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The Surreality Show: Stranger than Fiction
by Lucinda Marshall
November 18, 2004

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I don't pretend to understand the appeal of reality shows, but it's beginning to feel as if we are uncomfortably near the exciting season finale of the surreal world in which we actually live, and it's not at all clear if the series is going to survive for another season. The plot leading up to the cliffhanger finale has been an ingenious web of surprises, mysteries and deceit cleverly tangled up so that there are so many twists and turns that the viewer is constantly tricked into misjudging what is happening and who is doing it.

For instance, in a recent story line there is an emergency at the Polar Ice Caps which it seems are melting much faster than previously thought. What will happen to the polar bears? Will temperatures and seas rise? Numerous characters come forth to insist that action must be taken to stop the disaster. But the President of The Biggest Most Powerful Country objects, it could have terrible consequences for his country's economy. Besides, the melting Ice Caps will make it much easier to explore the region's oil and gas reserves. Will the people be so thrilled at the prospect of more fuel that they keep consuming so as to melt the Ice Caps to get to the fuel only to discover that they have been had when their economy is literally washed to see by the rising tides?

Stay tuned, we'll be back right after this commercial break (don't forget, there is a reason the evening news is brought to you by sleep aids and acid blockers).

We return to the show as the President has just won re-election when his opponent concedes just before reports of stolen votes start coming in. The President declares his slim margin of victory a mandate and the scene swiftly changes to bombs going off and artillery fire filling the air. We are destroying The Rebel Stronghold. The Vicious Malcontents do not understand that we have liberated their country by killing 100,000 of their people, polluting their country with poisonous depleted uranium and destroying their infrastructure. And now they are rejecting our efforts to make them into a Democracy. So of course, we really have no choice but to have The Pretend Leader of the country declare martial law and totally destroy one of their cities since one of The Vicious Malcontent's leaders might possibly have been in the city at some point, although everyone agrees that he is long gone. Sounds like a soap opera doesn't it?

As longtime fans will recall, there were clues in the early episodes that laid the groundwork for today's show. A few viewers caught the hidden plot line right away and now that we have lots more clues, we might want to catch the re-runs of the earlier episodes and see if they make more sense now. Here a few of the plot lines that have never been resolved.

Why did the President continue to read My Pet Goat while airplanes flew into buildings? Is it that good of a book? If so, why did it never make The Bestseller List? My personal theory is that it was the first time in years that someone had offered Little Dubya something to read that was at his grade level and he was so awed by the gesture that he could not absorb the shocking news that his advisor whispered in his ear.

And if the President was too busy reading, why didn't the military make sure to intercept the hijacked planes before they hit the buildings? And what about the mysterious black boxes? In real life those always seem to survive to give us clues when airplanes crash. But the show's producers lead us to believe that most of the boxes were never found and those that were didn't say much. Perhaps next season they will suddenly be revealed.

Of course the biggest mystery of all is WHAT ABOUT OSAMA??? You'll recall there was a frantic all out hunt complete with the usual democracy-creating carnage and then suddenly the chase was dropped and with much fanfare the scene changes. Now Saddam is the bad guy and nobody cares about Osama. Even incompetent fiction writers know that you never let the bad guys just drift off. But hey, this is reality.

And so dear viewers, will there be another season? There has been much speculation on possible new plot lines. Will the nation suffer mass unemployment as everyone is replaced by U-Scan Machines? Could there be emergency room riots as health insurance costs rise to one billion dollars per person? What about rampant obesity causing the earth to implode from the weight? We might liberate the women of Iran so they can have a democracy too, although they'll still have to wear burquas because it is sooo quaint. Likely scenes include the entire continent of Africa dying of AIDS while the pharmaceutical companies rake in the profits and boy fishies will inexplicably become girl fishies as we keep dumping mysterious toxic substances into our water supply.

So keep taking those acid blockers and sleeping pills and stay tuned for another exciting season. And do remember this is real, no work of fiction could ever be this frightening.

Lucinda Marshall is a feminist artist, writer and activist. She is the Founder of the Feminist Peace Network (  which publishes Atrocities, a bulletin documenting violence against women throughout the world. Her work has been published in numerous publications including, Awakened Woman, Alternet, Dissident Voice, Off Our Backs, Progressive, Rain and Thunder, Zmag and The Hip Mama Anthology. Her life is a never-ending soap opera.

Other Articles by Lucinda Marshall

* (Not) In The News: Media Culpability in the Continuum of Violence Against Women
* Yanar Mohammed on the Impact of the US Occupation on the Lives of Iraqi Women
* The Misogynist Undercurrents of Abu Ghraib