The Fads That Define Our Lives
Remember this? It's that thing that ruined broadcast television and radio as we know it.
Before we begin today I would like to say a few things about the Broadcast Decency Enforcement Act that is currently slithering it's way through Congress. It passed the House Commerce Committee on Wednesday and before you know it, it will be law. This is one of those things I just have to talk about before I talk about anything else. So bear with me a little bit while I whine about this shit. We live in a country inhabited by people that are as diverse as the pimples on my ass. Some are really sensitive, some are not so sensitive, some are sensitive to some things and not so sensitive to others, and some are spewing puss and becoming infected. Most people in the United States have some kind of sense and humor and really don't give a shit what is shown on television as long as they can watch what they want to watch. I would wager that most people really wouldn't care if the F-word was muttered on the radio or if nudity was shown on TV. But some people do. On October 30, 1973 WBAI FM in New York City, a listener-sponsored station, aired George Carlin's legendary routine Filthy Words, otherwise known as the Seven Dirty Words You Can't Say on the Public Airwaves. The FCC only got one complaint. Some pussy was in his car with his son and suddenly became paralyzed, unable to move his hand to the radio dial to turn the offensive material off. He decided to complain to the FCC like a whiny cunt and the Pacifica Foundation, the owner of the radio station, received a warning for their horrible transgressions against mankind. Pacifica, unlike media companies today, decided to appeal to the FCC. An appeals court actually sided with them citing section 326 of the Communication Act which prohibits censorship by the government. Unfortunately the case eventually got to the Supreme Court and they upheld the FCC's ruling and decided that they had the authority to issue fines based on indecent material.
You see, it wasn't censorship because the material had already aired. It wasn't technically being censored. The station aired something that was funny, insightful, and quite brilliant, and was punished for it. The FCC said that you could not air indecent material but did not say what was indecent and what was not. This was the smartest move on the FCC's part. You see, you don't tell people what is indecent. You simply wait for a radio station to air something that someone somewhere doesn't like and then you can fine them for M-M-M-MEGA BUCKS and FABULOUS CASH PRIZES. All the radio station learned is that they couldn't air shit, piss, fuck, cunt, cocksucker, motherfucker and tits. So in order to not get fined radio and TV stations sort of have to guess what they can and cannot air. Never mind that the Communications Act of 1934 forbids government censorship. But it's not censorship because we are acting in the public's best interest. They come to us and complain! Well then I support the A Few Pussies Shouldn't Be Able to Complain About Stupid Shit They Don't Have To Listen To Act of 2005. Quite simply, less than 1% of the population should not be able to tell the rest of the country what they can and cannot hear. Most complaints that the FCC receives are written by a single organization, a single entity. These aren't a million different letters from a million different people. These are the same copied letters from hundreds of people. These people aren't even outraged enough to send in their own original letter. It's activism for the lazy ass.
This has been said time and time again, if you don't like something, turn it off and never tune in again. It's so easy, but for some reason it doesn't get into their thick skulls. We even helped these people with their inability to screen programming they don't like. All televisions manufactured after January 1st, 2000 are required to have the V-Chip installed on them. This is a cost that is passed on to you, the consumer, whether you want it or not. And despite the fact that this technology was so important that it was forced onto people with no children and/or oppose government censorship, nobody uses it! I don't know anybody that knows anybody that knows anybody that uses the V-Chip. Not one person! Even with all this regulation it's not enough. The FCC now wants to fine individual broadcasters, the on-air talent, half a million dollars for broadcasting indecent material. This can ruin performers that are just up and coming in entertainment. Ruin them for trying something new. Ruin them for having a passion in something. Once this bill passes forget seeing anything edgy, provocative, or controversial on the public airwaves. If you are just entering the entertainment industry avoid the airwaves like the black plague. Go to cable, satellite, film, books, Internet, anything but the air. The government wants to decimate your ability to speak freely on the public airwaves as broadcasters scramble to censor shit they would not have been considered indecent two years ago, or today. They simply don't know. Imagine if traffic laws were designed like the Broadcast Decency Act. You can't drive too fast. We won't tell you how fast, just don't drive too fast. It would be chaos on the road, just like the chaos on the airwaves going on right now.
This isn't about being able to say fuck or shit whenever you want, it's about talking like goddamn adults. It's about making your own choices about the shit you want to watch. Even if the FCC was abolished and people could put whatever they want on TV or radio, the free market would decide what is shown on TV and there would still be shows that are not raunchy, sexual, or profane. Or maybe there wouldn't, I don't know. But Jesus Christ, let the people choose. That's all I'm saying here. Now here's my regularly scheduled bitching.
