Way over here on the distant end of the human continuum, where the devil and the apocalypse copulate in a bed of blood, pathos and perky TV ratings, where everyone needs a hug and a shot of whisky to numb the savage karmic pain of merely being alive, we have a new reality show called, apparently, Bridalplasty.
Can you guess? It's where brides-to-be compete in "wedding-themed" challenges, and the winner gets -- you guessed it -- extensive plastic surgery to, presumably, make her look tolerable on her Very Special Day™ and less like a walking slab of abject sadness willing to humiliate herself, her family and her fiancé on national television at the expense of her lost and bewildered soul. Coming soon to E! And no, I am not making this up.
I rarely turn on my TV anymore, and when I do I'm always equally stunned and impressed by the new and flagrantly repellant slew of reality shows on the air. They seem to emerge like bipolar trolls, like bewildered phantasms, little whack-a-mole cancers that pop up only to be beaten down again by their own insidious self-flagellating idiocy. Delightful!
But if there's one overarching theme, one denominator common to all shows across the slushpile of televised reality, from Real Housewives to Jersey Shore, Hell's Kitchen to, uh, Teen Mom, it's this: Extremism rules. The further out an idea goes, the weirder and more disturbing, death-defying, humiliating, repulsive, angry, trashy, loud, confrontational, shameful, shrill or depressing, the better the odds you'll see a show about it. Bridalplasty is par for a very, very bizarre cultural course that started somewhere back on MTV's first drunken Real World and will end somewhere humid and pustulous, where no light escapes.
But this is the fascinating thing: It ain't just TV. It ain't just pop culture. It never really is.
Have you noticed? The amazing parallels? The sameness of extremism and pain across the national sweep? The need to push the very edges of life and experience, belief and idiocy, just to make an impact, to be heard, just to feel that you're still alive? Verily, it's everywhere.
Look here. The GOP, once a relatively sane and stable political platform, with solid -- if wildly uptight -- principles, now wallowing in the shallow end of the moral and intellectual pool for its basic survival.
The Republican Party is now, by its own design, wholly dependent upon extremist nutcases like Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, et al, for meaning and purpose. The Democrats may be many things -- mushy, whiny, infuriatingly unable to articulate a cohesive message -- but at least they aren't beholden to the mental detritus of the culture, people with more barely hidden psychoemotional disorders than shoes.
People like, well, cutesy little Republican Christine O'Donnell, who just won an election in Delaware. The amazing thing about O'Donnell? She's markedly more ridiculous than Sarah "Queen of Duh" Palin, by at least a factor of three, a nutball wrapped in an anti-masturbation kookpocket with the brainpower of a rusty pink electric razor....
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Mark Morford is the author of The Daring Spectacle: Adventures in Deviant Journalism, a mega-collection of his finest columns for the SF Chronicle and SFGate. Get it at daringspectacle.com or Amazon. He recently wrote about the world's most perfect product, the wonderful hoax that is global warming, and the dark, magnificent horror of the BP spill. His website is markmorford.com. Join him on Facebook, or email him. Not to mention...