The Briefcase is an example of how America assaults the weary as it looks the other way when it comes to poverty. Thousands of tweets and Facebook posts criticized the new show The Briefcase which launched on May 27, yet a reportedly 6.8 million viewers were glued to the television for the shows debut. The premise of the show is to give a family in financial hardship a briefcase with $1o1,000 and tell them that another family who is struggling could use their support. The audience watches as the family struggles with the process of deciding what to do with the money.
Perhaps, like an Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) match, the modern Gladiator-like games that provide sweat and blood on the big screen, it is tough to take one’s sight off of the television. People have always been attracted to violence, to survival games, and drama. An extreme fictional scenario of this phenomenon was a mediocre 2008 movie called Untraceable. In the movie, a killer posts a live feed online to his victims being killed chemically, the more eyeballs that he gets online, the faster his victim dies. The FBI tries to discourage people from watching yet, people do what they always do, they enjoy every minute of another’s suffering. The movie is, of course, an FBI chase to find the killer before more people die.
It is natural to be attracted to what other people do and how they react. The very success of every single television show, be it reality tv, talk entertainment television or fiction series, viewers follow each one to find out what other people – most often unknown to them – whether celebrities, politicians or made up characters will do. There are aspirational shows that may possibly show a better side of human nature such as the show, What Would You Do? This show places actors to engage bystanders in moral decisions. Sometimes, they have a scene about a young person coming out to their parents, and they have belligerent parents making a scene. Bystanders sometimes choose to speak out on behalf of the young person, or they seek out to support the teen while their parent is gone. Often times they do nothing. The magic about this show is the possibility that goodness can continue to prevail in the average man (and woman) on the street.
Another aspirational show is Undercover Boss, a show that disguises an executive of a multimillion dollar company and films him/her going undercover at a branch of their company. During the episodes, bosses learn the personal story of the employees, often they are insurmountable challenges, either health related, financial troubles or just an average worker trying to work their way to the top. In the end, employees face the individual that they believed they were training or working with and they find out that he is a CEO or chief executive. During this revealing moment, the executive either rewards hard working employees he met if they prove worthy or he admonishes them if they were rude, disrespectful and arrogant.
The choice of the viewers is to watch something aspirational or watch something demeaning. A case in point is The Briefcase, America assaults the weary by watching the shows that humiliate women, the poor and the disenfranchised and then looks the other way when society deteriorates and blames the next guy.
Outside of the small screen, many American’s watch the real hunger games that go on in ghettos in urban hubs, out in the country, and even overseas, these bystanders that enjoy these circumstances are referred to as the one percent. Like in The Briefcase, these wealthy individuals display America as it assaults the weary with its taunting of wealth while it looks the other way when it comes to demanding policies to help the remaining compatriots. The other 99 percent complains, yet they are only mirrors reflecting this nasty cycle of hitting hard and looking the other way by watching shows like The Briefcase, Wife-Swap and Dance Moms.
Opinion By Olivia Uribe-Mutal
Variety – Ratings: CBS’ ‘The Briefcase’ Tops Among Wednesday’s Reality Rookies
The Atlantic – The Briefcase: A Reality TV Show Straight From the Victorian Era
Naples News – CBS show ‘The Briefcase’ comes under fire
Image Courtesy of Michael Mandiberg’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License