Wednesday, March 21, 2007

The Running Idol

So for some reason today, while thinking about the incredible popularity of reality/game show American Idol, I couldn't help but draw parallels between that show and the reality/game show The Running Man featured in the 1987 Arnold Schwarzenegger movie of the same name. Both are wildly popular reality TV shows where contestants try to "stay alive" while competing live on camera. Ben Richards had to survive Buzzsaw and Fireball whereas Sanjaya Malakar has to survive British Invasion Week and Country Music Week. Both shows have arrogant, condescending hosts that the public adore, in Damon Killian and Simon Cowell, and contestants on both shows are paraded in front of all of America for the sole purpose of their humiliation. Whereas I thought I had to be alone in thinking of this connection between the two shows, searching online today revealed otherwise. I found the following excerpts on other web sites:

"My seat was way up high in the furthest balcony, though it was at least nicely centered. Once I found my seat, the visual of the stage really blew me away. There were two giant, spiraling American Idol logos on either side of the stage, and neon and lights everywhere. Add in the ramps coming from the sides of the stage, and the screaming crowd, and I couldn't help but think of one thing, which stayed on my mind all night: The Running Man. Sure, we weren't going to watch people get hunted for sport, but still, that film seemed to nicely capture the spectacle and rabid fandom a reality/game show like American Idol would prove could actually be achieved, and the production design of the stage sure seemed to take a cue from that Ah-Nuld classic. I kept expecting girls in skimpy outfits to begin a dance routine, followed by Richard Dawson taking the stage and announcing, "it's time to start ruuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuunning!"

"American Idol is sort of like Stephen King's The Running Man. Its premise is a little more benign in the blood and gore department but the similarities are eerie. Contestants desperate for fame and fortune compete before a television audience numbering in the millions each week. Think Circus Maximus. A panel of three judges chums the water and gets the voting viewers in a feeding frenzy. It's Darwinism at its best. The strong survive and the weak get eaten alive by a merciless, faceless mob."

"People love a car wreck. The more weirdos thrown to the wolves the more entertaining the show becomes. It's a classic set-up. It also makes me wonder how far away we are from a Running Man type of future. Hey, why not watch someone who's been convicted of a crime get whacked on TV? Let's see what happens if maybe we have him fight a grizzly bear. Yeah, that's taking it to an extreme but after watching enough people sing and dance for the man only to be destroyed it doesn't feel too far off. These people are held valueless by "American Idol" and by us as a viewing audience. Couldn't criminals deserve even worse than them? "

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