Let’s have a show of hands, please, regarding those TV shows where people go around repossessing others’ vehicles: How many of you out there find them as disgusting, dehumanizing and disturbing as I do?
Well, judging by your response I can tell there are more than a few.
I would think that another informal poll on a similarly obnoxious program, “Dog the Bounty Hunter,” would bring the same kind of result.
Unfortunately, however, there are too many people who DO watch such garbage — which is why it’s on the air in the first place. Yet the role these TV shows play in dumbing-down America should not be overlooked.
With television being such a powerful medium, it’s a shame that it is used to promote bad taste rather than improving the human condition with quality programming.
I have nothing against reality shows in general, which is the overall category that programs such as “Operation Repo” and “Lizard Lick Towing” occupy.
But there are good reality shows and then there are bad reality shows, which stretch the limits of decency. At the top of the list are ones such as “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition,” in which volunteers provide housing to deserving families. These do have redeeming social value and highlight the need to help others.
Then there are those productions at the other end of the scale which cater to the bottom-feeders, including one that focuses on the repetitious shooting of alligators in the Louisiana swamps. The repo and bounty hunter programs are mired in the same kind of muck.
Obviously, they tap into a sick kind of psychology whereby people are fascinated by the misfortunes of others.
In the case of the vehicle-repossession shows, producers play on the scenario that these intrepid heroes are going out and risking their lives to lawfully take back vehicles.
Sure, there are deadbeats out there who are a disservice to car dealers as well as the consuming public when they default on loans. Their actions definitely make it hard on everyone.
But there are cases in which people have been put out of work and lost their cars, as well as homes, due to no fault of their own. Sure, they SHOULD have made the payments, but there can be a number of legitimate reasons why they couldn’t.
Yet such individual stories are never told, and those good old repossession folks are just doing what that piece of paper says: take the vehicle. The bottom line is, they are exploiting human misery.
Now, let me say at this point that I’m fully aware repossession shows are “dramatized” — which is a nice way of saying they are fake just like professional wrestling. But this only makes them more disgusting in my book, since viewers are being misled about what is really taking place.
“Dog the Bounty Hunter” also can be irritating for some of the same kinds of reasons.
Now I know individuals such as Duane “Dog” Chapman fill a void in the criminal justice world. They have the flexibility to travel around and ferret out suspects law enforcement agencies might be unable to track down due to lack of resources, etc.
I’m sure some dangerous people are no longer on the streets as a result of bounty hunters.
However, keep in mind that since the days of the Old West, bounty hunters have been in it for the money, plain and simple. They were generally looked down upon by law enforcement as well as the criminals back then, and that dynamic really hasn’t changed.
It might help if Dog wasn’t so darn ugly. Sadly, his wife/business partner Beth, who also goes after the fugitives, is even uglier.
Now imagine you’re a criminal who has been on the run and suddenly find your home surrounded by Dog and his crew.
In addition to the realization that your days of freedom are over and you’re facing many years behind bars, you are also being captured by these hideous-looking people. A classic case of adding insult to injury if ever there was one.
I’d probably have a higher opinion of the repo and bounty hunter shows and the place they occupy in the television universe if “equal time” was devoted to exploiting someone other than the downtrodden or dregs of society.
Wouldn’t it be great to see a reality series in which white-collar criminals are collared out on the golf course by an elite team of marshals and hauled away as “regular” lawbreakers are?
Or how about one in which agents burst into corporate boardrooms on Wall Street and embarrassingly handcuff and drag out high-paid executives who’ve robbed the government and consumers?
Better yet, let’s have a TV program in which certain politicians who are selling out the country are rounded up and placed in stocks in the public square where people can throw rotten fruits and vegetables at them.
Now that’s entertainment!
Tom Joyce is a reporter for The Mount Airy News. He can be reached at 719-1924 or firstname.lastname@example.org.