Only dogs used to play poker but now everyone does.
One day you woke up and poker was suddenly popular. No one told you this. No one warned you ahead of time. Yesterday it wasn't and today it is. You call up your friend and say, "Poker is pretty popular." And he says, "Yeah, poker is all the rage these days." Who said? When did this happen? Cowboys play poker. Overweight middle-aged men play poker with their buddies in a dimly lit kitchen while the woman is out. Since when did people play poker as a living? Since when were there televised poker tournaments? Since when did Texas Hold 'Em commercials start showing on TV every five seconds? You turn on the radio and they are talking about poker. You go on the Internet and you start seeing poker advertisements everywhere. There is a whole area dedicated to poker on our own forums. When was it set up? Was I asleep? Yesterday it didn't exist and today it does. Poker this poker that. Poker here poker there. You cannot walk two steps without hearing about it. Everybody you know is playing poker. People who have never played poker before are suddenly playing poker. Your mother is playing poker for Christ's sake. Then you start hearing people question why poker is so popular. Assholes like me start trying to make sense of the whole thing. Profits from televised poker tournaments dwindle. More and more players retire their decks to dresser drawers never to see them again. Poker show after poker show is cancelled. And before long the only people playing poker are cowboys are overweight middle-aged men. All is as it was. The world is balanced again. And when you wake up tomorrow, wine is going to be very popular. You'll scratch your head, grab your car keys, and purchase some wine.
We know them as fads. Something that was never really that popular before is now popular. When I ask people why poker is suddenly very popular they always say the same thing, "I don't know." I mean, poker has always existed right? Last year, unless you were an avid poker player, you would never hear about it in your daily life. In fact, Mark Twain once said, "There are few things that are so unpardonably neglected in our country as poker... Why, I have known clergymen, good men, kindhearted, liberal, sincere, and all that, who did not know the meaning of a 'flush'. It is enough to make one ashamed of one's species." Looks like you got your wish Mr. Twain.
Things become popular because they tell us they are. Who is they you ask? Advertisers, of course. Advertisers are a sinister bunch. Most of them possess no souls and an inhuman ability to disregard all forms of emotion and feeling. They are out of touch with the human psyche and the only way they can make their products popular is to ram them into our skulls. Their products are popular because they told us they are. There are very few advertisements that are informative and honest and allow their products to be popularized by word of mouth and positive reviews. Most ads are loud, annoying, and pushy. YOU GOTTA HAVE IT. IT'S THE NEW SENSATION. EVERYBODY IS TALKING ABOUT IT. HOLY SHIT THIS IS ONE OUT OF THIS WORLD PRODUCT AND YOU WILL DIE WITHOUT IT. Excuse me? Why do I really need your product? Hello? Hello?! There is a commercial for a dealership that plays here in Southern California. They call their new financing deals a "sensation that has everybody talking!" Who said? You? Who is talking about your financing? Not a goddamn person is talking about, that's who. I once heard a radio commercial for soup where they made it sound like the stuff literally gave you multiple orgasms. OH GOD SOUP!!! Please, for the love of God, shut the fuck up and just tell me what's in the soup. Stop with the hyperbole already. Your product is not going to change my life or cure cancer, it's a fucking mop!
Poker? Alright, I'll buy that it's a fun game to play and there's a certain mystique about it. Fine, poker is awesome. But what about another fad like Pokemon? I'll be god damned if that isn't the most evil series of promotions I have ever seen. There is no inherent value in Pokemon. It's nothing. It's rubbish. It's like celery. You don't get anything from it. We can't digest it. It just sort of flows through your system without contributing anything. So how did Pokemon become so popular with kids? Because they said you have to have it. You gotta catch them all. Be loud. Be in your face. Be completely and utterly annoying and your product will be sold, especially to children. But if there's anything worse than a fad product it's the copycats that try to piggyback on that popularity. Yu-Gi-Oh, Digimon, Monster Rancher, Beyblades, Dragon Warrior Monsters. Fads can be so annoying that they'll take a series that has nothing to do with cute monster raising and turn it into one. It's like when Final Fantasy Tactics was released. Who knew that it would ever lead to Onimusha Tactics.
Today we are going to explore some of these fads and figure out why they got so popular and why nobody cares about them anymore.
