Saturday, November 22, 2008

The Art of Benevolence

I sat and watched Extreme Makeover: Home Edition when the commercials for baby food and Sears home-building products started rolling. Normally, I don't watch TV; generally, I don't watch EX: HE; usually, I mute the commercials. But the evening was lonely and dark, and I felt generous. EX: HE it was going to be. It wasn't until I watched the Sears commercial - "supporter" of EX: HE - that it struck me that the EX: HE is nothing more than a fat-cat business that builds homes for families whose houses are falling apart, molding, are without a floor and/or ceiling, etc. And generally, these new homes are for families who have at least one kid who has had cancer from the time they were born, or the family has adopted half a million kids from around the neighborhood, or the family has an immediate family member who is overseas in Iraq (who always comes to their new home for tear-jerking, heart-string pulling reunion con la familia).

What is wrong with this picture? The fact that a business and not a charity is caring for people who really need it, like Habitat for Humanity. When was the last episode you watched where Habitat for Humanity the good deeds they did? Yeah, that's what I thought. The whole reason that a business like Sears pairs up with the American Broadcasting Company (owned by Disney - whaddya know?!) is money, the bottom line, moolah, to line their palms with green. How's that? Well, say you want to make some changes to your home - a little paint there, a new kitchen faucet here, a pot for the rubber tree there, etc. If you are a regular watcher of EX: HE, what are you going to think of first when you want home improvement items? Sears, right? I mean, they build new houses for families who make minimum wage for a household for eighteen (at least!) people.

ABC is in the whole shebang for purely altruistic reasons. Why? Well, the simple fact that EX: HE was nominated for and has won two Emmys, and is currently nominated for The People's Choice award should speak for itself. All ABC wants is the ratings - Emmys, other awards, and sobbing people sitting in front of the television give them that.

This is the art of benevolency - it is an art because it generates money for Sears and ABC while making families "happy." But in the end - to quote the game The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask - "does it truly make everyone...happy?" Do you think those people are going to be any happier after they move into their new home than before? If these families weren't able to take care of their old home before for whatever reasons, do you think they will be more able to after they get the new home?

This calls to mind Christ's parable of the poor widow: 1As he looked up, Jesus saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury. 2He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins.[a] 3"I tell you the truth," he said, "this poor widow has put in more than all the others. 4All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on."

I don't think I have to draw an analogy here - Christ summed it up perfectly.

1 comment:

barnesenglish said...

"Compassion as Commodity: ABC's Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" -- a paper you might consider writing. :)

But I always think along those lines.