Hardly surprising that this latest plunge into pathetic exhibitionism and public self-debasement is brought to us by Rupert Murdoch’s Fox Channel, the bottom-feeder par excellence…specializing in the mass merchandising of lies & manure, dear Rupert also gave us the equally moronic and wildly over-rated American Idol…The proper name for such shows is really “American Fools.”
The moment of truth | money, honey…
By sadi ranson-polizzotti
HOW WE WAIT FOR IT….have waited. Some clever producer has tapped into our desire to hear the public’s desire for the absolute, unbridled truth with a capital T. Not some watered-down friendly version that may not hurt us, but all of the shitty little things that people do to each other and think (for none of us is completely immune, though some lead a double life more than others), The Moment of Truth, a new television program, meets the supply and demand theory. There is a voyeuristic demand to peer into the lives’ of others (while not wishing them to know about our own) and most of all, to judge.
Let’s face it, we like to judge. We are not, most of us, like the Dalai Lama understanding that the surface of the sea may change but beneath the surface it remains stable and unchangable. Most of us have not learned yet to “hold our anger like a baby” and some of us don’t even know what that means, so we are Everyman. Or at least, The Moment of Truth is geared to everyman and succeeds because some clever psychologist and marketing exec got together and figured out that we are by nature voyeuristic, judgmental (even if we have done the same things ourselves), we are greedy so playing for money is a compelling idea, and we are at once rooting for the person to win yet in some strange way, depending on the contestant, we are sadists hoping they’ll get as close to the $500,000 as possible and then losing it all by answering a question dishonestly. They are, and I quote the program here, “forced to reveal secrets that could destroy every relationship in their lives.
Forced is the wrong word, perhaps, on the part of the voice-over. Nobody forced them to be on the program and they know the arrangement ahead of time: tell the truth and you will gain money and in the process isolate your loved ones (supposed loved ones, for some of the things contestants have done would indicate that there is no great love lost here).
It’s my theory that for some contestants, The Moment of Truth is a convenient foil to end a relationship by revealing all of the dirty things you have done the purpose of which is two-fold: you get to alleviate your guilt, and, you drive away the person you clearly do not want to really be with because if you did, you wouldn’t have slept with his/her best friend, you wouldn’t have fantasies about her sister, you wouldn’t still be pining after your ex-lover, and you certainly would not be comparing the two sexually (and these are pretty standard of the questions), and even better, after accomplishing the goal of spring cleaning your life and feeling “honest” and blessed lily white (but this ain’t no church or Mikvah (Mikve) kids, don’t fool yourself), you get to start over again only this time, you get to start over as a wealthy individual – dependng on how much you just don’t care. How far are you willing to take it?
It’s interesting. There was a youngish man a week ago who was married, surely a decent fellow, yet like anyone he had secrets in his closet. I’d like to think and say that we do not and maybe you are the exception to the rule, but most of us do. The caveat to that statement, most of us do not have the kind of secrets that this young man had… and you wonder, Why all this time keeping them secret only to reveal them on a game show and risk everything you’ve worked for and the things you have lied about to supposedly guard against the loss of that (though frankly, one could easily argue that if you did not wish to lose a thing in the first place, one would not have done some, or even many, of the things he had done. Fair enough). But here is a chance to come “clean” and win a large amount of money. Now there’s virtue for you.
Plato is rolling in his wormy tomb and Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics have long been forgotten. Only Caligula could like such entertainment. Family devastation and ruin as “entertainment”. And foolish I, years ago did not believe a friend when he told me that soon enough Fox would be running Live Nude Executions! Well, they’re damn close. (Did I mention this was on Fox? Where else would it be. Hell, even programs like the Simpsons that are on Fox make fun of Fox because everybody knows that Fox long-ago sold its soul to the devil in favor of profit and viewership – but hey, who said you had to be moral when it comes to TV reading. The hell with the Fourth Estate and responsibilty as that: this is news as infotainment, shrink-wrapped and ready for take-out.
But that’s another long story for a different article. Let’s stick to The Moment of Truth.
The basic premise of the program is this: you are given a lie-detector test before the program airs that asks you myriad questions – approximately fifty, which you are expected to answer honestly. You will be asked approximately twenty or so of these questions on the program, although you do not know which ones and to add some further suspense, you do not know the results of your lie-detector test which means that if you did try to fool the test, you don’t know whether or not you succeeded.
Based on the results of the lie-detector test, the program can then “tell” whether or not you are telling the truth and will reveal your answers as true or false (a female voice-over announces “true” or “false” after each question but, predictably, waiting five or so or more seconds to build up the
suspense as we wonder what will happen next.
