Thursday, March 20, 2014

Shout Out to the Big Bad Wolf ...

When did it happen that Good News was no longer “Good?” That success stories weren’t brilliant but dull? When did we canonize The Big Bad Wolf?

Think about it …. When you turn on the nightly news, what are you tuning in to hear? When you pick up the newspaper, where do you focus your attention? When you scan Facebook, do you look for photos of your friends’ kids or polarizing discussions about world events?

Good News isn’t where it’s “at” anymore. Not in our society. What inquiring people want to know is what’s gone wrong … that sells papers. That makes news. That sparks ratings.

If you think about it, the Three Little Pigs owe The Big Bad Wolf big time for their moment in the spotlight. Who would have taken the time to read about three brothers who built single-family homes in town using three different types of materials? That’s not even news. Ho hum. Yawn. Big deal.

What’s news is the huffing and puffing. What’s News is that a Wolf’s powerful evil breath blew two houses down and destroyed thousands of dollars in furniture and household goods, forcing two local residents into the wintery streets with nothing but the clothes on their backs. What’s news is that this wolf stalked and terrorized these two innocent residents, who just happened to be related to a well-established construction icon. News is that the Wolf developed third-degree burns and was rushed to a local animal hospital after trying to break into a famous construction icon’s home through his chimney … Yes … that’s news. That interest us. That keeps us tuning in for more.

Little Red Riding Hood owes a shout out to the Wolf too. Yep ... her acclaim is another credit to the Big Bad Wolf -- the cousin of the one that terrorized the Pigs. (I knew that family was no good, the neighbor was known to say in his interview on 20/20.)  

Little Girl Takes Treats to Sick Grandmother wouldn’t even make the Community page. Grandmother Eaten by Wolf moves to Section A. Grandmother Found Alive After Eaten By Wolf gets the front page … with a graphically gruesome picture to accompany it. That would be the lead off story for the Nightly News as well. Can’t you just see it now … Hunter Cuts Still Alive Grandma from Wolf, saving local little girl who will most likely require some serious counseling after all she’s been through – stalked and brutalized while delivering home-made treats to a sick relative. This wolf has long been long-known for terrorizing our community ... part of a local family with ties to organized crime … Film at 11.

Little Red was only a young girl visiting her Grandmother until the Wolf crossed her path. Then she became somebody. No one cares about the do-gooder until the big bad enters the scene.

The Three Pigs just built houses and wanted a simple life. Along comes the Wolf and a tale is structured that few can forget.

The Brothers Grimm knew what people wanted to read. Along with Walt Disney, they immortalized Sleeping Beauty after Maleficent coerced her to prick her finger on a spindle and “die.” They made Snow White important not because she cleaned houses but because she ate an apple poisoned by her evil stepmother (there's a messed up family unit if I ever saw one), fell into a deep sleep and was brought back to life! (The fact that she co-habitated with seven little men in the process gives her one heckuva backstory!)

Good News doesn’t sell. After the recent Oscars, the talk turned not to the winners and their brilliant gifts to film. Long-time notable bad-boy Matthew McConaughey didn't make the top articles after his nice, normal speech where he gave a very honorable mention to God for his role in the actor's achievements. That's nice, but it doesn't spark news cycles. No ... the day after Oscar focus settled predominantly on John Travolta for mispronouncing Idina Menzel’s name. The spotlight turned on the actresses wearing the dresses that shouldn’t have made it to the red carpet … not the ones that stunned and shone.

Happy Marriages and Lives don’t a successful TV soap opera make. It can take a week (or more) for a break up to begin and conclude on General Hospital and fans will watch every destructive moment -- a death can draw out to a month and people still tune in. Popular shows like Dallas would never have been revived if Bobby and JR mended fences in the 80’s. If JR had repented from his wicked ways after the Who Shot JR Season, the program would have drifted from prime time into the litany of non-memorable. But the fact that Sue Ellen Ewing still hasn't kicked her alcoholic ways and now delves into blackmailing her own son ... wow ... that draws ratings and attention.

Our nightly news occasionally wraps up with a human interest story … if it’s a slow news night. But it never leads with one.  We much prefer scandal and disasters. We’re morbidly drawn to the shooting of Jay Gatsby … by the speculation of how he made his fortune … by his wild parties and the intrigue surrounding his life. We don’t want to hear about the pretty ... about his love for Daisy and his loss of innocence. That doesn’t sell.

Scarlett settles down with Rhett. Aw ... how nice. Well, if That had happened, Gone With The Wind would have been 300 pages shorter and never made it to the silver screen.

What does this say about our society? Our country is fascinated by gossip and drama, obsessed with what went wrong, and drawn to stories structured by illicit activity, loss, controversy, criticism, rumor and speculation. We tune in to the news to hear about company closures, wars and world-wide crisis. We criticize our leaders and mock their choices. Around us everything is dark and messed up and falling apart and doomed. And that’s what we focus on. That’s what we care about. That's the story what we crave. And, for some crazy reason, we seem to like it this way....

Country in Great Shape would never sell papers. So instead, we hear all about what’s wrong with our leadership … what’s corrupt in Washington DC. It’s no wonder we’re afraid to allow our kids to walk to school … crime and child abductions are all over the news. It’s a wonder we even walk outside.

Big Bad Wolf Eats Local Granny … Young Girl Terrorized in the Woods … Area Hunter Cuts Grandmother From Wolf Stomach and Grandmother Survives to Tell All ….

Good news isn’t interesting. It doesn’t score the front page of the newspaper. It isn’t what people are talking about. In fact, Good News isn’t what people want to hear.

No one wants to know if you are Fine. You’re not news if life is peachy keen. But get stalked by a Wolf and they will remember you forever. You’ll have a story of your own and film at 11 ...

                                                                                                                           -- Jenni