Thursday, January 11, 2007

Food for thought - Reality TV

Does TV shape us or do we shape what’s on TV? Hard to know which it is, but one thing’s for certain – there are a massive number of reality TV shows, shows like Big Brother, X-Factor, I’m a Celebrity get me out of here, Strictly Come Dancing, You’re a Star, American Idol, Soapstar Superstar, It Takes Two, Celebrity Masterchef, etc. The list seems endless, and you can hardly turn on the TV at the moment without being asked to vote someone on or off a show.

Some of them are really good – I’ll have to admit to watching Strictly Come Dancing, especially when it got down to a battle between two sportsmen. But that’s about all – I can’t stand most of them!

In all of this there seems to be something in these shows that resonates with the public. I suspect that part of it is that we love judging! We love to hear the judges’ comments, and then we love to sit in judgement on the judges, disagreeing with them, shouting at the TV “Are you blind/deaf/untalented” (delete as appropriate) and then override the judges’ decisions with the phone-in vote.

And then there’s the top judge of all reality judges – Simon Cowell of X-Factor and American Idol. Opinionated and ruthless, you either loathe him or love him. His outspokenness infuriates people, but he’s generally always right. And there is a fairness about him such that he’ll criticise his own contestants if he doesn’t think they are up to the mark. Added to that there is the simple fact that it is his opinion that all the contestants want to hear.

Added to that there’s the tension of the results show. And they all follow the same format – string it out as long as possible and have long dramatic delays while giving the results (despite the fact that the votes are probably computer-counted and available in a split-second).

Something strikes me about our fascination with these shows. We love the judgment aspect of it. There is something in us which wants to see our opinion vindicated, or wants to see talent win out, or wants to put down the person we think is too big for their boots. And all the while we’re glad we’re not up there, or sometimes we’re thinking that we could do a better job if we were.

Judgment – who would have thought that judgment would be so popular? Yet it is something we all have to face. One day we will stand like the celebrities before the panels of judges, except for us there will be no panel, no Bruno Tonioli or Sharon Osbourne to say nice things when the others have been rightly critical. There will only be one Judge. There will be no phone-in vote to save those condemned. There will be no second chance.

How then are we to face this day? Do we make it our New Year resolution to try really hard to be a decent and kind person? No matter how hard we try we’d still never get that perfect 10. We just don’t have it in us.

Imagine that you have been asked to dance before the judges with no training. Your fate hangs in the balance. Imagine then that one of the professionals steps forward and says, “Let me take your place” and he dances a perfect dance, the judges hold up 10’s, and you are safe.

That’s what God the Judge offers: someone to take our place, one who lived a perfect life, who met all of God’s requirements. That ‘professional’ is no less than God himself – God the Son, Jesus. Go and ask Jesus to take your place, stop relying on your own decency to impress the Judge because it never will. Put your trust in Jesus to do all that is required for you to get you through the Day of Judgment.

So before you sit down to watch the next show, or pick up the phone to cast your judgment, think about your own judgment day. After all it’s God who warns us, “it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment.” (Hebrews 9:27)

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