Friday, March 20, 2009

Grab Bag Friday: 30 Days with Morgan Spurlock

Have you seen this show?

Not too long ago, Kevin heard about a television show created by Morgan Spurlock, the guy who made the fantastic documentary Super Size Me (which, if you watch the special features on that DVD, watch will turn you away from McDonald's delicious french fries for ever. I haven't eaten them since.)

So we googled 30 Days, and it turns out you can watch all the episodes for free on Hulu. We watched a couple. And now I'm completely addicted.

The basic setup is like any other reality TV show. People agree to put themselves in situations that are out of their comfort zones and be filmed. We watch vicariously while they go through varying degrees of insanity on national television.

But this is not your ordinary reality show.

Morgan Spurlock seems to be very interested in questions of extremism. Think of Super Size Me. He took something Americans do without thinking (eating fast food) and took it to the extreme, eating fast food for every meal, every day, for 30 days, just to see what would happen.

30 Days is an extension of that experiment. Spurlock takes people with extreme views on hot-button issues (abortion, gun laws, same-sex marriage), and puts them in a situation where they will have to live like the "other side" for 30 days.

For instance, one of my recently watched favorites was the episode on animal rights. An avid hunter from the South agrees to spend 30 days living with a PETA activist and her family. According to the rules, he had to spend his days they way they would spend theirs. So our hunter had to work at an animal rescue facility, and protest on the street against animal testing.

The results are fascinating. Sometimes, each side sticks to their guns and is unmovable. In the case of the southern hunter, he and the PETA activist were able to come to a kind of middle ground. The hunter, who will continue to hunt, decided that the practices in the commercial meat factories are unethical and wrong, and he won't eat commerical meat any more (even though he said his friends are initially going to razz him!) The PETA activist learned that hunters are not necessarily the evil animal-hating killers she originally imagined, but real people who can have good motives and a good heart.

I love this idea. Each time I watch the show, it makes me think about things in a way I might not have stumbled on alone. Kevin and I get into some *very* interesting conversations. And I try to think about what extreme views, stereotypes, or belief systems I might have that could use a little moderation.

I heard a rumor, that FX (the station that airs the show) is cancelling 30 Days. Please, please, somebody else pick it up. The Bachelor is fun (and believe me, I've watched my fair share), but we also need shows like this in the world.

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