Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Reality TV Bites

Anyone else catch Wife Swap tonight?

For those of you whose finger is not on the pulse of popular TV culture, Wife Swap is a so-called reality TV show where two families -- chosen for representing polar opposites of various worldviews -- swap wives for a couple of weeks. For the first week, the visiting wife must follow the lifestyle of the host family. For the second week, she gets to call the household shots.

We very occasionally watch snippets of this show at our house if we're idly channel surfing.

This week the two families represented two ends of the Christian continuum. One family was Lutheran of the progressive variety; the mother was a business executive and the dad was a theologian/househusband. The other family was ueberfundamentalist; I don't know what the father did for a living, but he was adamant that he was the breadwinner, and that his wife was to stay at home and raise the children; moreover, his daughters were not to aspire to higher education or a career other than that of wife and mother, and were to limit their future dreams to praying for a suitable husband.

Obviously cultures collided in a dramatic way during this episode, as they always do. But this show lacked the silliness quotient of most Wife Swap episodes; it was just sad, and scary. And the fundamentalist father was not only crazier than a fruit bat, but bullying -- in a way that would compel me, if I were a neighbor, to contact Child Protective Services. In one especially heartbreaking subtext within the episode, the youngest fundamentalist girl expressed a strong wish to her feminist pretend-mom that she wanted to study medicine and become a doctor when she grew up, but was afraid to tell her parents because they'd disapprove.
After Crazy Fundie Father found out about this, he whisked the younger children out of the home, away from the influence of Evil Lutheran Mom. When the younger girl returned, I -- and this is just intuition on my part -- felt that Something Very Bad happened to her, off-camera, with her father; she looked like a whipped puppy, and was mnindlessly repeating the submissive-female propaganda of her parents. The sparkle in her eyes that had been there when she described her dreams of becoming a doctor had disappeared.

My reaction to Crazy Fundie Father, upon seeing this: **** you, you ******* *******, combined with a strong desire to reach through the TV screen and teach him, with extreme prejudice, to pick on someone his own size. I cannot describe how angry this abusive, disgusting creep made me.

I was also made sick to puke by the fundamentalist family's obsession with "cheerful service" -- no negativity or even neutrality allowed regarding doing family chores, but rather forced cheerfulness. Considering that I'm on deck to preach this coming Sunday, and my assignment -- we're going off the lectionary this Lent -- is to preach on "servant leadership" -- now I'm going to have to work through this image of mindless Stepford Christians whistling while they work, or else. Dear God, please Lysol my mind of this image.

Usually during the last segments of Wife Swap there is obligatory Hugging and Learning. Not this time.

This is what happens when I stray from the Food Network and the Travel Channel. Where's Anthony Bourdain when you really need him?


P.S. an after-thought said...

Wow, I would have puked too. I was at church for Lent, actually giving the presentation on Matthew 25 with a power point, my first.

But it does make you wonder why somebody would invite a camera into their home. Obviously, the people have to feel somewhat self-righteous about their own choices to do that.

Please tell about the other wife/husband mix-up duo.

Anonymous said...

While I share your horror and revulsion, and would want to save your congregation some of the more pornographic (because it IS pornography) aspects of this train wreck, perhaps you don't want to be too quick to purge your mind of the image. It seems to me that their twisted notions of "cheerful service" are not entirely restricted (albeit more intensely enforced) to the uberfundie brigade. The extremity of their psychosis might help to provide the contrast needed in your sermon as you assist the congregation in setting aside some of our wrong assumptions about servant leadership, in order to teach a more biblical and grace-filled perspective.


Tom in Ontario said...

I was just about to say what anonymous-Verdugo said. What you saw can help you with your sermon. Part of it can be about what Christian Service is not.

I blogged this week about crappy TV myself. It's sad what's on these days and it's been going on so long that you can't blame it on a writers' strike.

cheesehead said...

I was appropriately horrified by this until I got to your line about Anthony Bourdain. Then I must sheepishly admit that I giggled.

Tony Bourdain is mine and the WonderGirls' favorite TV Bad A** by a mile.

Diane said...

I had not heard of this show (where am I?) and was appalled. It sounds like they intend it usually to be silly, but found something truly horrible. But who will help this young girl?

LutheranChik said...

I'd hope that someone involved in this program would call Child Protective Services.

LutheranChik said... far as the other couple (re P.S.'s question): Lutheran wife was a pretty right-on, straight-shootin' woman; my only issue with her was her idea to send the fundie girls to a speed dating event...I mean, Duh?. Her husband, the professional theologian, seemed immature and insecure; very flip regarding faith stuff, and condescending toward his "swap wife." But their flaws were within the normal range; they weren't pathological like Crazy Fundie Father.

LutheranChik said...

I visited the ABC message boards, and found myself deeply depressed over the number of people who felt that the fundie family were just swell. What the hell?

God save me from the Christians. They're nuts.