I’m home visiting family, which for me means that I spend some of my time helping out with my nana, who, all things considered, is in very good shape for someone who is over 90. But she still has health issues from time to time and has appointments with various doctors regularly. Generally it falls to my mom, who is the only child/grandchild in the same city (and province for that matter) who isn’t employed/in school full time, to drive her around, take her to appointments, gether groceries, etc, etc. This can be, as one might imagine, somewhat exhausting after a time. I lived closer and was able to be home a lot more last year (see: un/underemployed), now it seems that we will only be able to get in every 6 months or so. Point being, when I’m here, I try to alleviate some of the work for my mom so she can do her own thing sometimes too (her own thing, for the record, is being a pretty kick-ass artist).
Ok, so yesterday I took nana to the drs, and then to the drugstore, and then home for tea. Tea with nana = philosophical/political discussions and tea. And probably biscuits or chocolates or something. So sometimes (a lot of times) tea with nana = awesome. Nana is also slowly losing her sight, which is sad because she was a voracious reader up until 2 or 3 years ago, reading 2-3 books a week and several newspapers every day. The love of literature thing runs in the family around here. So whereas often our conversations would have centered around something she had read recently, now they often come from something that she heard/watched on radio or tv. Yesterday she brought up Honey Boo-Boo. Full disclosure: I have never watched a full episode of Honey Boo-Boo, but I have seen clips and I did mention it in a lecture last year. Apparently, however, there was a Honey Boo-Boo marathon on tv on New Year’s Day and nana happened to catch an episode or two.
The conversation went something like this (I’m editing the times I had to repeat since nana is also a little hard of hearing):
Nana: Why would the US want to broadcast something like that?
Me: I don’t know… entertainment purposes?
Nana: But do people find it entertaining? It just seemed a little… silly.
Me: Well, it is a narrative. They’re poor, uneducated… maybe it’s what they want people to see.
Nana: But do they really want the rest of the world to think that they’re all like that?
Me: … (thinking) Maybe they do. The political argument in the US is that if you are uneducated you’re poor because you didn’t work hard. So that’s the narrative they want to project. A TV show that followed around super-educated but poor people wouldn’t be as funny because it would be a harsh look at reality. Take the salary I was offered [and eventually walked away from] last year: $2300 per class to teach 2 classes with no guarantee of work in the Spring. $4600 (minus taxes and other deductions) for 4 months of work. With a PhD. Would anyone want to watch that “reality”?
There was further discussion about whether some of the audience could relate or whether most viewers were just watching for the laughs, but the point that echoes in my mind is that Honey Boo-Boo (and it’s ilk) is, in a way, suppressing the revolution. No one cares how they live because they “deserve” it (note: I’m not actually saying that they do or don’t, again I haven’t watched the show, I’m just riffing on the idea that circulates in US politics that everyone gets what they work for) and it is entertaining. Watching someone that has been in school for over a decade, working hard at something they are passionate about, only to be paid to educate your children for far below minimum wage would be far too difficult.
Until we get it out there, until we force people to see the reality that adjuncts live in (and not just other academics, I think most of us/them are painfully aware now… although there are a few hangers on that still need convincing) the myth of the ivory tower will continue to blot out any truth we try to speak.
So, anyone up for their own reality show?