The 6 Worst Attempts To Turn Human Misery Into Entertainment
Following every soul-crushing tragedy is thousands of artists ready to explore it for moving, contemplative art. It's one of the ways we deal with the horrors of the world. But for every director filming Schindler's List or artist painting Guernica, there's an exploitative monster taking the same tragedy and turning it into a sleazy get-rich-quick scheme. Like how ...
CBS Made Poor People Compete For A Briefcase Full Of Cash
It's arguable that the all-time low point of reality TV occurred a couple of years ago, when producers for CBS came up with The Briefcase. The premise, which had to have sounded evil even when scribbled onto a napkin at a strip club, was that they'd find some tragically poor people and give them a briefcase filled with $100,000 ... at which point they were given the choice to either keep the money or give it to another family in an equally terrible financial bind. If you're not seeing the problem, the key was that if they chose to keep it, they pretty much had to look the other family dead in the eyes and tell them to suck it.
The twist was that they didn't know that the other family had been given an identical briefcase. Imagine the juicy drama if one family chose to hoard the cash, while the other chose to give theirs away! Now they have short-term cash but look like assholes to the whole world! The ads promised that you'd get to see this play out with, for example, a fucking veteran who lost a limb and a family of little people. That sounds like something a defense attorney would show after saying, "Here are the psychological tests my client was subjected to before he became the Unabomber."
CBS had effectively created a nonviolent version of the Hunger Games, where instead of mercilessly killing your adversary for entertainment, you're adding a bit of psychological torture to their already-significant problems. This shit sandwich is topped off at the end by the narrator talking about how these families will learn it's not about money, but the journey ... If by "journey," they mean throwing someone a magic bag of money, making them feel like all their problems are solved, and then telling them only a total dick would solve their own problems with a magic bag of money. That's definitely a journey, but the kind the Devil or Willy Wonka would take you on, not a cute prime-time game show.
Thankfully, the show did not make it beyond its original episode order. News agencies picked up on the Category 8 ethics shitstorm that was about to hit CBS, and audiences turned on the show before it even aired. America's reaction was reassuring, even if it doesn't bode well for seeing a real-life Running Man in our lifetime.
Someone Made A Concentration Camp Escape Room
Do you like escape rooms that test your problem-solving skills with fun and intriguing puzzles? Probably! Do you enjoy learning about the Holocaust in graphic detail? It's unlikely! Have you ever wanted to combine those two things by solving riddles in a recreation of a concentration camp? Holy shit, we hope not!
Yet a Czech company did in fact come up with the brilliant idea of creating an escape room set in a WWII-era concentration camp. That's right, now you can, for fun, experience what it was like for people to be herded like cattle toward their unspeakable deaths, only with puzzles. It's reprehensible, right? Well, Dostan Se Ven, the architect behind the most despicable attempt at making $15 of all time, played the ignorance card when people suggested a holocaust party game was in poor taste. He thought breaking codes in a simulated human oven might help educate! Like a museum! If only those poor souls at Auschwitz knew to turn the lights off to read the glow-in-the-dark ink on their name tags to get the combination for the pink lockbox.
Details on what this monstrosity would include in its gameplay have been scarce, but it was confirmed that part of the "game" would involve you taking "the shower." Which means, Jesus fuck, part of the team-building party activity would have simulated being murdered by Hitler in a poison gas room. How do you look a person in the eye after something like that? If you told someone you spent the night hitting cats with sticks to record samples for a song in support of Jared Fogle, it would be less repulsive than saying, "My work friends and I played Holocaust. I died from Zyklon B, but I was the one who thought to turn the dead baby over to find the last word puzzle, so we won with seconds to spare!"
And while we're on the Holocaust ...
Someone Did A Goddamn Holocaust-Themed Ice Skating Routine
So society clearly isn't ready for lighthearted Holocaust LARPing, but maybe we have healed enough to accept a Holocaust ice skating routine. No? Not even close? Yeah, that's what everyone else thought, too. Tatiana Navka, an Olympic skating champion from Russia married to one of Putin's right-hand men, choreographed, practiced, and costumed a Holocaust-themed routine without ever pausing to reconsider the wisdom of such a plan. It was not well-received. It wasn't a subtle tribute to lives lost; it was two people dressed in pinstripe prison uniforms, complete with Stars of David, spinning around and pantomiming the backstroke.
"Wait wait, shit! We shouldn't be doing this!" -- translated from the original Russian
Ms. Navka created this dance for a Russian reality TV show called Ice Age, which is presumably about participants making up routines based on humanity's worst tragedies. It's more than likely her competitors were about to conduct their rendition of "Rape of Nanking on Ice" or "Spanish Flu Foxtrot." You'd think that this display would be penalized in some way by the judges of the competition, but when we said it was not well-received earlier, we meant it wasn't well-received outside of Russian reality shows. On the show itself, the pair received a perfect score ...
Still, it was denounced by the media, celebrities, most non-Nazi Twitter users (a larger number than you'd think), and it even got to the point where a whole country took a stand against it when Israel made a public statement expressing their disapproval. We're thinking that this is about as wrong as an ice skating routine can go.
