J'accuse Joe Millionaire!


Newsweek's resident genius cum noodge, Anna Quindlen, is at it again. First, it was bad enough that newly liberated Afghans wanted Beatle haircuts and their MTV more than audio versions of Blessings and How Reading Changed My Life.

Now U.S. couch potatoes–on the eve of war!–are sacked out in front of immoral Reality TV shows. Shouldn't we be doing calisthenics, or at least watching Charlie Rose?

Writes La Quindlen:

The Arab world could be forgiven for thinking that what?s on the tube today forecasts the end of a culture as surely as the orgies of ancient Rome or the self-indulgence of the last dauphins did. But at least the French left behind some really great furniture. Can it be that one of the legacies of the most dominant nation on earth will be the execrable ?Are You Hot??

Dancing on the rim of the volcano: there?s no doubt about it. Only people who are really numb, or want to be, could stomach stuff so tawdry and stupid.

Brave words, especially coming from someone who pens "The Last Word" col in a publication that in the very same issue devotes precious column inches to a hard-hitting expose of Irish Kerry blue terriers (?They?re leprechauns in fur coats,? reveals one dog trainer) and the 10,000th Q&A with Gong Show auteur Chuck Barris ("They?ve asked me everything already. There isn?t anything else that I want to make clear").

If Quindlen is really worried about self-indulgent legacies, maybe she should look at her own writing. Rather than seeking to understand the different terms upon which viewers actually consume popular culture, she simply dismisses the mass audience as benighted at best, cretinous at worst. At least Joe Millionaire had a couple of twists thrown in to keep us guessing.

NEXT: Congestion Tax Nabs Thousands

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  1. The dogs that win those shows are inevitably FREAKS – usually they look like balls of lint or mops or yip-yip wigs who grew legs and came to life. Why? I don’t know. I’ll take a mutt over those inbred things.

    Random thoughts:

    1) If she thinks “Reality” TV is really all that decadent, she doesn’t have much experience with decadence, I’d say. . .

    2) Like you say, for the 1000th time, people are not passive receptacles for culture. They start remixing it the moment they get their hands on it.

    3) Pop culture is freedom. Freedom allows a lot of silly, stupid playfulness. If you don’t like pop you don’t like freedom. That’s why the mad mullahs and assorted weirdbeards don’t like pop culture.

  2. The reality TV shows really are horrid … I’ll take the dogs anyday. Not sure they NEED “hard hitting exposes” however …

  3. I suppose Quindlen was expecting that the newly liberated Afghans should trade in their Toyota pick-ups for Volvos, quaff spring water (zinfandel would violate the Koran) and brie, and listen to NPR while the women trade in their burkas for dungarees.

    How dare they misuse their freedom.

  4. Dan,

    That was one of the funniest posts I have ever read.

    I watched all the episodes of Joe Millionare and felt like I needed a bath after everyone. Porn is more intellectually honest than reality tv.

    Sean, I think your right Fox must have used some for mind control to get me to watch. The shows are like crack or a train wreck, you just can’t quite look away.


  5. If reality TV actually had massive orgies and swordfights, or maybe fed Pat Robertson to a lion… hell, I’d watch. I might even buy a Tivo.

    Western culture is like an arch — its strength comes from the fact that it’s in a constant state of mid-collapse. We’ve been in “decline” since the Renaissance, but things somehow just keep getting better.

    Also, anyone bitching about Reality TV has obviously suppressed the 1980s, when “The Dukes of Hazzard”, “Love Boat”, and “Dallas” were Must See TV. 🙂

  6. Freedom is wasted on the Free.

  7. Doesn’t Anna know it takes years (generations maybe) of existing in a free society before individuals can develop the intellectual snobbery (and the teensiest bit of self hatred) that made it possible for her to write her column?

    “Why don’t the savages choose poetry?” It might as well be the title of her next book.

  8. Regarding etymology of “snob”: very questionable. See http://www.word-detective.com/091400.html

  9. I’m still trying to figure out why I watched the final episode of Joe Millionaire. I’m guessing Fox used some new subliminal hypnotism technology.

  10. Yuck. She is a snob. Only people who are really gluttons for punishment, or want to be, could stomach stuff so tawdry and stupid. Give me reality television over pretentious bores like that any day.

    BTW, I think “Are You Hot?” is the perfect reality show because it’s just as simple as it gets. No games, no talent shows, no subterfuge. Just show what you got! Gotta love that. Even though they stole the concept from Howard Stern, right down to Lorenzo Lamas’s laser pointer…

  11. Quindlen has always considered herself to be above the fray. A little hoidy-toidy, “I’m better than you are, because I’m better than you are” snobbishness (if that’s a word). You’re giving her WAY too much importance here.

  12. mmmmm SLURP GULP!

  13. We stupid, lazy, uncultured Americans have managed to become the single most powerful nation on earth, both economically and militarily. We may have crappy tv programming, but we did put a man or two on the moon. From what I can tell, Ms. Quindlen would be more than happy if we read crap, instead of just watching it.

  14. kerry blue terriers aren’t freaks.

    i had one for 15 years — she was gentle, a little dumb, but not small like a scotch terrier or a “fish called wanda” dog. but the Kerry Blue’s poof doo really brought back some 80s “hair farm” nostalgia! and, “best in show” was much more exciting.

    remember that survivor was of swedish invention, inspried by “the real world”. and danish tv had a show called “the girls of the stripper king” so, that genre comes from europe. if anna knew that, she’d be a fan. of course, she probably calls U2 “alternative music” and other crap like that.


  15. what incredibly ugly dogs!

  16. For those interested in the original article, it can found here:


  17. Speaking of snobs, the phase derives from the French “sans nobilis”, without nobility. Back in the 18th century or so, the French goverment started selling titles to wealthy merchants and others of the newly rising bourgeois in order to raise money. The ‘traditional’ inbred crowd were upset about this development, and insisted that the newly titled always follow their title up with ‘sans nobilis’, usually abbreviated as s. nob.
    Hence the original ‘snobs’ were folks who displayed a faux hautiness that was ‘undeserved’ because of their true ‘station’ in life. Truly, Americans are the biggest ‘snobs’ of them all because we freely grant that it is every person’s right to rise to whatever station they are capable of. Funny how meanings change over time, since we now tend to associate it with the types of people who originally invented the word.

  18. I haven’t watched “Are You Hot”, but at least they’re pretty clear on what the show is about. No pretense, no bullshit, it’s strictly about hot bods. nobody cares about what’s upstairs, just the staircase. As one of those who has it upstairs, but the staircase is shot, I applaud thier cadidness.

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