Color Me Confused

From all appearances, America is a nation of exhibitionists and voyeurs. It has become our culture. It is everywhere. Once upon a time we guarded our privacy jealously. When we told someone that something was none of his business, we meant it. No one even says that anymore. We regard everything as everyone's business. Everyone seems to want to tell us everything about himself.

I think it started in 1973 with Bill and Pat Loud in "An American Family." That show ran for 12 weeks on PBS, the PR firm for it-takes-a-village collectivism. "An American Family" was a media phenomenon in the days when that meant something. Before that we only had "Queen For A Day." This was a daytime game show that I remember watching with my grandmother back in 1950's. Ladies would appear on that show, they were still called ladies in those days, and tell their sob stories. "Ralph, my husband hasn't worked in a year. My kids only leave the house on alternate days so they can share the pants. And my athlete's foot is killing me. I need a new washing machine." The one with the most pathetic story was crowned Queen and got the washer, which still had a wringer on it back then.

"Queen For A Day" conjures great memories of Grandma and me sitting behind closed blinds so the insurance man and his payment book would think no one was home. It was unique in the 50's. In the 70's, the Loud family stood out because they were different. Really different. Today we are awash is the detritus and minutia of everyone's personal life through reality TV like Real Life, Survivor, Big Brother and Making the Band, the tell-all talk shows like Jerry Springer, Oprah, Jenny Jones and Sally Jesse and the reality style game shows like Who Wants To Be A Millionaire and Weakest Link. Life in America has become one big show-me-yours-and-I'll-show-you-mine festival. We have given up the right not to know.

As a side note to this, you have to feel kind of sorry for PBS. Cable and satellite TV have pretty much eliminated any reason for them to exist. The History and Discovery Channels, AMC, TMC and the rest do more programming and do it better than PBS ever could. Their only remaining reason for continued existence is to spread left wing, state loving propaganda and CNN and MSNBC even do that better and they do it 24X7. As if all of that weren't bad enough it now turns out that PBS's lasting contribution to the medium is being the grandfather of MTV's Real Life. Talk about adding insult to injury. Pitiable if not down right pitiful, you know?

Anyway, all of this struck me the other day when I read a story about a pro-life web site being sued by a woman for posting details about her abortion. It just seemed odd that the details of something as commonplace as an abortion should become an emotional and legal bone of contention in the land of women-who-love-men-who-love-Chihuahuas-and-the-men-who-love-to-love-them-and-are-more-than-happy-to-tell-you-about-it.

People go on national TV to tell other people about kinks and foibles that I could not even begin to invent on my worst day. And then they get upset when someone holds up a picture of post-abortive surgical remainder material (dismembered infants). Go figure.

Operations are shown on TV with a regularity that still has me diving for the remote with one hand and the wastebasket with the other. People love them. My brother-in-law will stay up late for a good hip replacement. He'll go out and buy a fresh blank tape for a nice gastric bypass. So why is abortion such a big secret?

The right to abortion on demand is the proudest accomplishment of modern era femi-nazi-ism and the most zealously defended tenet of that faith. But no one takes pictures. Does that make sense? Abortion is the most common surgical procedure in the United States, 1.5 million abortions every year and counting, yet we never televise it. Why not? Folks, we are missing a chance to tell even more people even more stuff about ourselves not to mention letting a major marketing opportunity pass us by. It's positively un-American.

Think of all the cable channels we have. Think of CSPAN and CSPAN-II. People actually watch Washington blowhards pretending there is more to their phony baloney jobs than just the obvious bloodsucking parasitism. That bit of programming excitement turned out to be so popular that they had add another one so we could also see people from think tanks give speeches to other people from other think tanks. Is this a great country, or what?

What about Court-TV, for crying out loud? If the poor, misunderstood Menendez boys (Orphans, you know. So sad.) and the still-searching-for-the-real-killer OJ Simpson can put that on the Nielsen map think of what a good DC intern pregnancy termination or a celebrity partial birth abortion could do for ABORT-TV! "57 Channels And Nothing On" would fall right out of the Boss' concert lineup because there would always be something on and it won't be poor old Teddy Kennedy looking like he wishes he could remember where he put the Glenlivet.

