Deus Ex MachinaDeus Ex Machina by Andrew Foster Altschul
My rating: 2/5 cats
One StarOne Star

this book could have gone either way: brilliant satire about our fallacy in equating reality television with reality or steaming pile of finger-pointing hipster poo.

it’s somewhere in the middle, but because i was never really jazzed about picking it back up again every time i put it down, and was easily distracted from reading it by other things, it gets a sad two stars cats from me.

others might like it more.

i actually don’t watch any reality t.v. i have never seen survivor. or real housewives of anywhere. or even american idol, which is not technically a reality show, but i understand that it is a popular show that people like to watch that features non-actors and is televised. i am, however, a victim of both top chef and project runway, but those are shows in which something physical is produced, and i hate it when any of them talk, so the “reality” elements of it are painful to me. i would run the show in a much less social manner. project sweatshop. top shut the fuck up and make me a sandwich. you don’t even want to know how i would revamp that teen mom show.

so i might be missing a lot of subtleties in this book that other people more reality-show-savvy would appreciate. i do understand, however, that reality television is still a really big deal because it is so cheap to produce and audiences just want to see “real” people do unfortunate things. i get schadenfreude. i work retail, after all…

here, in the world of this book, reality shows have progressed somewhat further down the taste-spiral than they are currently, and become nearly self-parodic, yet still wildly successful.

“But why? Why can’t we make a show people would believe?”

The AP meets his gaze and holds it.”Because it would be boring.”

“So people would rather be lied to than bored? They’d rather have their intelligence insulted?”

“Wouldn’t you?”

and this is the audience. people only in this for the razzmatazz. no one cares about being lied to, or being supplied with no-brainer humor, flashy lights, being cast as dummies and offered only the least common denominator-grade of entertainment. it is all gimmicks and easy laffs.

and i’m not making any judgments here, just observations. there still seems to be this manic rush towards the next big thing, but the next big thing frequently seems shallower than what came before and it lowers the bar more and more until what’s left is all flair and no substance. but i don’t mean to sound like i am patting myself on my elitist backpeople will like what they will like. just because i personally do not understand why larry the cable guy is meant to be funny doesn’t mean he is not, to some. to many. i just lack the frame of reference.

this book is ultimately less of a satire and more of a sustained existential crisis caused by reality television. the producer oversees the contestants who become less and less real to him every day. rather than developing some kind of god complex as he observes and manipulates them, he begins to doubt his own authenticity, and the authenticity of the people around him; their reactions and “personalities” a by-product of exposure to reality television, which has become indistinguishable from scripted television. who are these people? where are their counterparts in real life?

exposure to reality television, with its heightened personas, makes any subsequent contestant on reality television develop these “as seen on tv” personalities and pigeonholes them into a role they are only imitating, making the term “reality” laughable at best. is complicated.

so i’m not sure if i am underappreciating this book. the writing is fine, there are some clever moments and jabs at the standards of populist appeal, but ultimately it just never grabbed me. like survivor has never grabbed me.

someone else could be totally grabbed by this. give it a grabbed.

read my book reviews on goodreads

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