This past week was one of those times (which is the exact opposite of how I feel during tennis Grand Slams or the Olympics). Not having a TV allowed me to be completely oblivious to the premiere of that new reality competition show “Stars Earn Stripes.”
First, that title is a bit awkward. Second, really? You want to watch
b-list c-list d-list “Stars” run around imitating some military exercises? Third, Todd Palin? I love me some Nick Lachey since the old school Motown 98-degrees days and even through all that crazy Jessica Simpson nonsense because he seemed to get the short end of the stick, but really? And Todd Palin? Why? How is he in any way a star? (And yes, I demoted all the other celebrities to the d-list b/c they thought it’d be a good idea to be on the same show as TPa). Gah! But I digress.
Long story short - I don’t have much of an opinion about the show b/c I didn’t know it existed before the internet uproar and I haven’t watched it (and don’t plan to). But from the sound of it, I’m glad I missed it entirely. It seems to have offended a lot of people, including those in the military community. And if this show is supposed to somehow pay tribute to that 1% in uniform… well, then, they’ve really missed the mark.
The best commentary I’ve seen about the issue, though, and the main reason why I’m even making a post is to share this commentary, comes from a Dish reader who is a Marine and two-time Veteran of the Iraq War. He writes:
The thing about being in the military is not so much that we do things that are dangerous - although we sometimes, even often, do. It’s that as long as you are in the service, you have to go wherever you are told to go and do whatever you are told to do.
Even if a lawful order doesn’t look like it’s in your personal best interest - say, because it looks dangerous or uncomfortable or boring or deadly - it is still an order, and it still has to be followed. The quasi-celebrities on “Stars Earn Stripes” are indulging themselves in all the fantasy-glamour side of the military without ever shouldering the duty side of it, and that ultimately makes them as phony as Sylvester Stallone in the Rambo movies. The fact that Todd Palin and Nick Lachey are going to be all over TV, getting famous for doing this stuff, while thousands of actual servicemen do the real thing in dangerous anonymity in various random shitty places around the world is what makes the show so thoroughly disgusting.
As for the “at least it’s for a good cause” excuse: not gonna fly. There is nothing preventing NBC, or Dean Cain or Leila Ali, from making a donation to the USO, the Marine Corps League or the Tillman foundation on their own, without all the hoopla. Instead, NBC is going to reap enormous profits from the show, the show will glorify a bunch of unimpressive celebrities, and in return some lucky military charity will get a drop in the bucket. Frankly, it’s demeaning to the organizations themselves to have Todd Palin or Nick Lachey use the show for self-promotion in return for a token donation.
My suggestion, for what it’s worth, is that the last episode of the show ought to feature military recruiters from the services who come in with a standard 8-year military contract for each one of these jokers, so America can see what excuses they come up with for not signing on the dotted line. (Yes, you have to be 35 or younger to join the service, but we ought to be able to get an age waiver for the highly fit and well-trained participants, right?) And Mark Burnett can get a close-up camera for that magic moment when the recruiter says, “Well, you’re telling me you honor and respect our servicemembers. You’ve proven that you’re good enough to be one of us. What are you waiting for?” That would be entertainment I would watch.
That Marine has some feisty words, and I like it!
But it also touches on this larger feeling I have about patriotism. Lots of people can say they love their country or support the military, which are great things, but there’s a lot of talk and not enough walk. Just because your fb banner is the American flag and an eagle does not make you a “True American” (whatever the hell that means). Additionally, I begrudge people who think that the only way to show you really love this country is by putting on a military uniform. There are plenty of other ways to perform public service for the good of this country and/or contribute for the betterment or protection of our nation without signing on the dotted line. I commend those who do (I mean, my husband is one of those people and I am very familiar with the sacrifices they/we endure), but I also deride people who think that is the only way to show that you want this great nation to succeed. Teachers trying to ensure we have a future generation of intelligent and thoughtful individuals do that. Social workers taking care of the poor and sick and neglected are doing that. Legislators (of the non-corrupt variety) thinking of policy solutions for communities are doing that. Researchers trying to better understand the things causing the most pain in our society are doing that. It’s a group effort, people. So let’s stick together and keep pushing for the good ideas, not just the profitable ones.
Plus, how silly do they look:
(Sidenote: one thing you’ll get to know about me is that I obsessively read Andrew Sullivan’s The Dish.)
Edited: added the ridic photo.