come in looking all bubbly and ebullient, well you could see her face transforming and wilting and getting that tightly controlled, wounded look of hurt and mortification and yes,the humiliation.

Which brings me to the million dollar question, how much are these, the non tangible, aspects of your life worth anyways? For how much money, is one willing to potentially incurably damage your relationships, one’s position in the social circle? Is there a price one can put on a bond one has with siblings, with parents, with kids? Is there a value one can put on peace of mind? What is the 'market rate' for self esteem?

One could argue that if a relationship or a position is based on a foundation of lies and half truths, it is not real at all, and is bound to burst sooner or later. Perhaps that is true.

But let’s face it, in most cases; what are thoughts cannot be necessarily called “truths” - whether it’s a fairly harmless passing attraction to a hot colleague, or a thought in the tune of I-should-have-married-my-old-fiancĂ© or even a I-had-to-give-up-a-flourishing-career-because-I-had-a-kid. Most of the times they are just that. Random thoughts which cross the mind in a moment of pique, or anxiety, or worry, or frustration. Most of the time its just confusion. And even assuming they ARE inalterable realities, and often, hurtful realities, how right is it to expose them in such a contrived situation for the world to watch?

I used to wonder, if I ever watched an Oprah-type show, that this particular brand of voyeurism was the effect of a capitalistic society – where the value one placed on money was higher than the price on placed on honour. I used to think that the older cultures, the respect and standing was desperately held on to even after the monies were long gone ( which was that Hindi short story one studied in school – “Parda”?) Not any more. After the gamut of reality shows where it’s fashionable to let “all hang” literally and figuratively and self respect can pretty much go out of the window.

I can’t make up my mind whether it’s myopia which drives these people or is it a completely different set of priorities. If it is the latter, than how does one establish a price for it? “For X money, I am willing to stake my marriage, for Y money, I will sacrifice my kids love and respect... “

Hmm. Maybe I am just old fashioned.

29 comments:

Nandini Vishwanath said...

Ya, I know it sucks. In fact, there is a show here in the US where paternity is decided. It has these young (almost teen) women coming in and ranting. And then these men come and then there is a whole DNA story. Its crazy. I felt nauseated when I watched the show.

And all this for money. Sigh. I guess most of us are old-fashioned that way, Cyn.

Amey said...

Oh, after the show where destitute people tell their sob stories, and one of them gets money, I am ready for anything now.

Rada said...

Very thought-provoking post!

Money can be one of the major motivations, no doubt! But so can be the glamour of appearing on National television! Anything for that 5 seconds of fame!

Aks Kay said...

I donno if you've heard of Splitsville in MTV India, but I was revolted to see a dozen girls fighting for the attention of two guys. They'll do anything to get their attention with absolutely no dignity. If watching it gets me so disgusted, why would anyone go through it? I mean how would the money help when you've fallen in your own eyes? And the show you speak of sounds even worse and such shows are becoming the norm to generate TRP. The participants as you say are merely motivated by the money I guess. But glad to know there are others who feel the same way about such shows.

narendra shenoy said...

Beautifully argued. I agree with you 100%. I guess I'm old fashioned too.

BlueMist said...

IMO no amount of money can substitue the respect and love and dignity of a person and the relationships associated. If they call you old fashioned; guess we are then !!

but these ultra modern people are paying a very huge amount which is much larger than the money they are getting...only if they want to realise !! sigh indeed !!

sra said...

I saw the promos on TV and meant to watch the show but forgot all about it - not sure whether the voyeur in me misses it or the prude in me feels sort of virtuous about being one person less that didn't see it!
Oprah was reality enough, but this takes it to a different level, it looks like.

a million different people said...

Um, I don't know about old fashioned. But really, we're the rational ones out here.

I don't know what happened to the simpler pleasures in life. I mean, some people are clearly on TV just for those few odd minutes of notoriety - there is just no way they could make it on shows wanting at least an ounce of talent. I mean, yeah sure we all are attention whores, but we don't let all people laugh at us and tell the others that they don't want to be like us. Gawd, is setting a bad example that addictive? And as for those shows playing with emotions, as long as there are people who derive pleasure from others' misery, they will run.

Sigh.

P said...

I had same kind of thoughts after watching this show. Why would anyone want to risk their relationships like that?

My bf's hypothesis is that the couples who come to this show are already on verge of breaking up and so they say to each other "Let's see if we can make some money out of this break-up" :)

There might be some truth to it because if you watch few episodes you will notice that most couples are not very faithful types, neither do they trust each other anyways.

Sud said...

It's probably not just money, face time on national television has it's lure. Then there is the love of danger. Its probably just exciting to risk it all

Epiphany said...

I guess all this is really shocking to us but may be only mildly shocking to the target audience of the show...the amreekans! What our TV channels are doing right now is just get a show from US and put it on TV. Can you imagine a host on Indian TV asking people if they are straight or gay(not even Ms Rakhi Sawant)? That is not a scandalous question in US...I do not think there is a problem of skewed morality...it is just a different kind of morality :)

Meghna said...

oh my God. Yes, I also saw a trailor of this and was scandalized. It is just too much! I am old fashioned too alright.

Pinku said...

I dont watch television...guess u have just given me one more reason for not starting to either.

Am still digesting the implications of such a show...so really dont know what to say..

A girl fell terribly sick after a reality show where she was berated for her performance. What will a show like this do?

