Whenever I tune into the type of reality show where producers save the destitute by giving them an expensive house and bigger tits I find myself wanting to scream out loud at the emotional manipulation. Having known the developmentally delayed as well as many autistic and Asperberger’s children and having grown up with a physically disabled sister, I generally withold a lot of the self-serving pity that characterizes attitudes toward the clinically abnormal. The recent lawsuit by a black family against the family who used them for an “extreme” house makeover represents the cream of shit. The upcoming NBC program Three Wishes could take this phenomenon to new levels.
Where to begin? The website informs the reader that “deserving” individuals will receive these mythic wishes. So far as we can tell “deserving” means having a severely impaired IQ, a crash helmet and a projected lifespan of less than thirty years. Really, tho, this show just seems to represent the logical concordance of both “extreme reality makeovers” (what the fuck do any of those three words mean individually let alone collectively?) and the Wesley Willis branch of outsider art. While the late Mr. Willis clearly held the reins on the freakshow to which he dedicated most of the last two years of his life, Three Wishes seems little more than an excuse for Middle America to gawk at cripples.
I see no problem with the Old Timey Freak Shows of yore. Such groups generally allowed for human anomalies to congregate together with “others of their kind” (which generally had more to do with genuine tolerance than body type) and make some money off of damned fools who would pay to stare at their deformities. That said, shows like Three Wishes seem the inverse of the freak show. Rather than allowing for a collectivity to emerge and empowering those marginalized and outcast because of their bodies, emotionally manipulative “reality” programming serves only to make difference more of a spectacle. And who benefits? Television producers, certainly not the poor saps getting fucked by them.
I suggest reading the below article about the impending lawsuit then watching a reality show remembering how such things become assembled in post-production.