It’s been a while since I’ve written something new. Juggling work, everyday chores, preparing for a move and a baby has taken up much time. Events of the last few days have reminded me how important it is to make sure that what one finds important is constantly present in their life. I think it is important to look at things for what they actually are, to call “bullshit” on the lies of the world that are passed off as truths, and to recognize the valuable contributions that people make.
I’m back. I’m sorry that I have been gone.
I wasn’t shy to rip on the TV “reality” show Bridalplasty for lowering the standards of television and ignoring its social responsibility and the power it wields in communicating with its audience. Bridalplasty was created to make money off of people’s insecurities and tell only the parts of the story that suited them. As such, it preyed on society for its own gain.
Thankfully, there’s another side of the coin. ABC’s “What Would You Do”, is hosted by John Quinones. The show uses actors to recreate possible real-life scenarios, in full view of people going about their daily lives. The show, essentially a televised sociological experiment, asks the question, “when you think no one is watching, what would you do? Do you step in, step up, or step away?”
The show aired a few years ago and I was captivated. It has made a comeback this season and I am equally impressed. I remember a scene where the setup had a male adult actor approach child actors in a park. Unsuspecting parents with their kids were present in the park. The child actor’s “parent” was not paying attention to the child. The scenario was designed to see whether other parents would intervene in the best interests of a child that wasn’t their own. Various variables were tested. Different actors played the part of the adult. Some were male, some were female. Some were dressed in business suits while others wore more casual clothes, even going to the point of one of the actors dressing in clothing that suggested he was a dangerous person. Viewers are invited to watch as some parents act in a way that can easily be described as “that kid’s not my problem” and others act in a way that suggests that, even if the child isn’t theirs, they feel a responsibility to protect them.
This is worthwhile television.
I don’t believe I am alone in looking at the world and thinking that fewer people are stepping up for what is right. More and more people are adopting a laissez-faire attitude where they will only intervene if they, their loved ones, or their possessions are threatened. If the threat has nothing to do with them personally, they’ll walk away, pretend that nothing is wrong, and convince themselves they were right in their choice.
This season, in the one episode that I caught, the scene was set with a black woman holding a young white girl’s hand, meeting her black friend in a diner. All 3 were actors. The storyline read that one woman was excited to introduce the girl she just adopted to her best friend – who didn’t know that the adopted child was of a different race. Various other diners could overhear their “conversation” and some weighed in. We heard various viewpoints, including the following incredulous quote: “Blackbirds should stay with blackbirds and doves should stay with doves.” Wow. This, in the United States.
Not everyone shared this opinion, thankfully. And, as in every “reality” show, there are writers who choose which clips to show and which to ignore based on the story line they want to promote. I unequivocally disagree with the old woman who made the above quote, and nonetheless believe that the public seeing this kind of thing is a valuable experience. We need to know that racism is alive and well out there, so that we don’t give up the fight just yet. The show presented the opposite scene (with white adults and a black girl) as well, to compare and contrast attitudes.
To this lady’s credit, despite her latent racism, she does make sure that the actors “understand” that they should not be discussing their disagreement in front of the child. If you witnessed something like this, what would you do?
Later in the episode, we see a scene in a bar where a parent is getting drunk with their child present. In this case, it seems that outsiders only intervened when the parent walked away or when the parent got up to leave and the dialogue suggested that they were about to drive, under the influence, with the child in the car. No one thought to intervene as it was happening. What would you do?
There is a phenomenon called the “Bystander Effect” that relates to how people act when they are in a group of people who are witnessing an emergency. The phenomenon holds that among the people in this group each person expects someone else to act, and the result is that nobody act (or action is severely delayed). What do you think? What would you do if you were in a group of people that witnessed an emergency?
I have, on many occasions, intervened when I saw someone doing something I thought was against the public good. I can’t count how many times I see someone litter and I have said “excuse me, sir, I think you dropped something.” But lately, I am finding that I am more scared than I have ever been. I am afraid of retribution. I am afraid for my health and safety and this fear is preventing me from stepping up for the “less important” things. I believe that if I saw a situation where someone’s life was in danger that I would step up, but in all honesty, I can’t be 100% sure. I think it would depend on the complete context at the time and my evaluation of it. I’m not proud of this, but it’s the truth as I see it now, and I’m committed to calling things as they are.
How about you? Have you been faced with a situation that begged for your intervention? Did you intervene? Why or why not? What determines whether or not you get involved?
Check out “What Would You Do”. Friday nights on ABC. For those of you without kids and with active social lives, set your PVR.