While support for the occupying government of George W. is at an all time low, conservatives have resorted to playing their trump card (in every sense of the word) by resurrecting the ghosts of Republicans past to do their campaigning. With Jesus working overtime fundraising for his heavenly GOP fathers, and Osama Bin Laden temporarily, at least, unavailable, there's only one person left to clinch the re-election deal, short of Ronald Reagan himself. Enter Donald Trump and his high concept “reality” show “The Apprentice”; the Darwinism in reverse off-shoot of “Survivor”, where contestants vie for the dubious distinction of humping Donald's leg on national television in the hopes of getting on his payroll.
For those who fail the casting call to be America's next Boardroom Barbie or GE Joe, take heart. The military is always an employment option and one that provides more challenges than selling lemonade on a Manhattan street corner - the first hurdle “The Apprentice's” opposing teams had to slither under to prove their mini-me mogulness to the Donald. Racial minorities can always be counted on to make sacrifices to their corporate bosses overseas as their disproportionately high fatality rate has recently proved -- 14.3 percent of the 549 combat deaths in Iraq so far. Bleak unemployment prospects at home give the economically disadvantaged the privilege to serve under their own Donald (Rumsfeld that is) and a chance to be on TV. Whether you're playing for Team Bush or Team Trump, the rewards are the same, even if you have to claim your prize in a body bag.
Unjust rewards are also in store for the power-suited Powder Puff Girls on “The Apprentice's” Protege team (a name that conjures up a hi-tech escort service) since working women in the US earn on average 75% of what their male counterparts bring home on payday. The girls on “The Apprentice” payroll make up for the lost revenue by outsexing the competition. Former model Martha Stewart cashed in early on her assets, but got the “ass” part of them thrown in jail for behaving like any other “mogulomaniac”. “The Apprentice's” male tycoons-in-training will no doubt enjoy the luxury of going unpunished for berating their underlings in a high-handed diva manner by the time they grease themselves up the corporate ladder -- that is, if CEO positions haven't already been outsourced along with rest of the jobs in the US. “The Apprentice” is window dressing to Team Bush's domestic program of economic growth minus job creation; a weekly infomercial peddling unsound economic theory along with the logo'd “Your Fired” merchandise -- the perfect gift for that special, outsourced someone in your life.
“The Apprentice” makes the case for opponents of Affirmative Action with its underlying message that women and minorities churn up a level playing field with their tearful, emotionally charged disruptions in the work place. Quite frankly, not the kind of people you want to work with, as “The Apprentice” makes implicitly clear. When African American contestant Omarosa got her comeuppance on the boardroom chopping block, audiences and cast members cheered the departure of the resident bitch-on-heels; a non-team player in a game where teamwork is trumped every time by “a go it alone” rush to the finish line. In the corporate rat race, Omarosa smelled a race rat but, sadly, it was her own complicit role in propagating the myth of equality and diversity in America's corporate culture that sealed her doom as the bride of Jayson Blair -- another fictional casualty of Affirmative Action's “failures”. The show's producers were clearly looking for personalities who would polarize audience reaction along race and gender lines (always a ratings bonanza), and with careful editing, Omarosa obliged with a performance worthy of Courtney Love ritually disemboweling herself on late night television.
Taking a cue from the Bush administration, which cynically deflects criticisms of its hostile policies towards minorities through the high profile appointments of Condoleeza Rice and Colin Powell, Donald Trump similarly promotes a faux diversity with a couple of black faces to appease “The Apprentice's” non-white demographic. In other words, the viewers who are least likely to buy lemonade at $5.00 a pop from midriff bearing stealth yuppies.
For all his talk of “thinking outside the box,” Donald seems curiously trapped in a time warp. Whether it's increasing the tired “Planet Hollywood” restaurant chain's profits with "shooter specials" (how '80s) or sexing up a corporate jet's image, Donald's vision is securely tethered to the homogenous ideals of the Reagan era. The tasks he sets out for his Protege/Versacorp team members inspire the kind of ingenuity behind, “would you like fries with that, sir?” With a less than “queer eye” and color blind to the opportunities that lie outside white, Metrosexual Manhattan, Donald can only see dollar signs in dinosaurs. Contestants are rewarded for unoriginality and short-term profit gains, proving that the spirit of old boy, crony capitalism will continue to thrive as long as audiences deem “The Apprentice” a hit, rather than giving it the miss it deserves.
With reality glaringly absent at every level of policy making in the Bush led war against just about everything, including the economy, the distortions of “reality” TV have made the case where the administration has failed; namely that wealth trickles down from the front fly region of the benevolent super-rich and into the imaginary pockets of Americans enterprising enough to cannibalize the competition.
Reality TV (and “The Apprentice” is no exception) reinforces the notion that “success” hinges upon one's ability to tap into his/her inner psychopath to reap the benefits that come with a jobless recovery. On planet Reality, life imitates what kindergarten would be like if John Waters and the cast of “Pink Flamingos” were running the show. On planet earth, the Bush team has taken the farce even further with their tax cuts for the rich. "The Apprentice" brings us the spawn of “The filthiest people alive” obeying Divine's imperative to "Kill everyone now. Advocate cannibalism! Eat shit!" With their Jobs and Growth Plan, the Bush economic team delivers pretty much the same message: that it's a dog eat dog turd world.
Leilla Matsui is a freelance writer living in Tokyo, Japan. She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org. Seth Sandronsky is a member of Peace Action and co-editor with Because People Matter, Sacramento’s progressive paper. He can be reached at: email@example.com.
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