Paleo Retiree writes:
Over the last few weeks, I’ve been working my way through an Animal Planet “animal hoarders” show on the tube. (Actually on Netflix Instant — haven’t had a cable subscription in years. Why bother with one? The Question Lady and I don’t care about sports; we graze for news online; and we do whatever TV watching we do these days via Roku.) The show is nothing special so far as movie/TV-making goes — it’s standard contempo reality-doc stuff. But I’ve gotten fascinated by it anyway, and for a variety of reasons.
One of them is the sociology factor. Most of the hoarders — and the baffled-and-unhappy friends and family members — that the show focuses on are white working-class (or poorer) people. I was amazed by …
- … how many of the people onscreen wear tattoos and piercings — parents as well as kids.
- … how many come from families with multiple divorces.
- … how many are really fat — and not just fat but misshapen-fat.
- … how many of them smoke.
- … how many are taking buckets of pills and other prescription medicines.
- (A convenient trigger for one of my favorite current rants, namely: Hey, America, we could solve a big part of our medical-costs crisis if you just lost some weight, got some basic exercise, quit the cancer sticks, gave up most of your pills, and acted your age.)
- … how quickly they burn up their youths. Good lord, by 50 they look 75.
Also: how few of them have what you might think of as productive jobs. For many of them disability seems to be their main, if not only, source of income. Co-blogger Glynn Marshes points me to this informative article about how rapidly use of disability has been growing in the last decade. Fact Du Jour:
From 1980 to 2002 there was no change in the percentage of the workforce claiming disability, yet the “disability participation rate” has embarked on a 4.5 percent ascent each year for the last decade. There is now 1 person collecting disability for every 12 in the workforce.
I’ve also been fascinated by the show as a study in forms of delusion. The hoarders — who typically have little money and not much space but are caring for 30 to as many as 200 animals — clearly see themselves as reasonable people. Some of them are instantly-identifiable as cracked, but many of them appear to be — if you were to run into them away from their animals — sane. It definitely has me wondering about how many of the rational-seeming people I deal with day-to-day are, in their private lives, complete loons.
What the show mainly has me musing about, though, is the distance between the kind of lives these people lead and the world I inhabit. They don’t eat the kind of food I eat — often, they don’t even have sitdown mealtimes together. They don’t think the same thoughts I do, or consume the same kind of mental fodder. Their life-expectations and their behavior-patterns go off in directions that are completely alien to me. Often while watching the show I find myself thinking, “Wow, has the gap between middle-class-and-above people and working-class-and-below people ever been greater, or more dramatic, than it is now?”
Although many of the people who appear on the show are clearly bright and/or perceptive and/or sweet, the life they’re leading has “Idiocracy” written all over it. They don’t feel like co-citizens to me so much as members of a different (if related) species. Which I don’t intend, believe it or not, as a putdown. I find it impossible not to feel for them (OK, many of them), and for their plight.
Have you gotten fascinated by any reality-doc TV shows recently?