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TRANSLATION: MEMPHIS

TRANSLATION: MEMPHIS

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GETTING REAL With all of the “reality” on television nowadays, one could almost become convinced that you no longer have to actually go out into the world to experience life. Through the power of satellite technology, real, yes real, people can become superstars. We watch each night as average citizens auction off their, uh, sacred vows of marriage, battle for cash in various Lord-of-the-Flies-styled knockoffs, and then follow it all up by lending their newly authenticated personas to all of our favorite evening game shows. And on our couches we sit and snicker, alternately hating and idolizing these elevated “everyday” people, and maybe even imagining ourselves as being worthy, or more worthy, of such a spotlight. Because it is, after all, the real person’s spotlight, attainable even to those who don’t have to compete with their significant others to rate better on People’s most beautiful list. Poor Brad and Jennifer. To me, the most interesting part of this voyeuristic window into the life of the guy or gal next door is the fact that they are presented, somehow, as being even more real than we could ever hope to be. These chosen ones, these men and women, have walked the sacred springboard, the conduit that transforms one from Regular Joe to Super Joe, citizen who walks on red carpet. And I’m not saying that I haven’t indulged in a watch or two. It’s sort of like an inactive form of rubbernecking. Ah, Love Cruise, the wonder and the horror. Oh, to have my parents choose my mate during prime time. I even got close to attaining this cult fame myself once. On the episode of VH1’s Bands on the Run that aired on May 27th last year (you remember, right) my little face could be glimpsed suffering through a performance by Soul Cracker at the Deli for a shining half of a nanosecond. Yahoo! The exhilaration of itÉ. I later received my square-inch patch of red carpet in the mail. I’m sure this sounds a bit like a bad idea for a thesis project in experimental film, but I wonder what would happen if reality television were, well, real. Of course there’s the so-called Big Brother surveillance infrastructure, namesake of one of the most irritating of the reality shows. Somehow, though, I don’t think we’ll be able to get our hands on that footage. But, hypothetically, what would one see on Real Memphis? And would it be interesting enough to be consumed as a mediated product? I would hope so, and there’s a very simple experiment that can be performed to determine the answer. It goes like this--turn off television, open eyes, and go outside. Hell, for $2 you could go and sit in the parking lot at Graceland for an afternoon. This week I observed an Elvis there, donning a Hawaiian shirt and some seriously large chops. He was standing at the trunk of his car, with music in the background, working on his laptop and smoking a Marlboro Light. There’s modern Memphis for you--an Elvis with a portable computer. Now maybe he was scouting out the scene for the impending death week extravaganza. Or perhaps he was just a big fan with a penchant for poetry. Who knows? But that’s what’s interesting. To be afforded the opportunity to observe and imagine even without accents (and interpretations) added by Panasonic and a multi-million dollar lighting rig. Imagine that. If Elvis doesn’t do it for you, you could go down to Beale to watch the drunken revelers watching all of the other drunken people. That, my fine-feathered friends, is comedy. Real comedy. And you even get the added bonus of spending a few hours away from the old La-Z-Boy. Now I’m not trying to be an anti-television extremist here. Remember, I admitted that I watched Love Cruise, which might be the lining at the bottom of the barrel as far as those shows are concerned. But I think it’s important that we remember as a culture that reality is the multi-faceted fodder that surrounds us each and every day. Do we want to get to the point where the “real” on TV suddenly becomes the accepted model for what life should be? There are too many interesting things to see and experience, live in 3-D, and all around us. Sure, most of us don’t have access to spotlights, and can’t afford or soundtracks by Smashmouth. Oh pity. But is the cost of auctioning off one’s love life any less in the grand scheme of things? I’m going to go out on a limb here and say no.

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