Art and Life
Where Does the White Working Class Struggle? On Reality TV.—David Frum
What's happening to the men of the white working class? A friend in the television industry offers an arresting insight. He points out that as good jobs for such men dwindle and as their pay declines, TV is pumping out "reality" shows in which:
tough white working class males do very dangerous forms of work: king crab fishing in Alaska, oil drilling in Texas, or shrimping in Louisiana. We just call it he-man TV. In all of them, white working class males are literally, physically, and dramatically hanging on for dear life as they earn a living in various heroic fashions, hyped up and manipulated by the producers. So as the white working class is increasingly threatened, the vast American TV audience--both upscale and down--is hooked on these reality TV shows showing the white working class quite literally on the verge of physical annihilation at the forces of nature, or machinery, or both. Wild nature serves as a stand-in for the overwhelming economic forces they confront. (After World War II there was a slew of TV programs about cowboys because the world of the cowboys was coming to an end.) TV serves as a mirror in which we experience deep trends in our economy without realizing we're doing it.