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A Christmas caveat.

by Dear Jon
December 7, 2001

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Sort 101_Dear Jon-A Christmas caveat. ACTUAL LETTER TO DEAR JON:

Dear Jon,

Why are programs such as "Survivor" called "reality TV?" Seems like they're more UNREAL! Sixteen people stuck in some remote area of the world would not try to vote each other "off," rather they would try to keep each other together because the chances of survival would be much better. In this sense "Gilligan's Island" was much more based in reality!

Survivor


Dear Survivor,

In case you are clueless, Christmas is coming, our nation is at war and millions are grieving the death of rock guru George Harrison. Rather than seeking my consolation and advice for coping with any of this, you have single-handedly ensured the utter triviality of this forum.

In sorts that I do not have time to look up, I commented on Reality Television. I don't remember what I said, except to leave the distinct impression that Reality Television is beneath the consideration of the Middle Brow.

Reality Television is mis-named. It is not Reality at all, it is simply a new kind of game show. The competitions are utterly contrived, and the business of voting people out is mean-spirited.

I would much rather have 16 contestants with packs and breach-loading paint-ball rifles (no semi-automatics), with two weeks to travel 100 miles of wilderness to reach an objective; the first one to cross the finish line unshot wins, with prizes for second and third. If everyone is hit, then the fewest hits wins but the jack-pot diminishes. Anything goes: Cheating is impossible. Six hits knocks a person out of the game. Now that would be fun to watch. Cameras can follow ambushes and shoot-outs between alliances, plus various acts of sabotage and booby-trapping. The problem is, when setting an ambush, where do you hide the camera crews? That is what makes the whole idea unworkable.

Now about Gilligan's Island, this bothers me a lot: If everyone knows that Mary-Ann was way more hot than Ginger, why does everyone feel like the question needs to be asked? And if they are making a live-action Skooby-Doo, who in her right mind would want to play Velma? And by the way, can we trace the decline in our nation's moral values to the decision to expose Barbara Eden's navel? If that had never happened, would Larry Hagman have landed the part of J.R. Ewing?

On second thought, maybe television hasn't gotten any worse than it was.


ACTUAL LETTER TO DEAR JON:

Dear Jon,

With Christmas approaching, what are the "hot" toys that every child will want?

S.C.


Dear SC,

Based on commercials, hype, and movie marketing, think "X-Box" and "Lord of the Rings." I don't know what girls will play with. Maybe girls play with the same toys as boys now.

Warning: That paragraph is as funny as this column gets. The shift into "irony" is not always a shift into "humor," even though the two are very similar in timing and "punch."

The hottest toy out there, and always will be, is called the 'P.A.' This stands for "parental affection." Children up to two will not know the difference, anyway. Starting at about the age of three, children will begin to express their whimsical desires for material objects because they are conditioned to by their parents. If the myth of an all-magical beneficence is inculcated at this point, children will dissociate their anticipation of Christmas from any family feeling.

By age five, kids will know the game. At age seven, when kids realize that their is nothing magic about finding toys from store shelves wrapped up for them at Christmastime, the dynamics shift. It is here that parents can either confirm their love through time and involvement, or they can confirm the child's suspicion that conspicuous consumption is intended to distract people from the vulnerability of real relationship. The value they place on the gifts they unwrap will be in direct proportion to the role of those gifts as substitutes for attention and love.

By the age of nine, most kids of affectionate parents will exhibit embarrassment and will accuse their parents of being corny. They might even see the greater abundance and flash of gifts other kids received, and covet them. Note to perfect parents: If you don't buy your growing son an X-Box, he will hate you, maybe for a whole week. That does not mean you should buy the X-Box.

The nine year-old boy of disengaged parents will relish some of his toys and ignore others, but will secretly wish his parents would help him build the snowman in the front yard. This is how he thinks:

"After all, that kid down the block didn't get the X-Box and cried all day, but he has a Dad who baked gingersnaps on Christmas Eve and a Mom out there with him right now helping him build a snow-fort in the shape of Mount Dhoom for the three "Rings" action figures he did get. And when that kid down the block comes over here to play, I'm always embarrassed because my parents end up yelling at each other or at me for something stupid like not putting my water glass on a coaster on the coffee table, but when I go to his house we can't play video games because he doesn't have any but his cute sister in college even agrees to play Monopoly with us sometimes, the kind you set out on the floor and lie on your stomach and have music on the stereo and role real dice, and then they make popcorn and we eat right there on the rug. That kid down the block thinks his family is weird and corny. I wish my family was weird and corny like his."

Thirteen year-olds will not want to spend one more minute with their families on Christmas Day then they absolutely have to, and it does not matter if their parents are affectionate or disengaged. Be affectionate anyway. What happens by the time the kid of disengaged parents is 13, the parents begin to think, "Gosh, he sure is growing fast. I ought to spend some quality time with him. I know! Christmas!" This becomes especially poignant in the hearts of the adults if divorce has entered the picture. But the nine year-old has now grown into a bitter adolescent who can see right through everything, including the parent's values. Psychologists think that 13 year-old children of divorced parents are confused. Far from it! They know exactly what the world is about. This is why they secretly hate Christmas by then, but they present their parents with enormous lists, because if you can't have love or even a real family which it never was anyway then you might as well have stuff.

By the time eighteen year-old children of affectionate parents go to college, they move heaven and earth in order to get home for Thanksgiving and Christmas.

So, S.C., expect the X-Box to fly off the shelves this Christmas, and to appear under trees everywhere. Expect, hopefully, that I have got the grinches and humbugs out of me early in this season, so that some humor can work its way back into the next sort.

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