White House party crashers worthy of jail, not reality show

Published On:
Thursday, December 3, 2009
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If the major news stories of the past month have taught us anything, it’s this: Reality TV stars aren’t real people. They may seem as if their minds work like ours as they walk among us, going about their daily lives. But they don’t.

Consider the Heenes, a family first featured on the ABC reality show “Wife Swap,” who made the country believe their son had stowed away upon a weather balloon that had been set loose and was floating lazily across the countryside in an attempt to drum up publicity for their appearance on an upcoming reality show.

While volunteers and rescue personnel rushed to save the imperiled child and worried viewers watched the saga play out in horror, little Falcon Heene sat safely at home in the box his parents had told him to hide in. The family now faces multiple fraud charges.

Now take note of Tareq and Michaele Salahi, candidates for the upcoming Bravo reality series “The Real Housewives of D.C.,” who waltzed their way into a White House state dinner uninvited last week, sneaking past the Secret Service like a couple of ninjas and posing for pictures with President Barack Obama and several other prominent attendees.

While the Salahis’ party crashing revealed some serious security lapses on the part of White House security personnel, it also exposed another truth: People will do almost anything for their shot at fame.

Reality networks have created a dangerous culture for themselves. What happened to the days when submitting a video of you running around in the nude was the most outrageous thing you could do to get selected? Candidates for these shows are now performing ever more dangerous, outrageous and questionably legal stunts in order to get noticed, each attempting to outdo the other potential contestants for their one shot at fame.

If Bravo wants to retain any respect in this situation, the network should drop the Salahis from the running immediately. Similar networks should do likewise and should make it clear that any person trying out for their shows who perform a similar act will be dropped from consideration immediately.

The era of reality television has created a group of celebrities who aren’t really celebrities; people who are famous for the simple fact that cameras were on them for a time. The proliferation of this kind of television has resulted in rampant vanity: The Salahis and their ilk are so self-important and think their lives are so interesting that they feel they deserve to be paid just for living. They all want to be celebrities for having done nothing.

Case in point: The Wall Street Journal reported earlier this week the Salahis are asking talk shows to pay them hundreds of thousand of dollars to tell their story.

Thankfully, talk show hosts and news outlets have thus far refused to pay the Salahis for the privilege, and they should continue to treat them as the tantrum-throwing children they seem to be. They should receive zero payment and zero attention.

What these people — the Salahis, the Heenes and others — fail to realize is that there’s a difference between fame and infamy. Fame is deserved. Fame is lasting. Fame is a result of hard work and is thus respected. Releasing weather balloons and sneaking into parties get you infamy, ridicule and criminal charges. That’s the real reality.

Zach is going to feel like an idiot when he finds outVH1 accepted him for Tool Academy 3. E-mail audition tape ideas to zfowle@asu.edu