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Changing channels on shock television

THE DAY after Valentine's Day, love was still in the air. Last Tuesday night, before 23 million engrossed viewers, two lovebirds married each other in a beautiful Las Vegas ceremony, and they didn't even know each other's last names.

I hate to admit it, but I was one of the viewers who watched Fox's "Who Wants to Marry a Multi-Millionaire?" In a blend of the hit game show "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?" and the Miss America pageant, 50 gold-digging women vied for a chance to spend the rest of their lives - pending the inevitable divorce - with one Mr. Rick Rockwell. To have and to hold, and to spend, spend, spend.

In a desperate attempt to avoid homework, I watched the entire two hours of swimsuits and matrimony. I saw Rockwell narrow the women down from 50 to 10 - based on looks, of course - then down to five. I listened to the clever anecdotes the women told in hopes of being "the one" for Rockwell. I even had my favorites that I found myself rooting for.

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    It wasn't until the bitter end, when Rockwell planted a deep, long kiss on his new bride-to-be, Darva Conger, that I realized just how pathetic our society is. We create a market that necessitates this kind of "entertainment," and so the producers keep churning it out.

    I literally felt sick to my stomach after watching such a blatant mockery of marriage. Two strangers took part in the ultimate gesture of love, based solely on his checkbook and her funny story about running into a pole while serving in the Gulf War.

    It's unbelievable that such an event took place, that so many people watched it, and that I was sucked into its premise just as easily as the next gullable person.

    At first I was angry with Fox for sinking even lower than their usual standards. But then I realized that Fox isn't a reprehensible station that pollutes the minds of viewers, it's an intelligent corporation that knows how polluted our minds already are and merely caters to our need for crap.

    Such shows as "Who Wants to Marry a Multi-Millionaire," and "When Good Times Go Bad" existed because we're addicted to TV, plain and simple. It doesn't matter that in these shows people are set on fire, mauled by lions, and paraded before a rich dude in hopes of being his trophy wife. It's entertaining, it's life in its most exaggerated form, and it's on TV.

    The problem isn't just that we sit around watching these kinds of shows on TV. We also are sucked into stretched reality, vicarious living and outrageous news in all media forms. "Newspapers" like The National Inquirer fill supermarket checkout lines. Magazines about movie stars and sex techniques join the ranks. We are drawn to images and stories so far-fetched that we long to experience them ourselves. We savor the shocking and crave the crass.

    It can be argued that these types of materials contribute to the degradation of society, but the relationship is a two-way courtship. We demand the shocking and unbelievable mutations of reality that supply the "World's Sexiest Commercials, Banned in America," and "When Animals Attack XV" with material. This is what we desire; this is what they feed us.

    There are more important things to imbibe into our minds during our free time. There are books, there are concerts, and there's exercise. If you must watch TV, consider anything not on Fox, the real news or shows that can be funny without involving some amazing feat caught on video.

    If you haven't noticed, there's an interesting and surprisingly entertaining presidential race going on right now that is televised on many stations.

    If we learn to change the channel when these shows come on and ignore the magazines glowing from the racks, then the cycle will be broken. The suppliers of this junk can't profit if we don't buy it. So just don't. If we don't stop the flow now, soon all our entertainment sources will be similar. Instead of watching or reading about truly newsworthy events, we'll watch "Who Wants to See Some Carnage?"

    We need to focus more on what's important to society, like the presidential campaign or any real news, and less on the world's most shocking wedding disasters caught on tape by millionaires who raise animals that attack when good times go bad. It could happen. I give it a year.

    (Brandon Almond's column appears Wednesdays in The Cavalier Daily.)

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