You can stop the game at any time and walk away with whatever money you have won so far, but one false answer and you lose it all and walk away empty-handed. This means you can get all the way to two-hundred thousand dollars having deliberately and willingly hurt (“devastated”) your friends and family and partner because of your greed (let’s face it, anyone who tells the truth only when money is involved is doing so out of greed – not the goodness of their heart.)
So let us assume you have come so far: you have admitted to multiple and meaningless affairs with your wife or your husband’s best friends, you have admitted that you really do not like your mother-in-law, you’ve publicly announced that you have breast implants that you have used to your advantage professionally.
Oh, don’t give me the feminist clap-trap of why not use what you got etc. because implants and surgery are all about what you don’t have but wish to have and are about altering the physical self. So this has nothing to do with using what you have or feminism and everything to do with using what you can obtain through literally altering the way you were born. Nothing wrong with that, just nothing particularly feminist or even political about it. It’s just a choice some people make and that’s fine. It’s obviously your body and I, for one, would never dream of telling anybody what to do with their body, but just keep it on the straight and up-and-up. Don’t kid yourself about the reasons why as some “political” statement.
There is nothing feminist or empowering about breast implants. I don’t care what so many women who get them may say, that “ultimately” they are doing it for “themselves” which may well be true, but they are doing it for themselves so that men will pay attention. You can bet your bottom dollar that men are part of the equation – be it the desire to be sexually attractive to men, to have some “power” over men (as last night’s contenstant, Lycette, said), or because you feel that Victoria’s Secret models get more attention from men and you want to be one of them.
Fine, but don’t bullshit me that this is some expression of freedom and don’t kid yourself either. This is not Roe v. Wade. Sure, it’s your body: go under the knife if you will but be straight about it. Taking care of yourself is one thing – physically altering the way you fundamentally look is another thing entirely. I doubt Katherine McKinnon or Camille Paglia would disagree here, but should either, or any fervent feminist find this, I’d welcome her thoughts because I am not one of those people so utterly and always convinced of my own “rightness”.
Lord knows, it is our differences that make the world go round and one is capable of having a conversation without it being a nasty pissing contest (one likes to think so anyway – have we not reached that age yet? Or does the pissy-pithy factor last forever? If so, what a shame.)
Want your inner-most thoughts revealed, then The Moment of Truth is the place for you and while many of us – especially many people, in my own experience, from Europe where I grew up – feel that some things are better left unsaid, this attitude would make a program like the Moment of Truth redundant. Well, thank god for voyeurs who wish to hear the secrets of others, and thank god for those who are masochistic enough to choose to participate. Or should I say greedy enough to be guests on the show. And yay for the audience, the “madness of crowds” that such programs make us roar just as the Romans delighted to see Christians eaten by lions. It’s not so different a construct.
It’s worth noting that many of the questions relate to sex. Sex and infidelity and how you feel about your parents and friends (did I say that those people – your family, your spouse or partner, your “BFF” are all sitting on a sofa on the stage waiting to be crushed by your blowingly honest answers? Well they are. Did they before the program, think that you had no secrets? How very naïve.
It is my experience that everybody has a secret of some kind. It may not be sexual, it may not relate to envy, but I have yet to meet someone without a secret. This means that I don’t know what it is, but I do know that almost everybody holds something of themselves back, some mystery, and that this is in some ways a positive thing. It allows the self to hold onto the self. We do not offer ourselves bare, naked in the Kleig light on a platter.
Personally, I don’t think we were meant to share every last little detail of our lives: the self keeps something for the self always. At least be honest with the self. Doing so doesn’t prove love anymore than my secrets, however minor or major, do or do not prove that I love my husband. I absolutely do love my husband, hands down. But do I feel compelled to tell him every last little detail? No, I do not, nor do I expect him to share every last little detail with me (for example, “Today, dear, my head turned because I saw a woman far more beautiful than you and I had a brief sexual fantasy about her and we made eye contact.”) Now, does that happen? I would wager that Yes, it may happen (it may not, but then, it would be perfectly normal if it did). I expect that there are other attractive, yes, beautiful women in the world and that he notices. He does not wear blinders after all and I am not his master and keeper. Heaven forefend he may even flirt with women! Frankly, I for one do not wish to know the nitty-gritty of this because it would serve no purpose and be only hurtful.
