Thursday, January 7, 2010

"healthy boundaries"

Today's recommendation is the divisive A&E television series Intervention.

Yeah, you read it right. Intervention!

I, personally, watch this show to get some perspective. By that, I mean Schadenfreude. I may be filled with self-doubt and have very few job prospects. Then I watch Intervention and think, Hey! At least that's not me! I'm not (insert newest "rock bottom" from Intervention). I may not be changing the world, but at least I'm not, say, sucking on an ill-gotten Fentanyl lollipop, passing out on the lawn in the afternoon, drinking mouthwash or taking my child to buy heroin.*

I realize this makes me a horrible person.

But what about Intervention is so compelling? It could be the subliminal messages.** It could be the aforementioned feeling of schadenfreude. For me, I also take some strange comfort in Intervention's structure. For such a dramatic show, there are basically only two endings (SPOILER ALERT): Sobriety or status quo. Intervention is structured in a very banal and uninteresting way: Exposition and description of the addict's current daily life, their background (complete with weeping family members, adorable childhood photos, and usually horrifying stories of abuse or neglect), the family sitting down prior to the Intervention Event to come up with a plan of how they will cut the person out, and The Intervention Itself.

In a lot of ways, the show is about taking the filmed evidence of someone's life, and cutting it up to fit in a few boxes. What fascinates me the most is the intertitles (the forums on Television without Pity [shouldn't it be fora?] refer to them as BSOJ, Black Screen[s] of Justice). There is so much that needs to be filled in, and there is simultaneously so much and so little said (c.f. : " so-and-so has stolen from his mother"). In a way, the intertitles themselves convey the limitations of the observational documentary.*** The sad little titles convey backstory and uncaptured events deemed relevant to the narrative. The viewer's imagination can go wild and sordid.

Like I said before, the only real questions in the show are will the person go to treatment? and Will they stay sober? The entire show is built around a farce: participants are approached and told the project is a "documentary about addiction." The majority of the show is buildup to the moment when the subject walks into an anonymous business-class hotel room and is confronted by their friends, family, and one of the show's Interventionists. It's like a really depressing surprise party.

Inside the windowless conference rooms and suites of the anonymous and depressing Holiday Inns (Holidays Inn?) in this country, groups of friends and families are armed with binders and spiral notebooks, getting ready to confront the person they feel they need to cut out of their life unless they agree, in front of a production crew, to go to rehab. Maybe it's not quite like that, but it's how it seems to me. And I watch this show A LOT. In its tone it's slightly like a crime or mafia show; it conveys the sense that anywhere, at any time, if you're "a user" people could be plotting against YOU. Interventionists? They're out there.

Note: I'm not diminishing the problems any of the profiled people have. Many have criticized Intervention for what they think is taking advantage of desperate people. This is probably true, but more people credit it with saving lives and restoring sobriety, etc. Personally, I think anyone who is willing at any point to "be in a documentary about addiction" is already part of the way towards getting help, but thankfully this is a problem I don't have in my life. Overall, I don't think this show is taking advantage of anyone. Except maybe losers like me who watch it to feel slightly better about themselves.

That's why today's recommendation is Intervention.

*especially because I don't have any children.

**I am making this up.

***Of course, using Nichols' classification, Intervention may not strictly be observational but I digress.

1 comment:

  1. Wow, this is like the solution of reading about current events in Africa to feel better about things like, "oh noes, my elevator is brokes" and other first world problems.

    I would almost wish for cable and a tv for such a clever panacea -- does it stream on the webternetz?


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