I'm from Mexico City and lived in the U.S. for a total of more than 24 years. Now I'm back in Mexico. I realized I was seeing my country through the eyes of a native stranger. This is an attempt to process the differences, to explain Mexico to the U.S. and the U.S. to Mexico. With digressions along the way.

jueves, febrero 17, 2005

Weight Issues

Walking around campus and being in the general cultural soup here (ugh), I can't help but notice the contradictory messages on eating and body image that folks are bombarded with around here. Americans (sorry for the gross generalization here) seem to have a completely unhealthy relation to food. There is constant talk about the "obesity problem" (which I completely agree with) juxtaposed with messages like "a thin body is not a healthy body" put out by the Eating Disorders program at the university I go to. I know what they're getting at, and you could just dismiss this as a case of bad advertising, but I think all these mixed messages are bound to create the very same unhealthy relationship to food that they're critiquing. For example, a "sign" that you have an eating disorder from the Eating Disorders website:

"Having rigid rules about food. For example, people may create rules about:
-foods that are allowed versus foods that are forbidden
-the time of day that it is permissible to eat
-the amount of food that they are 'allowed' to eat"

Probably the set of rules that a doctor would suggest to you if you are obese. The doctor says weigh yourself, the eating disorder people say accept your body the way it is. Obviously I *get* what each side is saying and don't think they are mutually exclusive, but all the back and forth seems like a symptom and maybe even a cause of the problem.

Gonna go eat some chocolate cake.

jueves, febrero 10, 2005

If You Can't Make It, Fake It

I would have titled the post "Fake It Til You Make It" but in this case they ain't never gonna make it.
Remember those fake Medicare "news segments" that were aired on TV by the Bush administration? They're at it again: salon.com reported that the administration hired a fake reporter to ask scripted questions at Bush's January 26 news conference. Another salon.com article informs us that federal government money (yes, your tax dollars) is used to hire commentators to promote administration initiatives. (You can get a day pass for salon.com by watching some stupid ad--or letting it play while you do something else--and you can register for the NY Times for free.)

miércoles, febrero 09, 2005

Ha, ha...

In a strange twist I am now editing a local reality TV show. Ha ha ha. Very funny, universe. I took it as a sign to say yes that I'd just posted about it. And now I understand why they put in all the fake drama. I am so proud to be contributing to the production of such quality programming! The weird part is these people totally know that what they say and do is going to be manipulated through editing (not that it even needs to be), but they are so desperate to be on TV they do it anyway. I hope I can come up with the right mix of exploitation and ethical integrity.

martes, febrero 01, 2005

"Reality" TV

So I watched a bit of TV yesterday and I'm blown away by the amount of reality TV shows that are on now. I'm not sure I saw any other kind of programming, actually, except maybe for the news, but you know, same difference. A friend of mine, Cris, who worked for Rocket Science Laboratories (proud producers of such greats as Temptation Island and Trading Spouses) at some point, told me the boom started when there was an actor strike a few years back and networks realized they could pump out these shows for very little money. What's a million dollar prize at the end of a season in comparison to having to pay Seinfeld a million per show? (Or was it three million?)
Well, I have to admit that I am morbidly fascinated by a lot of these shows. I cannot take my eyes off of the plastic surgery ones even while I clutch at my stomach (and I'm not talking about the actual surgery scenes). The Bachelor/Bachelorette shows probably disgust me the most, but even that I have fun scoffing at. Bill Hicks hit the nail on the head when he said watching Cops was like messing with a sore tooth. It hurts but you just can't help yourself. At least when the TV is already on, in my case.
I'm of course not bothered at all by the lack of "reality" in "reality television." I don't really want, need, or expect any reality from my TV. But the level of depravity paraded before the lens here, the lowest of the lowest common denominator, is truly...well, fascinating. But it's not all that bad. I actually watched two shows that I think had some kind of merit. One was Wife Swap. Trading Spouses is being sued for copying it, but they're worlds apart (OK, so that's based on the one episode of each I've watched). Despite the PCness of the Fox version's title, Trading Spouses (which is promptly demolished by it's subtitle, "Meet Your New Mommy"), Wife Swap is the more, uh...humane of the two. It's the same premise: two moms from different families trade places for a couple of weeks and mayhem ensues. But Wife Swap has more of a "let's see what we can learn from this experience" kind of thing to it. In the episode I watched, they traded a single mom with ruthlessly disobedient children with an ultra-rich obsessively organized mom with completely repressed children and a distant husband. In the end, everybody appreciated their own family more but also made some changes with what they'd learned from the other family. Trading Spouses, on the other hand, just seems to revel in criticism and weak attempts at shock value (Oh My God! One of the moms thinks she saw a ghost!). It has an added element where they give the mothers $50,000 to spend and the adopted mom has to do the spending...awful, awful, awful. The other show that I thought was all right was Super Nanny. Apparently both the nanny and the show itself were imported from England. This woman comes into your home and teaches you how to get your problem kids under control. The episode I saw had some really good parenting skills demonstrated...I suppose those Jerry Springer scare-your-kids-into-submission boot camps could be considered the bizarro version of Super Nanny.
They may not be the end-all be-all of TV, and I'd watch Deadwood any day over those two shows, but as far as reality TV goes, I gotta say it's the best I've seen.