We watch... so you don't have to.

Are You Stupid?

As a service to you, I had my TiVo record ABC's newest reality show, Are You Hot? (subtitled "The Search for America's Sexiest People"). I watched this show because I care for you, and also so I could say that I have seen a reality show more up-to-date than Real People.

Here's the boilerplate synopsis of Are You Hot? in case you arrived on this planet late: Heretofore apparently normal people enter a contest where their looks -- specifically, their face; their body; and their sex appeal -- are judged by a celebrity panel and/or TV viewers in an elimination tournament until one man and one woman are left; they are crowned "The Sexiest People in America."

I don't know if the idea was stolen or paid for with blood money or, heck, traded for Chocodiles; but this show really looks to me to be based on an old Web site. Originally it was AmIHotOrNot.com and now it's simply HOTorNOT.com, and the idea is very basic: People put up their photos and visitors rank them, 1 to 10, and the tally is displayed. The site had few redeeming features; the best one of which, in my opinion, was that you could, with some URL editing, follow the photos to their source server and there sometimes find porn. You can't do that any more, though.

The TV show retains the framework -- people who think they're hot show themselves to us to be judged -- but, like the site, drops the pornography. Alas.

It's too easy to make fun of Are You Hot?, from start to finish. I believe that is its sole purpose, in fact. Why else hire a host who appears to have defeated Casey Kasem in the Thunderdome to win possession of his hair? What other purpose can there be for hiring Lorenzo Lamas as one of the celebrity judges? Why else show us footage of these people who obviously think they're hot, when in fact they are not? And why show footage of these other people who are so obviously hot, if the judges stupidly insist they are not?

This show is joke-proof, irony-proof, satire-proof. It's the noble gas of reality shows, formed only in the intensely dense fusion reaction at the center of Hollywood where the massless particles of television producer intellects collide with the bare nuclei of ideas stripped of their originality.

There are simply so many snide remarks crowding in my brain at once I cannot even begin to give voice to them all. Lorenzo Lamas -- snort! Rachel Hunter -- guffaw! Randolph Duke -- who?

The only joys to be drawn from this program -- and they are small ones -- are to feel vindicated when a person you've decided is hot is dubbed "Hot" by the judges; and to feel vindicated when a person you've decided is hot is dubbed "Not" by the judges. Either way, you can feel superior, either by having your tastes ratified by the celebrity panel or by knowing, deep down inside, that you are better than those losers. Who are famous, while you are not.

I believe, though -- and I want you to take this tidbit and tuck it into your shirt pocket to take out and think about later, like those little cards funeral homes give away at services -- I believe this show serves a more insidious purpose. It's part of a huge fabric, along with the other reality shows and the evening news and talk shows, all stretching back to the late 1980s as Ronald Reagan was leaving office; yes, "Are You Hot?" is the latest and greatest cog in the machinery started up way back then, and this machinery has only one purpose: To convince you -- yes, you! -- that America is populated entirely by imbeciles.

It isn't. Look around you! America is full of smart people! You probably don't even realize it because you're too busy scratching your head at The People's Court from the Stairmaster at the gym, wondering why that 400-pound lady with the mustache would bring her lover on national television and expect her husband not to notice. You don't see all the heavy intellectual lifting going on because you're screaming at Joe Millionaire contestants, "He's a construction worker you cheap hussy!" Or maybe you're wondering who thought it was a good plot line to introduce vampires into General Hospital spinoff Port Charles.

Admit it. You think Americans are stupid. You see that "How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days" and "Shanghai Knights" are top box office draws and you lament. You marvel at shows like Will & Grace and The District and you cry to the heavens. You watch BBC America.

But I'm here to wake you up and let you know that Americans are not morons, not at all. Somehow, by the wiles of some conspiracy, by some confederacy of dunces, the stupidest among us have the loudest voices; but we are not dumb. Did you know that researchers at Sandia National Laboratories have designed a synthetic retina? Did you know that engineers have built a robot called Dante to walk down into volcanos to gather gas samples? That right now, while you're reading this, NASA has a spacecraft orbiting the planet Jupiter and sending back pictures -- and that it's been out there for almost eight years? And that NASA is using the last of its propellant to steer it so it will end its useful life crashing into Jupiter instead of Europa because on its pass by that moon, it found evidence of a possible ocean, which may support extraterrestrial life? And did you know you can right now buy a Tomy Mighty Men & Monster Maker Kit on eBay?

Look at your shoes. Have you thought about how much technology it took to make them? How about that PC you're using? Hey, is it a Palm? Aren't those just totally amazing? And check out my titanium eyeglass frames!

No, Americans aren't all drooling bolt-necks, but if you watch TV and read the news, you think they are. And that's a damned shame. That's what Are You Hot? is really about: It's about making you feel smart, making you think everyone else is not, and -- most importantly -- it's about defeating you, keeping you down, making you feel like it's not worth it to give life your best because of the sheer overwhelming stupidity of the human race. It's about letting petty tyrants and thugs have their way with you and the natural resources of this world because it's just not worth the fight.

I gave up an hour of my life (I couldn't watch any more) to view Are You Hot? so I could bring this news back to you, so do not take it lightly, thou lamp of the universe: Don't waste your time on this crap. Go out and make something beautiful for yourself and your fellow humans.


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