Life, yet again, imitates Married with Children

Not to mention The Simpsons. And Ghostbusters for that matter. I still crack up just thinking about the giddy look on Dr. Venkman’s face as he’s about to administer an electric shock to that kid even after he guessed the card right. The aforementioned MwC involved Al and Peggy vs. Steve and Marcy on a game show to win prizes by inflicting pain on your spouse. A little different in the execution, but the premise is basically the same – someone is getting an electric shock for money.

Yet another tried and true formula for comedy turned into an abomination by the French.

PARIS (AFP) – Game show contestants turn torturers in a new psychological experiment for French television, zapping a man with electricity until he cries for mercy — then zapping him again until he seems to drop dead.

The game: posing questions to another “player” and punishing him with up to 460 volts of electricity when he gets them wrong — even until his cries of “Let me go!” fall silent and he appears to have died.

Not knowing that the screaming victim is really an actor, the apparently reluctant contestants yield to the orders of the presenter and chants of “Punishment!” from a studio audience who also believed the game was real.

One contestant interviewed afterwards said she went along with the torture despite knowing that her own grandparents were Jews who had been persecuted by the Nazis.

“Since I was a little girl, I have always asked myself why they (the Nazis) did it. How could they obey such orders? And there I was, obeying them myself,” said Sophie, quoted in a book by the film makers.

The experiment was modelled on an infamous study at Yale University in the 1960s, which used similar methods to examine how obedient citizens could come to take part in mass murder.

Some observers were sceptical of the manipulative way the participants were handled.

Jacques Semelin, a psychologist and historian who studies genocide and totalitarianism, pointed out that the participants were made to sign a contract obliging them to obey the presenter’s instructions.So maybe life imitates a 50 year old Yale study. The point is that Joe Bystander and Judy Walkaday can willingly, if grudgingly, be manipulated into juicing a complete stranger through consciousness to apparent death. One human inflicting suffering on another isn’t a groundbreaking discovery; the kerfuffle is about how easily “average” folk can be goaded into “torturing” another random schmuck.

Must see TV, especially if they wired the “victim” to give off little puffs of smoke and smell of bacon frying at high voltage levels.

But we can’t ignore the fact they signed a contract obliging them to obey the presenter’s instructions. Pretty heavy stuff when you’re choosing between “torturing” another human or walking away from a new washer/dryer and week-long all-expenses-paid stay at some tropical paradise. Not at all like a man who’s taken an oath to protect the United States forced to make difficult decisions about how much discomfort is permissible when trying to extract information from high-ranking terrorists rolled up abroad.

If you’re going to try Bush administration lawyers for their legal opinions on enhanced interrogations then shouldn’t these would-be killers be tried? Interesting stuff to think about. My mind was wandering a bit this weekend while I was pulling the engine out of my old pickup to prep her for the new one. After dragging my butt inside and hosing off, I plopped down and just happened to catch a couple of totally unrelated flicks that oddly converged on a recurring theme. Said theme also has relevance to the ongoing charade by Democrats in Washington. The films were Jaws and Back to School. The common theme is the pompous, cultured elitist.

Matt Hooper is the least sympathetic character in Jaws. Hell, in the book he bangs Brodie’s old lady and gets his comeuppance from the shark. When I was a kid, I read the book before I saw the movie and was totally bummed Hooper didn’t get it. He’s just that much of a dick. When they remake Jaws – and God knows they eventually will – Hooper will drive a Prius and be an insufferable greenie to boot.

In fact, if Hooper had been tactful he probably would have saved at least one life. Having never worked a day in his life (Me personally or the whole family?), he chooses confrontation with a mayor who has to balance the needs of his constituents against a never-before-seen threat. Dammit, he knows what’s best for everyone. Who the hell is Matt Hooper anyway? “The guy from the oceanographic institute” Hey, Amity called and they think there’s a shark or something. What should we do? Send Hooper. Doesn’t his family have a summer home near Amity? He’s probably got an extra boat up there anyway. Christ, it’ll be nice to dissect a squid without him standing around telling how I’m doing it wrong.

Nobody got Hooper’s goat like Quint though. Maybe he went a little Ahab at the end, but Quint knew the score. If only they’d had a bigger boat.

Back to School features 60-something self-made millionaire Rodney Dangerfield pitted against a snooty business school professor when he enrolls in college. Basically Rodney doing his standup bit to a thinly veneered plot. The only reason people like you have a place to teach is because people like me donate buildings. Right, so the best scene is Rodney in snooty’s class as he discusses the semester’s project – setting up and operating a business. Just the sort of real-world, built-a-multi-million-dollar-corporation-from-scratch vs. humorless book learning exchange you’d expect.

The professor is cartoonishly erudite and stodgy. Rodney is Rodney. In the end, Rodney proves that a homely 65 year old multi-millionaire can, with relatively little effort, return to college and get laid while successfully completing one semester of freshman level core classes.

Which brings us to another man who has never worked a day in his life either. Well, hasn’t worked for profit anyway. He’s got plenty of book learning. He’s even taught book learning. To lawyers, no less. Our Lecturer in Chief.

His pomposity and refusal to even consider opposing points of view turned what should have been a slam dunk health reform bill into what is shaping up to be a electoral whitewash regardless of whether the bill actually makes it to the Rose Garden. It might have been a better bill to boot. No, Obama’s the visionary. Just let Harry and Nancy work out the nuts and bolts.

This is the guy with the superior intellect and temperament we were told about. What if he’s not cool and brilliant, he’s just another pompous dick? I guess on some level you’ve got to hand it to a guy who completely ignores any contrary argument in pursuit of their ideologically perfect solution. At another level we’ve got to be thankful Obama is such a snooty, unsympathetic jerk that he’s actually making health reform less likely.

Kucinich is a nerd and Professor Snooty roughed him up during the Dem primary. Called him out in Ohio yesterday too. Be interesting to see what he’s got to say tomorrow. He’s got just the right mix of goofy and self-righteous to know for sure, but he strikes me as someone who wouldn’t react favorably to being strong-armed or bought off. We’ll see if the jerk theory is validated. Or just how much Kucinich is willing to give it to Americans for fun and prizes.

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