Once you make the conceptual leap and start down the path, programming possibilities jump out at you. ABORT-TV can launch with something prestigious like a documentary shot in gritty, faux realistic, black and white. Maybe "A Day In The Life Of A Heroic Abortionist." He would be 50ish, fatherly and ruggedly handsome; Marcus Welby, without the caffeine. The camera would follow him as he heroically drives his Mercedes through the rainy city streets, past the mean spirited right wing anti-abortion nuts and their picket signs.

We see him counsel the poor but spirited inner city women about their right to choose and the therapeutic value of "controlling your own body," not to mention ending someone else's life. In the overdub we hear him wisely decide not to mention the abortion-breast cancer link because it would just confuse these poor, simple people. The highlight comes when another doctor botches a partial birth abortion and our hero has the presence of mind to make sure the escaped post-abortive material only leaves the hospital as spare parts. We close as he goes home to his 23-year-old trophy wife.

Or perhaps something pseudo-scientific, glitzy and NOVA-like would be a better kickoff. It is too bad Carl Sagan is dead because he would be just the one to work himself into rapture pontificating on the medical, psychological, societal and economic benefits of choice. "Millions and millions of choices.." Of course, if the Supreme Court had invented Roe v. Wade a generation earlier there might never have been a Carl Sagan for us to wish we could have hired him. But that's another question. You take the good with the bad, I guess.

All of this should happen during pledge week. Think of the NARAL matching grant challenges they could mount. The Ford Foundation will love it too. After the big launch, ABORT-TV will settle down to the day-to-day business of prime time programming. Here are just a few of the shows we can look forward to seeing:

Pro-Choice Queen For A Day: "Ralph, my husband hasn't touched me since he lost his job a year ago and I have been working late at the office a lot. He ain't much but he can add and subtract in single digits and this pregnancy might just put a strain on our relationship. Talk about inconvenient! I need an abortion."

RU Being 486'd?: This is a sophisticated British entry where the wacky staff of a slightly seedy "women's reproductive health center" (Nudge, nudge. Wink, wink) trade barbs with each other while making sure that Young Mr. Blair and his naughty escapades do not cause undue embarrassment or put too great a strain on the National Health.

Survivor – The Third Trimester: Fetuses separated from their mothers are stranded in a makeshift "women's reproductive health center" (Know what I mean? Know what I mean?) on an island in the South China Sea. This begins the Darwinian struggle to determine which one gets to "leave the hospital." Barbara Boxer hosts.

Dr. Buffy, The Embryo Slayer: Buffy graduates from Sunnydale Medical and embarks on a new career eliminating rogue zygotes who are attaching themselves to the wombs of the innocent women of the Hellmouth who, after all, only want a choice. Along the way, she stakes a few pro-life fanatics picketing 499 feet from the entrance of the “women’s reproductive health center” (A nod’s as good as a wink.).

MTV's Stick A Fork In It: The most fly coeds from the latest run of MTV's Spring Break are illin' and it's time to begin those back to school preparations. The girls are 4 months pregnant now, by who knows whom, and you know how those inconvenient and unsightly bulges can hamper the rush process.

Can you see it, America? How come no one has done it before? We televise everything but we don't televise abortions. This inexplicable oversight should be rectified immediately. Let's show everyone exactly how honorable and therapeutic a thing abortion truly is and let's do it during prime time, in stereo. And none of that cheesy pay-per-view stuff either. PBS should reinvent itself as ABORT-TV. It's the right ting to do.

Judging, and I know that judging is a bad thing, by the way we act no TV, no videos, not even posters or T-shirts) someone might conclude that we are ashamed of our 1.5 million yearly abortions, and that can't be right. Can it? Someone might conclude that somewhere deep inside we think there is something wrong with sticking a fork in a baby's skull and sucking out his brain. Can you imagine? Fanatics. Let's prove them wrong, America. Bring on ABORT-TV. After all, we are Americans and we are proud of our right to a dead baby. Aren't we?

Cue the abortionists! Fire up the klieg lights! Roll cameras! Action!

Pass the fork.

    July 14, 2001