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Barry Levinson

Barry Levinson

Posted: February 10, 2010 12:18 PM

A Reality TV President: Only a Matter of Time

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It seems only a matter of time until we elect our first Reality TV President. We have been seduced by reality TV faces. We adore and idolize them. The so-called "tipping point" is coming. Over the last ten years we have had a parade of reality TV names that have captured our imagination and attention in ways that are hard to describe. Today it is Snooki. Paris Hilton had her moment, famous for her existence rather than substance. Omarosa was famous on Donald Trump's The Apprentice. Famous for being tough and mean...I think. Jon & Kate Plus 8 were famous for being a family. Many faces have graced the TV cameras and captured our attention for reasons we can't explain.

Joe the Plumber had his moment in the sun. He was famous for being an average guy who asked a question about taxes. He was then elevated to star status, referenced repeatedly in the presidential debates. He had no discernible abilities or talents, other than to ask a question. Yet his fame burned brightly until he faded out as a war correspondent during the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. For reasons unknown, he thought he could be a war correspondent, qualifications be damned. Ironically, we require nothing of reality stars as long as we connect to them. We demand nothing of them and what they say is unimportant. Whether they make sense is unimportant. Whether they are individuals with real talent or intelligence is unimportant. They exist simply because they made that magical connection between a TV camera and an audience.

The trick about this magic is that it's not a trick. It is real. We embrace reality stars without reason. And because it is a baseless adulation, no negatives can dilute our affections. Negatives that are said about Sarah Palin have no ballast. No meaningful critique can harm her. Expose her. Or for that matter, even elevate her. She has reality TV star status. Words have no relevance in our relationship to her. We don't communicate with reality TV stars, and they aren't required to communicate with us. It's the unspoken connection, an electronic embrace, it is a fragile relationship, and faulty at best.

To debate Sarah Palin's abilities and her acumen are meaningless. Words lose their currency. She's impervious to rational critiques. Nothing can be said to shake a supporter who idolizes her. It is ironic that the vacuum tube brought on the electronic age of communication. A reality TV star lives in some strange vacuum. A shield that seemingly protects them from any rational discourse. Nothing can be said that rivals their TV glow. They burn brightly, and their light fascinates and captivates. And oddly enough, just as you can't explain their sudden rise to fame, you can't explain their fade into oblivion. And when we are asked why we cared, we can't remember. To a reality TV star, their only enemy is time.