Soulmate said...

ye paisa bolta hai... so today people can go to any level if that brings some money and some amount of fame(?) or visibility or being observed, even if it is at the sake of your dignity, vanity, sanctity, integrity...
Sad it is...

Cynic in Wonderland said...

nandini - paternity? christ. and people watch it? they get eyeballs and whatever it is? mannn


amey - one could argue that thats been done for a while. you know the destitute mail which go around, this might not be so different.

rada - yus five seconds of fame as well. but is it worth it for them i wonder. and there must be better ways to get it isnt it?

aks - no, not seen splitsville. but you know, there the difference is they are sacrificing their own dignity. here they are putting up other people up - which they have no right to.

naren - thank you.

bluemist - yus its that myopia which i was talking about. short term gains versus long term benefits isnt that what it is at the end of the day?

Cynic in Wonderland said...

sra - yup oprah at least there is the semblence of catharasis or something - here it doesnt even have that to redeem it.

million different people - yes it is attention whoring. and you are right till such time there are voyeurs there will be a someone willing to sell themselves for it.

p - but isnt that just ONE of the relationships? what about with the rest of the family, at work all of that?

sud - you know when i was penning this post, i was actually thinking of the mahabharat - about staking draupadi in some weird way. the intoxication of the risk maybe blindsighting them. yus. maybe thats there as well.

epiphany - im not sure i agree with you. this doesnt bother me on moral grounds all that much. in the sense that you have a right to be whatever you want to be. my contention is that, here, you are degrading yourself completely and isnt there an ounce of self respect which holds you back. besides, im not sure that in the human emotions - of fidelity, trust, etc, the americans or any other nation for that matter are all that different from us.

Cynic in Wonderland said...

meghna - yes, its quite brutal

pinku - it will break relationships, get people fired, ruin a person perhaps?

soulmate - yes very much so. the people who watch it, are hurt even more. which is sadder.

manuscrypts said...

maybe, its a good exit route for people who don't want the link anymore.... but i won't judge, since i don't think I am objective enough to define an absolutism like truth..

yes, i need more sleep :D

AmitL said...

Was this an Indian show?Noo,I bet it was American..but,it's sic-to ask such personal questions,and,people answering them just for the sake of money,and,that too with a polygraph to boot,to detect wrong answers.
I definitely don't believe that money is the key to everything,hence,we should sacrifice dignity and self-respect to get it.Heaven knows,though,I know many people here in Dubai,whose motto is DGDG.(Din Gin Dirham Gin) and don't worry about their dignity being lost in the bargain.

chandni said...

interesting post...

have nbeen watching the ads for this show but haven't seen one ever...but nevertheless the ads are enough to give me goosebumps...the way the families of contestants were breaking down and screaming "stop it, no more" has given me the idea of what kinda show it is...

Well, in a society more and more driven by money, its almost like selling oneself. Putting one's life on line, one that u will go back to, long after the show is over, is too much of a rsik and not wirth it in my opinion...but then some might disagree!

Saltwater Blues said...

oi, it's all staged sweetheart! you try getting on the show and then you'll know. how much money is it exactly??

Anonymous said...

Well well well.... so ur alive n kicking lol.....how b u ole friend :D - Manu Luke

Cynic in Wonderland said...

manuscrypts - subtitles pls thank you? but im sure there are less painful ways of exit isnt it?

amit,chandni - yes, i guess it boils down to what is important for one.


swb - yes i do know that its staged in a lot of cases. but the point is why would you even wantto do a staged version of it?

Never Mind!! said...

I agree with SWB that it is staged. There used to be a similar show here in the US as well. And I was wondering what makes people appear on such shows. IMO, if you have a strong relationship with your family maybe it will not be difficult to answer those questions and continue to have a good bonding.For example, the husband and I have shared most intimate of the secrets including all the people we have had and continue to have hots for. I feel there is nothing that I can reveal on that show and jeopardize my marriage. When I have such good foundation,why should I not use it to make some extra bucks?

This is just argument sake. In reality I would die before revealing on national TV if I have touched another person inappropriately.

Paradox Philic said...

In the participants defense, all 50 questions are asked to them the day before and any 21 out of them are chosen for the show. So its not like they dont know which questions are going to be asked in the show and they have the liberty to not come on stage if they are uncomfortable answering these questions.

(Haven't read the rest of the comments, so if anyone has already mentioned it ...pardon my being repetitive on the pretext of ignorance)

P.S. - I saw that "wife-kids-not the one" episode too... It really got me thinking about the audience of the show more than the participants. I mean the show sells cos it has an audience, right? So why judge the participants when its actually the latent need of the audience to sensationalise others' lives under a spotlight, that makes shows like these happne in the first place??

Just my two cents...

Paradox Philic said...

Oh and i was referring to the firang channel show... didnt know India has copied it too (Why am i surprised when none of the reality shows that we have had can be labeled as an original concept)

I dont know if here also the participants are asked to take the polygraph test with all these 50 questions a day prior to the show. Pardon my ignorance (yet again!) for this....

Corinne Campos said...

Hi - The other night I watched television after many months (due to a variety of reasons) and was appalled at the number of 'reality' shows on our Indian channels...'reality' is a misnomer..they we so unreal and pathetic :(
C

Trinaa said...

u r not old fashioned..its just difficult to understand para-normal ppl!!

roop said...

hmm. u leave me thinking. always.