Perhaps not the End of Days

But certainly more than slightly reminiscent of the latter days of the Roman Empire.

The other day I went to a first-run movie, a thing I seldom do.  In fact, I’ll go farther: a thing I pretty much studiously avoid doing.  But my father, who adores movie popcorn and has few other pleasures left in life other than his dog, likes to go and I go with him.  He likes to get the exact middle seats of the very top row, and grouses if there are more than four other people in the theater.  Same thing with restaurants, by the way.  Part of me delights in the magisterial disregard of the basic logic of the thing:  If it’s worth seeing, or worth eating there, people are going to go.  If you want it to yourself you more or less have to confine yourself to places and things that are not desired.  Part of me gets very fatigued with the expression “jammed up” to refer to any crowd in excess of ten.

Be all that as it may, we went to see Spy, a fairly harmless and mindless comedy vehicle for the lead actress, Melissa McCarthy (who came close to stealing the show in Bridesmaids).  If F-bombs tossed about like confetti upset you, it’s probably not a movie for you.  It certainly isn’t for younger children.

Enough of the feature.  Getting there as early as we did — and do, considering my father’s morbid fear of not getting the Right Seats — we got to see the trailers.  Among them was a trailer for what seems to be a television show, which these days is, as I understand, equivalent to saying “reality” television show.

I have very few accomplishments in life I can point to.  Among them is that I’ve never seen an installment of Here Comes Honey Boo-Boo, or Jersey Shore, or Swamp People, or Real Housewives of East Jesus, Arkansas, or even much of Duck Dynasty.  All the Survivors and their interminable spin-offs have also left me serene in my pop-culture ignorance.  I now have another to add to the list.

Gentle Reader, we are about to witness a show identifying itself as Little Women: LA.  This show is about midget and dwarf women, in Los Angeles.  When one is an abnormally small female in Los Angeles, apparently the thing to do is behave trashy.  People will film you, and then (shudder) a country full of people will watch you behaving trashy.

Consider how many ideas for television shows get pitched every day in Hollywood.  Consider how many people in how many roles and with how much money and influence must all sign off on the concept, the financing, the production details and budget, the marketing strategy, and on and on and on.  Consider how few of the ideas pitched ever see so much as a minute of production.  Consider how many of the ones that actually do get so far as having a pilot filmed get canned before ever being shown.  What I’m getting at is that the tripe that makes it onto your television screen on a daily basis, Gentle Reader, is the surviving remnant of not just a mountain, but an entire mountain range of Stuff That Didn’t Make the Cut.

All of which is to say that, while we might not know their names (I’d hope they’d have enough self-respect to give false ones in the credits: “Executive Producer:  Vyacheslav Molotov; Casting Director:  Richard M. “Bingo” Little.  Editing:  Boris Godunov.  And so forth.), we know by the tracks they are about to leave across the smoldering remains of American pop culture that they do exist.  They are all the people who thought this was a Good Idea.  Stop and ponder, Gentle Reader what must have been the ones they thought too silly, too degenerate, too uninteresting to the breadth of the American television consuming public.

Many years ago, while I was stationed in Charleston, South Carolina, the state legislature felt called upon to outlaw a sport, self-explanatorily identified as “dwarf tossing.”  I understand it involved, other than the physical actions which gave it its name, a great deal of beer.  I assume the dwarves were willing participants (never so familiarized myself with it as to know how they were compensated).  Can’t say that I ever saw an evening of dwarf tossing advertised on any venue I drove past (maybe I just wasn’t driving through the right parts of town in the right parts of the state), but I’m not sure how the Scourge of Dwarf Tossing came to be viewed as such a crisis.  Again, this sounds like the sort of function where one gives a false name at the door, just in case there’s a raid and your picture appears on the front page of the local paper.  Caption:  Leon Trotsky, 43, of Spartanburg, is arrested after police raid dwarf tossing den.

Iran is getting the Bomb, the U.S. Supreme Court is re-writing statutes for the express purpose of saving them from the drafters in Congress, Greece has wheedled the EU, which jolly well knows better, into handing over another several billion Euros while they pass empty reform measures they have no intention of ever putting into effect . . . and we’re watching Little Women: LA.  I’ve read several books on the end of the Roman Empire, all the way from Gibbon to more recent re-examinations, but a common theme is that those responsible for keeping Rome shiny side up and rubber side down just finally gave up on it.

As I ponder Little Women: LA, I have to ask myself whether we’ve given up on this peculiar experiment in self-government.

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