The Upchuck of Western Civilization

While watching TV at the gym — and could there be a better combination of laziness and health? — I was alarmed by something I saw on MTV. I get alarmed every time I watch MTV these days, which is a sure sign that I am growing very, very old.

It shouldn’t surprise anyone that if civilization is declining, MTV is at the head of the line, smoking pot, flashing its breasts, and yelling, “Wooo!” It’s interesting that when MTV first came around, people who didn’t know what they were talking about declared it “evil” because it played music videos, which someone arbitrarily decided were bad. And now, 20 years later, MTV actually IS evil — not because of the videos, which it doesn’t play anymore, but for other reasons.

What caught my attention at the gym was the vomiting. It was on one of MTV’s many, many “spring break” programs, most of which center around people cavorting on beaches while not wearing much clothing. This particular show was dare-oriented, with a cool-dude host offering shirtless men about $40 in exchange for doing stupid things. I’m not certain what the stupid thing was when I tuned in, but it had led to all the participants throwing up. The person to hold everything down the longest won the $40.

Perhaps my horror at this was due to the phobia I have of vomiting. I haven’t thrown up since I was 13, and in the ensuing years, I have built it up in my mind to be a more dreadful process than it is. I mean, I know it’s not pleasant. But now I’m imagining it to be the worst thing that could ever happen to a person, like I might not survive if it ever happened to me again. I’ll hear a friend talk about puking and then continuing with his life normally, and I’m amazed, because I’m sure I would have to be hospitalized.

(By the way, doesn’t it seem like kids throw up all the time, but grown-ups hardly ever do? Maybe it’s because kids’ bodies are still new, and they haven’t gotten used to things yet. Also, maybe it’s because kids eat things like crayons.)

But the next stunt, after the don’t-throw-up contest, had a guy being dipped in molasses, after which prizes were stuck to his body, after which he was hung upside-down by his ankles, after which blindfolded spring break girls whacked him with bats like he was a piñata. For this he received $40 (he talked the host up from the original offer of $5).

Let us pause a moment to acknowledge that only men would volunteer to participate in such stupid behavior. Women have a thing about appearing foolish in public, while men seem to thrive on it. If you told a man you would pay him $40 if he would allow himself to be videotaped while undergoing a lobotomy performed by a robot, his only question would be whether he could be naked during the procedure.

Anyway, I realized I was more saddened than disgusted by the show. So many TV shows and movies, like those spring break girls with the bats, exist only to hit us in the gut. Telling a story or introducing characters is a hassle. Why bother, when you can just film regular people being morons? Instant entertainment, cheap and in the can.

I’m all for the occasional bit of mindless entertainment, but I think we’re in trouble when it becomes the rule instead of the exception. Either way, I’m not going to the gym anymore.

Ah, good ol' Moral High Ground Eric. He's so much more respectable than Likes to Look at Victoria's Secret Posters Eric.