Eight Months After Robin Williams' Suicide, It Was Reenacted On TV (By An Actor Who Was Also A Porn Star)
How soon is too soon to broadcast a fictionalized account of a famous tragedy? Does the timeline change when a porn star is involved? Britain's Channel 5 aired Autopsy: The Last Hours Of Robin Williams only eight months after the death of the beloved comedian and actor. It was a "documentary" in which actor Alain Poudensan played Robin Williams in the final hours of his life, including his suicide. And yes, Alain is an "adult film actor" who normally performs with his "dick all out." His credits include movies with dumb names like Sexterror and amazing names like Anal Magic, but he got the gig because he also moonlights as a Williams impersonator. Poudensan's website has a photo of Williams with his arm around him, which means they met and he had a personal connection to the man whose suicide he portrayed before returning to anal on-camera magic:
Note: Due the cropping, we have no definitive proof that he's wearing pants in this photo.
This horrible mistake of an idea is presented as an "autopsy" in which Professor Richard Shepherd, a respected British physician, degrades his reputation by sitting in a forensics lab set and discussing Williams' death. His monologues are cut with scenes of Poudensan reenacting Williams' last hours and interviews with people who sort of knew Williams. For instance, they got mental health insights from an entertainment reporter who wrote about him, and the owner of a toy store he used to go into. Believe it or not, their insight into why Robin Williams did what he did were not very profound. The program produced no new information on Williams' suicide, and seemed to be catering to people who wanted the closest thing they could get to a celebrity killing himself on-screen. It was made by and for ghouls.
When news broke that the show was being filmed, Williams' friends, family, and fans launched a social media campaign protesting it. "This is so WRONG! REALLY, REALLY WRONG!!!" Williams' friend Debi Durst posted, and we can't disagree. Those protests were ignored and the special was broadcast anyway. It turns out you can put insensitive, terrible, ill-advised garbage on TV even when everyone is asking you not to! A friend of Williams' family said that something like this only sets back their slow healing, but he was only repeating the same thing basic human decency was saying already.
There's A Musical About The Creation Of The Atomic Bomb
Whether you agree with its use in WWII or not (feel free to debate Japan invasion scenarios in the comments), the atomic bomb is mankind's most savage weapon and the instrument of the murder of hundreds of thousands of humans. Naturally, the story of its creation would make a great basis for a musical ... r-right?!? Thus were we given Atomic: The Musical. J. Robert Oppenheimer is the narrator, Einstein's pupil Leo Szilard is the protagonist, and it's every bit as tone-deaf as you might expect. It's a show that can't decide if it wants to be serious or funny, so dramatic scenes awkwardly rub up against slapstick nonsense that uses the creation of the bomb as joke fodder.
We can think up a list as long as that scroll of why not to do this.
Scientist Enrico Fermi is portrayed as the living, breathing incarnation of every Italian stereotype, up to and including being an insatiable womanizer. He even gets a whole song in which he lecherously praises the country he emigrated to called "America Amore." Why? Because they needed a comic relief character. When your play ends with literal mountains of dead people, it helps to lighten things up with a "Joey" or a "Woody." At one point, a female scientist asks "How do you say I'm sorry to the whole world?" Which is something the playwrights should have asked themselves, but which also demonstrates how they know the subject is too monstrous to be undone with a few words. A few songs and a wacky horny character, though? That might do it!
Appropriately, the musical ends on a truly bizarre note: A Japanese newlywed couple are in their home when the bomb explodes with a blinding flash of light. And in one of musical theater's least tasteful and imaginative uses of metaphor, Szilard bursts through their screen doors and kills them. This is followed by a final scene of Szilard sharing a bottle of wine with the other Manhattan Project scientists as they calmly discuss the moral consequences of what they've done. That kind of difference in tone describes the entire show in a nutshell, making it the perfect scene to end on. It really is a work of mad stupidity.
Someone Made An Animated Titanic Movie About Everyone Surviving The Titanic Sinking
In 1999, Mondo TV released The Legend Of The Titanic, directed by Kim Jun-Ok, and it's batshit-squirting madness featuring gypsy kings, a whaling billionaire allied with criminal sharks, magical moonbeams that let people talk to flying dolphins, and soccer-obsessed mice who want to have sex with humans. We'd assure you we didn't have a stroke as we wrote all of that, but at this point we're not even sure.
Yet somehow, it's the ending that is the most deranged and insulting part. Not only is the sinking of the Titanic actually caused by a fiendish plot between the whaler, the sharks, and a dimwitted dog-faced octopus, but then everyone aboard the Titanic -- even the people who died during the crash and were left behind -- escape and come back to life thanks to the whales. Are these words making sense? It feels like none of these words should be in this order.
"I now pronounce you octopus and wife."
The movie has been received poorly, enjoying a comfortable slot in IMDB's 25 worst movies of all time, and being a constant target for mockery and derision by internet comedians to this day. This very second, some might say! But in spite of being the kind of horrific mistake that makes people start new lives under assumed identities, the movie got a sequel five years later, called In Search Of The Titanic, which featured immortal Atlanteans, talking dolls and screwdrivers, evil rats, and a dog with a laser gun. And they don't even find the fucking Titanic in the movie.
Fantasize about going back in time and giving Titanic survivors these sweet floating pizza rafts like the hero you are deep inside!
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