If the information available in my Facebook Home feed is any indication of the cultural zeitgeist (and who am I to argue that that it isn’t?), then I must conclude that what people are most panicked about lately is the news that Sarah Palin will have her own reality show on TLC (The Learning Channel). Because we now protest things by “fanning” certain slogans or joining groups on Facebook, activists were quick to note their disapproval of TLC’s decision by joining, “I Will Boycott Any Company that Sponsors the TLC Show, Sarah Palin’s Alaska.”
As of yet, I am not a member of this group because, unless Straus Family Creamery and Nordstrom decide to advertise during “Sarah Palin’s Alaska,” it is unlikely that I will have any companies to boycott in the first place (because, you know, I subsist entirely off of quality yogurt and expensive jeans). There is one show on TLC that I watch regularly: “What not to Wear;” but I never buy anything advertised during that show, despite the fact that the advertising is clearly geared toward someone like me–a woman between the ages of eighteen and fifty. (Read: lots of ads for makeup, tampons, and Kohl’s Department Stores.)
My guess is that those buying time during “Sarah Palin’s Alaska” will likely be companies like Wal-Mart–companies whose products I am already accustomed to not buying. Am I saying that people who shop at Wal-Mart also like Sarah Palin? No. Am I saying Wal-Mart thinks that people who shop at Wal-Mart also like Sarah Palin? Absolutely.
So I think the bigger impact would be to boycott TLC entirely. This is a real shame, especially since “What Not to Wear” finally got rid of the annoying Nick Arrojo and replaced him with Ted Gibson, a man who is not only a talented stylist, but also an obviously skilled psychotherapist who emotionally prepares the “contributors” (WNTW-speak for those undergoing the makeover) for the changes their hair is about to face.
Besides, are marketers really to blame for Sarah Palin getting her own show? Shouldn’t the real blame go to the fans of “Jon and Kate Plus 8″? Quite frankly, they seem to me to be the most responsible for TLC’s rapid decline from anything even remotely resembling a channel where “learning” might occur. By watching Jon and Kate, fans of the show, in effect, said, “Yes, TLC, there is an appetite for the kind of programming in which people who have too many children do nothing for an hour other than yell at their kids, yell at each other, and sit uncomfortably side by side on a devoid-of-love seat during interview segments.” (I hate to sound snobby, but I won’t be able to sleep tonight if I don’t clarify that I have gleaned all of this info. about Jon and Kate from commercials for the show, not from watching any actual episodes.)
But to get back to my argument: Once TLC realized that there was apparently a market for reality shows featuring people with too many children, they got right to work giving viewers “Table for Twelve” and the truly disturbing “16 17 18 19 Kids and (STOP PROCREATING ALREADY!!) Counting.” (Note to parents: Once your first grandchildren are born, you should stop having children–especially if you already have eighteen of them.)
With those offerings firmly in place, TLC apparently decided there was no reason to even pretend to have any shred of class or any pretext of not exploiting the “stars” of their series, so they started churning out the depressingly awful “Hoarding: Buried Alive,” the downright creepy “Toddlers & Tiaras,” and a “special” with a title that was both unbelievably blunt and weirdly punny: “650 lb. Virgin: the Weight is Over.” (Again, I know about this from commercials; TLC advertises its own programming relentlessly–so seriously, if you want to boycott those who “sponsor” Sarah Palin’s show, you can start with the biggest spender, the network itself. Also, if you’re wondering–because you know you are–the show about the “650 lb. virgin” was supposed to be about some young guy who was ready to get his groove on after losing an almost literal ton of weight. I’m starting to think that this post should be titled, “Everything I ever learned about TLC I got from watching their commercials.”)
Second only to their love of people who breed excessively and put on lots of weight (yeah–I haven’t even mentioned their ongoing, “I didn’t know I was pregnant” documentaries) is TLC’s fascination with the lives of dwarf families. Now, I’ll admit, I think “Little People, Big World” is fairly fun to watch; the kids seem like nice kids, and I love seeing the family cavort all around their beautiful farm. But I think by now we’ve established that TLC does nothing in moderation, so in addition to “Little People, Big World,” you can also watch, “The Little Couple,” “Our Little Life,” and TLC’s latest “little” offering, “The Little Chocolatiers,” a program that appears to be TLC’s way of competing with Food Network without sacrificing the crucial demographic that apparently can’t get enough of little people. I am waiting for TLC to roll all of their programming into one craptastic special called, “Half-Ton Little People Who Hoard Chocolate Sarah Palins.” God help us; it’s only a matter of time.
So you see, we should have boycotted the network long ago, when Kate first started shrieking at Jon and Jon first started acting like the jackass he appears to be; that is to say: we should have nipped this shit in the bud. But now here we are, up in arms that TLC–a network obviously devoid of any programming standards to begin with–should give Sarah freaking Palin her own freaking show.
If we want for people like Sarah Palin not to have a platform, then we need to turn our eyes from the outlets that give her one. Boycotting companies we probably have no relationship with in the first place won’t do anything; but cutting the audience for every show on the channels that exalt her just might. I’ve averted my eyes from the half-ton teens and the families with half the population of New Guinea, but so help me, I don’t want to know a thing more about Sarah Palin–even that which could be gleaned from the commercials during “What Not to Wear.”