Kistaro Windrider, Reptillian Situation Assessor (kistaro) wrote,
Kistaro Windrider, Reptillian Situation Assessor

The intersection of bike activism and glitzy televised dreck

So, this is what I was saying yesterday about "a reality TV show that could theoretically do some societal good". Remember, not all reality TV shows are competitive. This would be squarely in the category of "exploitative", instead: the reality TV shows in which people sign up to do something inconvenient for money, on camera. But like a few of the feel-good shows in this category, this one is around something that might actually be fundamentally positive, rather than fundamentally arbitrary, and might make for interesting TV if handled by a sufficiently shameless editing crew.

My specific cause is "car ownership in dense metropolitan areas does not need to be anywhere near as high as it currently is". These are the most bikeable, walkable neighborhoods in the country, and yet they still have high car ownership rates. I really don't think a ratio of more than 1:4 of cars to households is actually necessary in places like that.

Why not put an overfunded TV show on it? A family in a sufficiently walkable area agrees to live without access to a car. Their own car is (or cars are!) chained shut, and they're forbidden from accepting car rides from others (it'd be too easy otherwise) with the exception of carpooling to work. They can stop at any time, but if they make it a week, they get $1000; $5000 after two weeks (becase it takes that long to run low on stored groceries, so grocery shopping has to get solved); $20,000 after three weeks (because vacation time form work probably ran out after two), and $50,000 if they make it an entire month, after which the show is over. But there's a catch- they'd have the option to sell their car/s, and sign a contract saying that nobody in the family would get a replacement car for at least a year thereafter, for $250,000 - which they get to pay back in full if they're found to have bought a car in the interim. The show crew would be back several times in the interim, of course, because "hey, we're still living without a car, here's how we're doing stuff" is actually probably reasonably interesting as three-minute end-of-episode bumpers for later episodes in the season. (And note that after the month, taking rides from friends is totally acceptable.)

Is it frivolous and exploitative? Sure. Is it likely to have much real content? Of course not, this is Reality TV. But is it likely to show people that a car is nowhere near as necessary as they might have thought? That's entirely possible, and I have to wonder if it would have any impact. I suppose it's optimistic to think it would, unless The Biggest Loser and related crap has been shown to have some measurable impact on obesity rates among reality television watchers.

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Tags: television

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