Pogs: Those of us who were born between 1982 and 1986 probably have some fond memories of pogs when we were kids. I didn't know then how or why pogs became popular but looking back on it now the era of pogs was probably the greatest point in my life. I had the best friends and the most fun in those days. I did a little research on THE INTERNET and found out pogs were invented in the 1930s in Hawaii. POG was a brand of fruit juice and the game was played with the caps of POG bottles. A Canadian company called Canada Games repopularized them in the 1990s. A group of Canadian businessmen got together and asked themselves, "How the fuck do we sell cardboard to people at an 800% markup? Holy shit let's put pictures of the Power Rangers on little circles of cardboard and put them next to the Spider-Man comics!" Here are some pictures of some slammers and pogs that I still have today.
Pogs were mostly sold in comic book stores that are all out of business today. I've visited a lot of the places where I used to buy pogs and they are all gone. If you sold pogs at any point in your store's existence then you are out of business now. It should be declared a law of physics. If you sold pogs, you are now a failure. Nevertheless I loved pogs. I have fond memories of beating the shit out of the neighborhood kids at pogs with my badass slammers with the finger grooves in them and making them cry when I took their pogs. Everybody knows the kid who cried when he lost his pogs. He later went on to become the nerd who cries when you won his Magic: The Gathering cards. Here in Southern California Disneyland and Knott's Berry Farm both went "Pog Wild". They held special promotions where they set up pog stations and gave out free pogs with Mickey Mouse and Snoopy on them. Pogs eventually died when parents realized what a goddamn waste of money and time it was and stopped buying them for their stupid kids. At least that's why I had to stop playing.
Pokemon: Pokemon is one of the most devious of fads. First of all, it's anime. Second, it's anime. And third, it's anime. Luckily, I was out of elementary school by the time Pokemon became really popular so I sort of dodged that bullet. I have never played a Pokemon game. I have never traded Pokemon cards. I have never seen the Pokemon series. After it debuted participation in physical recess activities dwindled. Nobody played hop scotch anymore. Nobody played jump rope anymore. Nobody played my favorite homosexual schoolyard game Butts Up anymore. They were all playing that dreaded Pokemon. I ask kids today if they still play four square and they usually say, "WHAT IS THAT A POKEMON HEY DO YOU GOT POKEMON OH GOD I NEED MY POKEMON FIX HOOK ME UP MAN."
You end up buying the video games, the cards, the toys, and then the panties. Nintendo have you no shame?!
As an impressionable young child you watch the Pokemon television show with your parent, the television. You are enthralled with all of the flashing lights, the quick camera transitions, and the loud noises. You start to get a little sleepy. Your brain shuts down. It's like a loud 30 minute commercial for the video game. You nag your parents to buy you the game. Then the game tells you that you have to catch them all. You go to the store and see Pokemon plush toys. Gotta catch them all. Plush toys. Gotta catch them all. Plush toys. MOMMIE I WANT THAT. Unfortunately Nintendo was never able to get kids to buy Pokemon manga because their products caused children to become unable to read a coherent sentence. The FCC has placed restrictions on how much you can advertise on children's programming. Damn, I could have made a shitload of money brainwashing kids.
No, it's not evil, it's just dumb. But I can tell you what Nintendo is evil for. Opening the door for the millions of Pokemon clones. Digimon, Yu-Gi-Oh, and Beyblade are among the most popular Pokemon clones. Then there are the people who actually play Pokemon. If you've ever worked at a Gamestop or Electronic Boutique or any store that sells monster collecting trading card games, you know how retarded these kids are. They would come in with their parents or in a pack of other retards. They would stumble around. Their fingers would always be sticky. They would touch everything. They couldn't form a coherent thought without stumbling through their words. "Uh... do you have... the... Pokemon... uhm... yeah... Pokemon Blue?" Sorry kid, we are all sold out. And they would just stand there with a blank look on their face before their brain tells their legs to turn around and move their overweight ass out of the store. They were slow. It's like monster card games somehow stunted their brain development. Hopefully the influx of Pokemon clones causes the entire genre to collapse onto itself so that we may rid ourselves of this horrible virus. Here is a case study on Pokemon that is very interesting. Let's slip into something a little more comfortable and read it together on the toilet, shall we?
