How much reality is too much reality? If you watch enough television these days, it’s hard to avoid lewd behavior, foul mouths and narrow-mindedness.
How much reality is too much reality? If you watch enough television these days, it’s hard to avoid lewd behavior, foul mouths and narrow-mindedness. But it’s the insensitive comments of various reality-TV contestants — epithets usually directed at one another — that keep us glued to the glaring beacon of a microscopic world turning us into voyeurs.
Most of the comments home in on certain physical characteristics, quirky mannerisms or even sexual proclivities of specific contestants as the competition heats up. But one reality TV series, “Big Brother” on CBS, recently stepped over the line when it aired the views of a contestant named Adam who branded a whole group of people — those with developmental disabilities — as “retards.”
The network was besieged with advocates for people with autism, demanding an apology. CBS pointed out with alacrity that Adam’s offensive comment was quickly countered by another contestant, Sheila, who registered “shock and indignation” at his most insensitive view.
But would the network have allowed a contestant to use a racial slur on the air? Would it have let a hurtful ethnic epithet pass by, or a damaging religious characterization?
I doubt it. The network would have taken too much grief.
But grief is exactly what it’s getting from parents who have realized the new sexism, the new racism, is, for lack of a better word, intelligencism — the notion higher IQ people are entitled to lord it over the less intelligent.
In a way, intelligencism has been going on since time immemorial, as have sexism and racism, but the difference is intelligencism is honored every day by our economic system and its tendency to reward brainy people with higher salaries and punish the less intelligent with lower-paying, menial work. Racism and sexism were destined to fail in a capitalistic system that requires maximum efficiency, whereas intelligencism has a certain inexorable momentum — an Ayn Rand-like logic.
The force working against intelligencism now is the horrible tide of autism that has taken over in this country during the past generation. While autism once affected one out of every 500 people to 600 people, it is now estimated to be diagnosed in one out of every 125 people born today.
No one has isolated the cause of the autism tidal wave — some blame environmental changes, others drug use among parents and still others cite (wrongly, according to researchers) childhood immunizations — but the neurological condition has affected children across all classes, races and ethnicities, leading intelligent parents to realize “there but for the grace of God go my children.”
Autism is a roll of the dice, and parents such as I, with a child in the autistic spectrum, know how hard these children struggle every day to overcome their disabilities. So parents get their backs up when an idiot on TV brands autistic children as “retards.”
The comment was uninformed — a lot of these children do very well on IQ tests; it’s their social skills that usually prove their undoing. But beyond that, it was mean; who needs to belittle a group that will, despite individuals’ very best struggles, likely end up at the bottom of the socioeconomic totem pole?
Let’s hope CBS gets a dose of reality and stops playing dumb when the next “retard” joke starts flying around. “Big Brother,” we’re watching you.