According to the Blametariat, irrational fear of crows is a thing.
Spinster aunts are award-nominated experts on irrationality, but this crow dealio was news to us down at HQ, where the tragic dearth of crows has long been lamented, especially since recently screening a PBS documentary on the extraordinary intellective powers of these birds.
Still, it’s not surprising that people irrationally fear crows. The beady eyes, the ominous portent of deathiness, the nevermore, the occultish silhouette against a full moon. According to the Internet, people can irrationally afear pretty much anything. Feet. String. Death.
My sibling Tidy, for example, cannot abide a snake in any way, shape, or form. I’m not saying I don’t lurch sideways a foot or so whenever a serpent unexpectedly heaves into view, but the possibility of snakecine encounters doesn’t prevent me from traipsing through the woods on a spring morning with a cup of coffee and a couple of fairly decent dogs. Not Tidy, though. She wouldn’t traipse through the woods on a spring morning, with coffee and dogs or without, if it was the last spring morning on earth. She would rather have root canal sans novocaine performed in an unheated Siberian gulag in February by an ex-Nazi who keeps asking “is it safe?”.
Irrational behavior is entertaining as hell, apparently. It is so goddam entertaining that enterprising TV producers routinely exploit it for personal gain. Yesterday I happened to see on television a docu-reality show called “My Strange Addiction.” A woman compulsively eats toilet paper, a dude is in love with a mannequin. Experts are consulted. Gripping stuff. And this show is but e pluribus unum; there’s a whole Behind The Scenes With Crazy Chicks TV genre.
The depressing “Intervention” springs to mind. Producers collude with family members to deceive unsuspecting addicts into allowing themselves to be filmed shooting up or passed out in their own vomit. Lots of footage of weeping mothers. The addict inevitably storms out of the titular intervention, but eventually is talked into rehab. The family promises to attend codependency counseling, but they never bother to actually follow through, revealing that they don’t, in fact, give as much of a fuck as they pretended to during the shooting. Riveting reality-ishness, guaranteed to physically sicken you if you have ever known or been a real-life addict.
Voyeuristic schadenfreudians cannot be said to lack for hoardersploitation shows. There are not one, not two, not three, but four programs (as far as I know) devoted to compulsive hoarding. A light, comedic take on the debilitating illness is Style Network’s long-running “Clean House.” Host Niecy Nash opens up cans of SBF (Sassy Black Girlfriend) on clinically disposophobic couples from whose filthy households you can’t believe CPS hasn’t removed the kids. You can’t help but be alarmed that Nash, a D-list comedian who doesn’t even play a doctor on TV, has been put in charge of counseling all these clinically ill people. But somehow every show culminates with a jolly yard sale, and in the end the family gets a spa weekend, a home makeover, and happiness.
Possibly because hoarding is actually somewhat less hilarious than “Clean House” would suggest, things get progressively darker from there. “Hoarders” on A&E, and TLC’s “Hoarding: Buried Alive” are essentially the same dispiriting show. In every episode, a lone woman’s deep emotional attachment to her floor-to-ceiling mountains of garbage, hazardous waste, and thrift store crap threatens both her relationships and her physical health. Each dirty little stuffed animal or chipped teacup is a treasure with which she cannot part without trauma. When the despondent family fails to cure her with tears and shame, an expert wearing a respirator (it stinks in there!) tries to talk some sense into her. But the siren call of the trash is too strong. The epilogue always delivers the sad news that the city has condemned her house because the poor woman couldn’t get a grip.
But just when you think televised video of shattered lives edited for your viewing pleasure couldn’t get any more exploitative, Animal Planet presents the contemptible, incomparable “Confessions: Animal Hoarding.” New York magazine calls this “the most depressing reality show of all time.”
Horribly, truer words were never published on this or any other Internet.
It’s no secret that all reality shows are depressing in one way or another. Whether the competition style (wherein contestants turn on each other and ostracize the weak while “judges” decide their fate), or the documentary style (the focus is on some sort of aberration, such as homicidal brides-to-be), you can’t watch them without a gnawing sense of shame. That plastic surgery-cum-beauty pageant series was pretty hard to take, and lard knows the regular hoarding shows are seriously problematic, but it is difficult to imagine passing off as entertainment a more disturbing scenario than the one presented by “Confessions: Animal Hoarding”. Sad, damaged, isolated people try to cope with personal pain by imprisoning in their own filth dozens or even hundreds of helpless cats, dogs, horses, or bunnies. The afflicted subjects don’t perceive themselves as abusers even when mummified kitten corpses are excavated from couch cushions; they “love” the animals upon whom they have visited this suffering, and freak out when removal is threatened. If you can sit through an entire episode of this horrorshow your lobe is made of sterner stuff than mine.
Where to begin with the blaming? The hoarders are goaded into crisis mode by the producers, are filmed at their most degraded and desperate moments, and are ultimately depicted as delusional grotesques. It is unclear whether they actually receive any long-term psychiatry, or whether their “treatment” ends when the respirator-wearin’ expert splits town with the film crew. The exploitation of animal suffering adds a whole nother level of quease. Often, because animal protection laws are inadequate, some of the removed animals may be returned to their abusers. But the most repellent aspect is that the whole enterprise is fed by a slavering prurience for human debasement-as-spectacle.But wait. Just so we’re clear, sometimes what appears to be irrational behavior is merely a case of extreme common sense, and it’s everybody else who’s flippin’ crazy. Certain spinster aunts, for example, will not attempt to drive an automobile over the ridiculously high 290 East/MoPac North overpass without a couple of milligrams of Ativan on board. Furthermore,
Anyway, “Confessions: Animal Hoarding” wins this week’s Ditwuss Award.*
* Ditwuss = DTWS = Degrades The Whole Species.
Crow photo: screengrab from “A Murder of Crows” | Nature | PBS
Flyover photo: Google Maps