Marriage has always been something I wanted. Since tying the knot, I have certainly changed. I suppose I was always fairly considerate of others, but having a wife and kids really makes you take stock and think about things. I no longer bungee or BASE jump, play Russian roulette, free climb glaciers, hang glide or eat from kebab stalls outside of night clubs. Okay, I never did any of those things, but I am more aware of my actions and the consequences of such.
My wife is good at pointing this out and no longer lets me watch Bondi Rescue, due to the adverse effects on my blood pressure. Not due to the excitement – muscly lifeguards or bikini bodies – but my distilled, unadulterated fury at the sight of any Irish backpacker, there’s usually one every episode, who thinks it’s hilarious to try and surf on an ironing board, or jump into a rip fully clothed after 24 hours of solid drinking.
They get dragged out of the surf and (unfortunately) resuscitated then laugh about it while subtitles tell the viewer, “Sure, it’s all good craic.”
I become a mushroom cloud-laying motherfucker at the very thought. I am actually doing damage to my keyboard now.
The long suffering Mrs the Conqueror was doing a great job until I came in late from work last week and she was flicking about her favourite channels, UKTV and the many, many crime dramas with abbreviated names: CSI, NCIS, SVU, etc.
Then it happened.
Recently, I read the Matt Groening made a conscious decision to make The Simpsons characters yellow, so they would stand out to people who were flicking up and down the channels. The same colour part of my brain demanded Mrs the C stop when I saw a screen full of hot pink. From hot pink, it went to a deep fake-tan orange. I could feel my chest start to tighten. If there’s one thing I hate, it’s Reality TV. I had stumbled upon one of the worst examples.
I understand that Reality TV, in its current guise, is a Dutch invention. I love all things Dutch. I am intrigued by the Dutch psyche: their architecture, attitudes, football and impact on the world, given the size of the country. One of my best mate’s Dutch. I surf most weekends with a Dutch guy, whose entire back is covered in tattoos of tulips and waves. He is, and he would admit it himself, is a very special kind of mental.
We share a love of surfing, indie music and obscure football. If you don’t know any Dutch people, seek some out. They enjoy the most refreshing view on life. It is best explained by a curious book, one of my favourites called, Brilliant Orange. It’s supposed to be a book about the history and development of football (soccer) in the Netherlands, but it touches on airport design, mayonnaise on hot chips, political anarchists, drug use, agricultural policies and art.
The Dutch question everything and hold firm views, which can be hard to shift. So, in the late ’90s, media tycoon Johannes, or John, Hendrikus Hubert de Mol employed a team of anthropologists to develop a new television concept. Their idea was to study human behaviour by isolating different personalities and throwing them into situations of conflict to study how they react, and capture it all on television.
A heroic and noble notion.
However, we all know what happened next. The academic study of personality became Endemol’s, Big Brother. TV was never the same again.
The new millennium has seen celebrity dancing (on and off the ice), the old-fashioned variety show re-badged as Australia’s Got Talent and The X Factor, which has morphed into The Voice, as the world’s TV networks try to reformat the same tired and unoriginal nonsense. America has gone with infant beauty pageants, grown men who run comic book stores, and vigilante bail bondsmen.
The worst example of trashy TV would have to be, My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding. I am not sure if I can recommend it per se, but you must see at least five minutes if you can. They’re human. Apparently.
Members of the travelling community, who live in caravans and wear garish ill-fitting dresses (female) or singlets and sculpted facial hair (males, although not exclusively) craft extravagant ceremonies with enormous dresses (lots of lace, low cut tops, various shades of pink, and too much make up), massive wedding cakes (in the shape of fairytale castles featuring actual Barbie dolls) with subtitled speeches, too much alcohol, fighting and usually a rape at the reception – all laughed off as part of the gypsy tradition. The rape part is quaintly referred to as “grabbing” and is tolerated and discussed on camera as a “bit of a laugh”.
I would love to tell you more about the ultimate in car crash television, but Mrs the C turned it over and forbade me from watching it again. I’m going to try and catch it in the spare room next week.
This is my life now.