The Briefcase is a new reality television show that debuted on CBS last week. There were three premieres last week and The Briefcase was the most watched, that night. The show offers a family, who is distressed financially, a way out, but it does not talk about how the families got into their predicament in the first place. It does not address unemployment or the economy. It makes television ratings and money off the lower middle class who are struggling, and ignore the impoverished who are drowning.
A family that is having financial difficulties is given a briefcase containing $101,000. The family can spend the first $1,000 as they so choose. Then comes the twist.
The family with the briefcase is told about another household that is also experiencing financial difficulties that are as bad, if not worse off. The first family has to decide how much money if any of the $100,000 to share with the second household. It truly appears to be an arduous process making this decision. More information is continuously revealed about the second to the first, such as debts, struggles and bills.
According to Vulture, one woman is so overwhelmed by the entire ordeal that she vomits. Health insurance appears to be a common topic. Several people have stated that this is the hardest decision they could make. Many weep and unsurprising to Vulture people give with impressive generosity and compassion. One last twist is at the end of the episode, when both families received a briefcase to help them lift their financial burdens.
The storyline does not offer evidence of true class awareness, still making the really impoverished non-existent to those who have already turned a blind eye. There is an exposure of deeply intimate struggles that leave people vulnerable to the entire nation. The family’s finances are looked at under a microscope to make sure their lifestyles show discipline and responsibility. That being said, The Week says the show is not so much judgmental, but outright crass.
The show does not offer any political context that would explain why these families are struggling, such as, unemployment, financial insecurity, or inequality. Some may view these issues as moral and personal failures because they are presented to the audience as it was just some occurrence. According to the Salon, The briefcase pretends to leave the families with a lesson, “Money is not everything.”
However, the show proves different. Stress-related financial issues cause strain on personal health, relationships, and marriage. As well children get stressed hearing that all this is going on in their home. The Week refers to the idea that money is not everything as the “asinine mysticism it really is.”
It is beyond obvious that these families are struggling because they do not have enough to meet their needs. If that obstacle was removed, there would be no struggle or cause of suffering. If the reality is that these families simply do not have enough it stops being a reality show and becomes the truth. People will ask why do these people not have enough, what is the root of the problem and how can it be changed. It then becomes political.
In 2014, the president of CBS made $54 million. The $101,000 in the briefcase is approximately 0.2 percent of what the president of CBS made last year. The Week has asked, is the president of CBS throwing up because he is trying to do the right thing? If he is experiencing that struggle then make a reality show about that and if he is not, make a show about why not. The Weekly questions if the CBS president would accept paying the government 90 cents of every dollar he makes over $300,000 a year. Would it be acceptable to him if his taxes were used as a safety net for families similar to those on The Briefcase?
What if the inflation target were altered monetarily. Altered in a way that the top one percenter’s securities deteriorated faster in value. Ending free trade deals if they do not include laws on currency manipulation. The federal government could reform labor laws to empower unions, so families who work for CBS would be able to gain higher wages.
There is a decent percentage of those who are able to collect the crumbs from the elite, then there is the elite, and The Briefcase exploits both them and the poor. These are the people that spend too much time deciding on policies that govern the economy and its workings as a whole. Big money gets to make big decisions. The Weekly thinks that there should be a television show about that and ask those questions. Such as, does cutting Medicaid, food stamps, and Social Security say as much about the character of big business as what the families on The Briefcase decide to do with the $100,000 says about their character?
By Jeanette Smith
The Weekly: How CBS’s The Briefcase continues a long tradition of putting the poor under a microscope
Care 2 Causes: Does CBS’s New Reality TV Show ‘The Briefcase’ exploit the Poor?
Entertainment Weekly: EW Community
Photos courtesy of:
Mish Sukharev’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License
The Cable Show’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License