Emily Timbol

Fiction Author. Good at making stuff up.

Let’s Play a Game


I love game shows. It used to be my dream to be on Jeopardy, and I still get more excited when I clear an entire category watching the show than I do at friends weddings (sorry.) But I recently saw an advertisement for a game show so horrifying that I immediately wrote down the title so I could work out my disgust in writing (aren’t you lucky.)

“This” is Downfall, and it’s an ABC game show that was supposed to premiere two nights ago (I didn’t watch.) I’m sure you’re thinking that in today’s day and age, to be truly offensive this show has to involve graphic nudity, sex, and rampant drug use, either by teenagers or kittens. Something so immoral, and disgusting, that Jerry Falwell and Focus on the Family might take a few minutes off of hating gay people to boycott it. Which raises a question, why is it that sex is so much more stigmatized than any other “immorality?” I’m pretty sure even Biblical literalists will agree that there were many, many sins warned against in the Bible, and sex was just one of them. Is it because so many white, middle class, conservative preachers are obese the reason that they don’t decry gluttony with the same gusto they attack homosexuality? Is it that they drive Mercedes that causes them not to preach on the evils of loving money? Perplexing.

Surprisingly, Downfall has nothing to do with skinny naked women giggling and jumping on trampolines, or whatever heteronormative male sexual fantasy is currently driving entertainment. It is a game show where contestants have to answer questions, while watching a conveyor belt filled with luxury items go by. Sounds innocent enough right? Well no. The catch is, the questions come at a faster rate as the game goes on, and the conveyor belt speeds up, and if the contestant doesn’t answer the questions correctly or quickly enough, the objects fall over the edge of the rooftop they are on, to the ground 100 feet below. Flat screen TVs, Jet Skis, I think I even saw a tanning bed (or grand piano?) you name it, it’s on there, ready for the inevitable destruction by gravity. A million dollar prize is at the end, and you can either “earn” that, or watch it go over the edge as well.
It gets even better. Contestants can “stop the belt” by placing a personal object on the conveyor, but they have to keep answering questions, and risk losing it. So sorry, Mr. Pricklepants, you’re a great cat, but mommy really wants an iPad! And if you think I’m exaggerating, I promise you I’m not, contestants can actually place their LOVED ONES on the conveyor (on a decelerating harness, we’re not quite to broadcasting real murder as entertainment yet) and watch them go over the edge if they don’t answer the questions quickly enough.
At the risk of offending, I have to say it, this show is seriously fucked up.
Currently, right now, estimates are that as many as 100,000 barrels of oil A DAY are spilling into the gulf of Mexico. This has been going on for over two months, and signs point to it not stopping until August. The ramifications ecologically for a disaster this size are unknown. The entire gulf could potentially die. The impact that would have on the balance of the Earth could be disastrous. But hey, no worries, let’s watch a Mini Cooper fall over the edge of a building! ooooh!
This is how we got in the mess we are in today, by being a culture so bent on consuming at all costs, that we never stop to think about the ramifications of our consumption. I’m guilty to of course, did I think for even a split second, where my shoes came from when I bought them? Hell no, I thought, “cute sandals for $10, sweet!” Because to think about it would have caused me to own up to the reality that my purchase was probably made, in the best case scenario, by poor adults in a hot unconditioned American warehouse making minimum wage, and in the worst case scenario, by poor children in an inhumane developing country sweatshop, making less than a dollar a day. For me to think about that, every time I purchase anything, would force me to really examine my choices and the things that I am OK supporting. If I’m not OK with these realities, once I uncover them, then I have a huge decision to make: pretend to ignore what I know, or completely and totally change my entire lifestyle. Currently, if I’m truthful, I’m ignoring. And buying free range eggs.
Now multiply that by a couple hundred million and we get America. A country of millions of people who would rather consume than care (about people or the environment) is how we get to where we are now, looking at the potential destruction of part of our planet. When is enough enough? When do we say, “I’ve had too much?” When do we stop pretending we’re blind and open our eyes up to the mess we’ve created?
I say now. Before shows like “Downfall” become the norm, and before watching thousands of dollars of destruction no longer becomes disaster, but entertainment.

Leave a Reply