Even if my husband were to have a meaningless affair (and by this I mean no emotional content – and again, I am not saying he is, this is a philosphical construct only), I am not so sure I would want to know. If it were truly meaningless and only about sex and some affirmation for his ego, how does it help me to know? It would only hurt me and it does not, in my estimation, mean he loves me any less. It means he is insecure and a fuck up and needs therapy to get his head screwed on straight but at the end of the day, it has very little to do with me and everythi
ng to do with his own issues.
By no means do I wish to stereotype that “all” Europeans have affairs, etc – they quite obviously do not. Affairs can hurt in any language, but they are treated differently from culture to culture – in ways both good and bad. Sometimes people get terribly hurt. God knows I’ve edited a number of French books about exactly that kind of devastation that comes from such things to know that an affair can be hurtful in any language. Yet personally, I remain (and this is strictly for me) of the opinion that unless my husband should fall in love with another woman, whether or not he flirts or fantasizes or fantasized about my girlfriend(s) is of little or almost no consequence to me (although it was at one time, things and people change). I am not a kid anymore. Aging has made mellowed me and there are no longer hystrionics in the kitchen over some stupid school-boy crush.
The question then naturally asked of me is would I be hurt if my husband had an affair? Yes, I suppose I would if I knew about it and I am not sure I would want to know about it, perhaps because I would be hurt. I honestly do not know the answer to this question. What I can say with certainty is that if he were only honest with me only for some cash reward, then yes, I would be devasted because it would have nothing to do with honesty and our relationship and everything to do with monetary gain.
Some questions asked on a recent episode of “The Moment of Truth” (a more apt name might be, The Moment You Are Honest When Cold Hard Cash is Involved), and I paraphrase; “Have you ever been attracted to your wife’s sisters?” “Have you ever slept with one of your wife’s sisters?” “Have you ever had sexual fantasies about any of your wife’s friends?” “Is your wife the most attractive woman you’ve ever dated?”
Tell me though, how it helps matters to tell your spouse you have had an affair? It may help if you did so without money, yet in my experience, it is that the relationship is already damaged before the affair – the after-shock is bruised ego and hurt, but were one not open to an affair, it wouldn’t happen in the first place. For such a thing to take place, it follows that the relationship must already be flawed in some ways. Let’s face it, happy couples do not have affairs. There is usally, almost always, a warning shot over the bow. So why should a couple who surely has seen this program, be surprised at all by the questions that all relate to some “infidelity”.
The second time I watched the program it was billed as “blonde ambition” because the person in the hot seat was the classic, standard canned-definition of the cultural bimbo. Not because of her hair color, but because she is built like a brick-shithouse and dressed like a whore at 3:00 a.m. when her shift is ending. She was billed as a “model”.
I think my favorite part was when the announcer proudly billed last week’s effort as a man who “almost destryoed his marrige and his family.” The question asked at the beginning of the program is this: “Is there an honest person left in America?”
But that’s not the question really – really the question is how far are you willing to go for money. How many people are you willing to hurt, how many relationships are you willing to damage, how many alliances (and by this I mean of all kind) are you willing to break (which is essentially the definition of Machievellian – making and breaking alliances for personal gain because at the end, there is a big gain, let’s face it.)
Some questions for “Blonde Ambition” included, “Do your breast implants make you feel more powerful?” (Yes they do, she says).
While working at a restaurant, have you brushed yoru chest against a customer to get a bigger tip (No)
(and remember, so far, all of the answers she gives are true, until I say they are not true, they are true and the contesant is winning money) Have you deliberately manipulated your mother into thinking you were a virgin? true.
So far, these are tame questions.
During confession have you ever lied to a priest? No.
The interviewer’s find your achilles heel and then ask questions based on that. But read on, it gets better, or worse, depending on your point of view:
Have you ever sent naked photos of yourself to a magazine? Yes
Would you be happy to look like your mother when you are her age? No.
In this case, they found an hispanic girl with a religious upbringing, who was already perceived as a bimbo perhaps because of her presentation (so questions about “have you sent naked pictures through the post to a magazine etc., have little to do with nudity and freedom of expression and are more a social judgment and insult, the goal then, to humiliate and hurt the by-standers. (the answer was Yes).
What we find out about each contestant is not whether or not they are a truly honest person, because if they were, there would be no skeletons in the closet and nobody would be “devastated” as they were the week before, and by the shows’ own admission, relationships would not destroyed (family, friends, boyfriends, girlfriends, siblings, you name it – they go for it, and questions will be asked that can damage all of those relationships).
fair, if you’ve ever had a moment of envy or insecurity in which you truly envied a friend for even a very brief moment, then you must answer Yes. Kiss that relationship goodbye.
