Now for our other regular feature, the Outrage of the Week.
Okay I have to admit right at the top that I rarely watch network TV and am not terribly well-versed in popular culture. So it was only recently that I heard about this new show on CBS called "The Briefcase."
In this pile of stinking dung two struggling families, having been fed the lie that they’ll be participating in a documentary about money, are each presented with a briefcase containing $101,000, an amount almost literally life-saving to many in need. Each family is then told they can keep all of the money or give some or all of it away to another family whose need may be equal to or even greater than their own. Neither knows that the other family has also been offered such a briefcase.
The families are then over a period of three days each given details about the struggles of the other family - again ignorant of the fact that the other family is being given the equivalent sorrowful details about them. After that, they have to decide what to do with the money.
Put bluntly, each family is put through an emotional wringer, an emotional torture chamber, as they are consciously manipulated by the producers to be torn between their own needs and their concern for others and - remember, they think they're in a documentary - being given the choice between being perhaps solvent but forever being seen as cruel and heartless or being seen as altruistic and caring as their lives collapse under the weight of debt. And we are supposed to watch their torment, their struggle between desperation and decency, for our entertainment
Executive producer Dave Broome has had the gall to say that the show is about "values" and that it's "not about the money. It’s about everything but the money." He called it an "opportunity" for the people "to reflect on what really matters most in their lives" and "to learn about themselves" as if this was all being done as one big fat favor to the people they were manipulating and lying to in search of ratings.
This is no "opportunity," this is poverty porn - or as others have labeled it, a "shitshow of bad taste, manipulation and voyeurism" and "stereotype baiting."
Oh no, Broome protests, not true! Rather, "We’re testing the human spirit." Right. And I can imagine Romans looking down at the gladiators in the arena and saying "You know, what this is, really, is a test of the human spirit."
One writer summed it up well:
Make no mistake: The Briefcase is a good show to watch if you want to see a television network last valued at $30 billion ask families that are near to losing everything to battle over the very thing the network has in near endless supply: money.In fact, in a country where there is nowhere where you can afford a one-bedroom apartment on a minimum wage job, this show has lead a number of folks to ask "what's next, the hunger games?"
Okay, this isn't that - but I still say that this is so disgusting, sinks so low, that I find it hard to find the words to express the contempt I have for this whole enterprise. It is beyond an outrage.
Sources cited in links: