Opinion > Star Guests
Herding the sheepboys
By Ken Byler
A while back, I was in a store that fancies itself to be an "upscale" super-market. Feeling that my IQ had been belittled, I asked an assistant manager to "tell me please, the name of any other supermarket in town that's selling a one-pound package of Ball Park weenies for $4.99?"
The young fellow mulled my question over for a few seconds and then answered hesitantly, "Uh, let's see, hum, I think so-and-so store does."
He was right! The other national chain grocer that's still playing the "reward card" game also doubles the price on goods and then advertises "Buy 1 Get 1 Free." I smiled at the assistant manager when he sheepishly admitted that it was a "gimmick" thought up by marketing geniuses at corporate headquarters.
Basically, six corporations own most of the national-brand food companies. Oscar Mayer and John Morrell are owned by the same company. Owens Country Sausage and Jimmy Dean Sausage -- same company. So how can one supermarket be "upscale," and the one down the road not be, if both are selling the same thing?
I suppose the answer to the "upscale" question is to raise prices so that only "educated young professionals" can afford to shop there. It appears that these shoppers aren't looking for value -- they're shopping for self-esteem.
Corporations strive to attract educated young professionals, better known as the "hip" crowd to their "tony" and "upscale" establishments. They know it's almost impossible to overestimate the gullibility of the American consumer. It was once said that every purchase we make is a chance to tell the world who we are. If that's true, then a lot of us are shouting, "We're stupid!"
We keep distancing ourselves from reality. Nowadays a lot of "educated young professionals" can't connect their breakfast of bacon and eggs to chickens and a dead hog. And few of us ever ponder the fact that there wouldn't be any Big Macs or barbequed brisket unless someone was willing to cut a cow's throat.
How did we dumb ourselves down and get so out of touch with the real world? How did we arrive at this pitiful state of ignorance? I don't know about you, but the first thing that comes to my mind is we're watching way too much television.
In Collin County on a recent day between the hours of 7 and 11 p.m., there were 21 murders, eight kidnappings, 12 aggravated rapes, 18 explosions and at least 36 other violent crimes committed. You were probably safe at home. Who'd want to go out into such a violent and dangerous world? Surprise, surprise! These crimes all happened right there in your living room on your television set. The actual number of murders in Collin County on that day was - zero. Kidnappings, aggravated rapes and explosions - zero.
The entertainment moguls say they're just reflecting reality and giving the "public" what it wants. Hollywood, the land of celebrity wedding relays, who's-yo-daddy babies and lip-synching pop stars, has a skewed concept of reality. How else can you explain Hulk Hogan, the Kardashians and Paris Hilton? What Hollywood is giving the "public" is regurgitated cops-and-robber tomes, hero lawyer plots, crime scene investigator and profiler fantasies.
Television reporting has been reduced to sound bites and liberal news "anchors" pitching softball questions to left-wing Democrats and moderate Republicans. This so we can come to "informed" conclusions about what's going on in Washington. Then there's the celebrity chef challenges and breathless reports on Brad and Angelina's latest squabble or tattoo.
It seems there's at least one self-promotion "special" a month. It's where the "stars" get together and the hunks wear Armani suits but forget to shave or comb their hair. Angelina, J Lo and the rest of the girls get almost all the way into their clothes. Cameras roll as they arrive in limos, walk a red carpet and pose their way into delirium. Once inside the auditorium, they give themselves some trophies, "induct" somebody into a "hall" and then sell the show to sponsors for millions. The public seems to fall for it every time.
Hollywood's creative bankruptcy is evident to almost everyone over the age of 40 outside of California and New York. It's become evident that the quickest route to the endless self-congratulatory awards Hollywood gives itself is to make homosexuality a part of the program. Remember "Brokeback Mountain?" The Ang Lee movie on gay caballeros? After being seen by three dozen or so people, it was hailed as a masterpiece worthy of no less than a major award. Even if you don't give a hoot about people's sexual preferences, and I don't, you run the risk of being labeled a homophobe if you even suspect that Hollywood is pushing an agenda.
Another route to fame and glory in Hollywood is to be a member of Saturday Night Live. Even though they haven't drawn a courtesy chuckle out of an audience in years, alumni from SNL are passed off as comic geniuses.
It seems to me that the worst thing we're doing is letting our young folks sit in front of television sets soaking up mediocrity, while people we don't know create a fantasy world around them. But every now and then a Roots, Lonesome Dove or a Ken Burns special comes along that keeps fed-up folks from throwing the TV into the yard.
By the way, them boys up on Brokeback Mountain was herding sheep, not cows. So the movie really wasn't about cowboys - it was about sheepboys.
Ken Byler is a Star Columnist, author and artist. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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