Personally, I am happy when my friends succeed – but is there sometimes a twinge of envy? Yes, I think that’s normal. What a question like, “Do you ever worry about your friend sleeping with your fiance” is a pretty normal question and insecurity, but it doesn’t mean you do not love your best friend or your lover. It simply means you are insecure, but who isn’t.
That’s not dishonesty, it’s discretion. We don’t pour out our every thought; do we wish to look like our mother? Is that important? If we do not, and we haven’t told our mother, is that a major crime?
And what of the questions that relate to that oh-so-loaded term adultery, which I understand we need a term for it, but let’s face it: we hear adultery and we think of Hester Prynne. We don’t think that perhaps two people who happened to be married fell in love, which is unfortunate for everyone involved, and no doubt harder for the two spouses who did not fall in love and were on the sidelines yet it happens and sometimes marriages end, and sometimes they do not, and sometimes you fall in love, and for some other people, they have what they call “meaningless” affairs.
For me personally, I don’t understand how any affair would be meaningful, otherwise why bother? I am not saying I have affairs, I am simply saying that I don’t’ do things without meaning. I try to make it that everything I do has some meaning, and I would never willfully hurt someone I loved, but what if your loyalties are suddenly and quite unexpectedly divided? Is this something, some information that you go on national television and sell for money, or is this between you and your own morality, or is this between you and your partner? I suppose it depends on the person, but I never thought I would see the day when it would have to do with money. A day when, as now, we are paid to tell the truth – not because of Truth in any Platonic sense of duty or honor, but truth for 10K, or even 500K.
More, I strongly feel that some things are better left unsaid. Maybe that is the European in me, but I hate to make a cliché or pigeonhole myself as well but let’s face it, different parts of the world have different social mores and different ways of thinking. In many European communities, having an affair, taking a lover, is fine so long as one is discreet. To me, this seems like a waste, but that’s me. The only reason at all, the only excuse, really, for lying is that you do it to protect a thing that you love. You strongly feel you are doing it for the greater good because in your heart of hearts, you want to be with that other person and not just some of the time or a litle bit, but a lot because that’s love.
And love, and again I speak of Eros and Platonic Love, not sexual love or infatuation, is something you cannot ignore or avoid and it is not something you invite into your marriage – it just happens. We fall in love unexpectedly and at inconvinient times. That’s not an ‘excuse’ because love doesn’t require an excuse, nor is it an excuse to deceive, yet we are human, we err, we do not always handle things in the best way. Marriages end because one person falls in love with another and they go on to live a happy and long life with the other who was a “lover”. That’s not sordid; that’s life.
But that’s not what we’re talking about here in The Moment of Truth. The Moment of Truth is about all things sordid and nasty and hurtful. Questions like, Are you still attracted to your ex-boyfriend/girlfriend? Have you ever regretted breaking up with so-and-so? These are questions designed to hurt and that serve no purpose.
Blond Ambition is, the voice over tells us, “forced to reveal secrets that could destroy every relationship in her life”, but hey, so what – at the end of the day, it will hurt a whole let less with a half a million dollars, right? And perhaps to the contestant on this program, it is not about honesty, although they are forced to be honest to get the money (the end justifies the means), it’s about priority and gain. You are saying, by playing this game, that money is more important to you than friendship, husbands, lovers, you name it – are worth less to you than cold, hard cash.
“I think the only one who can judge me is God,” says Blonde Ambition about her responses to the questions – her revelations. What would her “God” say of her in this moment? I suppose Lycette plans to give her winnings to the collection plate, set up a ministry or two or three in a country where it is most needed, strip off her skin-tight dress and multiple chains, don some practical clothing that won’t necssarily show off those fake breasts to best advantage (oup, there goes her ‘power’!). Look – there’s nothing wrong in wanting money itself, but be honest about being honest. You’re being honest not for honesty’s sake, but because therein lies the promise of money – a lot of money.
So we learn that our only reward, or the only worthwhile reward, for being honest, is money, monetary gain.
You can practially see Seneca’s eyes roll, and the rest of us, well, we revel in the revelations, whooping and cheering while lives fall apart. We are not so far from “live nude executions” after all.
sadi ranson-polizzotti, a Senior Editor with CJO, is the mistress of tantmieux on both Cyrano’s Online and on her original blog. Her writings are widely distributed throughout the Internet. She is now under contract to Continuum Books and is writing a full-length manuscript about Lewis Carroll as part of a series of great authors, edited by Senior Edit
or and 33 1/3 Series Editor, David Barker.