Game Shows: I fell for this one. Yes, I got caught up in the whole Who Wants To Be A Millionaire craze. I simply could not resist Regis Philbin's boyish charms and good looks nor could I resist the stupid suspense the game offered. That's what it was, stupid suspense. There you sit watching the show. The contestant is on the million dollar question. He has no lifelines. He decides to answer. The question comes up. He stumbles. Oh God is he going to get it right? Is he going home with a million dollars? Is his life going to change forever? WHO THE FUCK CARES? Why do I give a shit if some jerk wins a million dollars or not? I don't know him. I don't care about him. He's not going to give me any. I watched almost every episode of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire in complete and utter suspense until I realized what a goddamn fruit I was being and turned it off.
Hoping to capitalize on the success of Millionaire NBC started The Weakest Link hosted by Satan herself. The show enjoyed some success until a contestant threw a hatchet at the host's head and the show was over. Fox came to the party with Greed but it was too little too late. After September 11th, 2001 everybody realized how stupid game shows are and they were overtaken by the patriotism fad. Game shows also started the whole Rip Things Off From British TV fad that also survived through the reality television fad.
Staged Unscripted Television: I love reality television. The genre has been in existence for quite some time and some of my favorite shows are Cops, Trauma: Life in the ER, and more recently, Airline. These shows are true reality television because they are actually based on reality. They put a camera on events that were going to happen anyway. The other kind of show incorrectly referred to as reality television is more of an oxymoron. Survivor, Big Brother, The Bachelor, and others are all staged and unscripted. If you took the camera off of Survivor those events would cease to exist. People don't live on an island just to see what happens. People don't cram into a house together to try and figure out who is the most annoying and vote them out and make them eat bugs. True reality television happens anyway. The cops in Cops are going to continue to chase after lanky ass drug addicts even if you stopped filming it. The doctors in Trauma are going to continue to treat people with telephone poles through their crotches if you fire the camera man. The crew on Airline is going to continue to deal with morons at the Airport if the camera man suddenly dies of heart worms.
You tell 'em shirt!
The two types of programming do have something in common though. They are cheap to produce. You don't have to hire unmanageable actors. You don't have to hire deadbeat writers. You just film a bunch of shit happening and get a good editor to put it all together. In some cases the editor doesn't even have to be good. I know for a fact that The Bachelor was edited by a monkey dressed as an astronaut. Survivor? A brick on a string. But despite the cost effectiveness of shit programming, I mean, reality programming, people are starting to get tired of it. You're going to start to see a trend next fall as networks announce more sitcoms and dramas and less "reality" television shows. The true reality television series will continue to enjoy moderate success on cable.
"Tactics" games: When Final Fantasy Tactics came out Final Fantasy fans were refreshingly surprised to see a series be spun off into another genre and seeing it come out pretty well. I personally disliked the game because it's not my cup of tea but it garnered very good reviews and a loyal following on both the PlayStation and later on the Gameboy Advance. The funniest thing about Final Fantasy Tactics is that period of time between when the game was "OMG L@@K RARE" on eBay and when it was re-released as a Greatest Hits title. On that day you could hear the cries of thousands of eBay sellers cursing SquareSoft's name for issuing a re-release. I find the whole thing pretty humorous.
Final Fantasy Tactics also gave way to a whole genre of copycats such as Yu Yu Hakushou Tactics, Dynasty Tactics, Onimusha Tactics, and I believe there is an upcoming Capcom tactics type game with a whole assortment of Capcom characters. Jesus, the whole idea of spinning off a totally unrelated series into a turn based strategy game is not original anymore. Take any franchise no matter what it is, turn the playing field into squares, and viola, you got yourself a totally new and exciting game that no one has ever played before! What are we going to see next, Metal Gear Tactics? Sonic the Hedgehog Tactics? Barbie Superstar Fashion Skank Designer Tactics? Something Awful Tactics? I can't fucking wait.
Poker: I had a whole thing about poker written up in this spot. But you know what? If I had posted it I would have to fear for my life. I do not want to upset the poker illuminati at the height of this fad. Meet me up in that tree later and I'll fill you in on all the details. TRUST NO ONE.
Wine: If the film Sideways wins the Oscar for Best Picture this year then forget it, wine is going to be the biggest thing since sleeping in a bed. As it is you are seeing more people talk about wine, more shows about wine, more people going to wine tastings, and more people buying wine. If Sideways does not win you will see a mild spike in wine popularity but it will slowly taper off. This fad is the one to watch out for.
Fads are a part of life. They come and go like the tide. One day we enjoy game shows, the next we may enjoy shemale gangbang orgy pornography. It's just a facet of life we live with every day. All you can do is hold on for the ride!