Reality television is rarely about reality as it exists now – it’s more often about reality as we want it to exist. You’d think that such concepts would be reserved for the fictional shows, but no, someone, somewhere figured out a way to sell the viewing public content that is just as idealized even thought it is supposedly “real.” And the public loves it, just laps it up.
Thus you have shows on which overweight people lose large amounts of weight in seemingly unhealthy amounts of time; on which people win ungodly sums of money through manipulation, deceitfulness, and their mastery of over-sized obstacle courses in remote locations; in which people pretend to invite you into their lives for a peek at what it’s “really like” to be a redneck or a fashion designer or a movie star, even though “real life” doesn’t involve a handful of producers helping you make day-to-day decisions.
How far will the trend go? How much are people willing to alter their lives via made-for-tv shortcuts in the hopes of getting the kind of life they’ve always dreamed of? We’ve gone a long way down that rabbit hole, but according to C.L. Gordon, there’s plenty of room left on the downward slide.
In Gordon’s short story “Attitude Adjustment,” we’re brought on the set of a show called “Radical Makeover: Attitude Adjustment.” Participants on the show have agreed to a new neurological procedure to help them deal with the issues that they don’t have the ability – or the patience – to deal with through more traditional means. Thus, after a quick operation, the inhibited recluse becomes an impulsive hellion, the over-giver becomes the embodiment of selfishness, and so on and so on. On a set, and in a world, like this, who can be trusted?
It’s a good idea, one that I wish Gordon had delved into a little deeper. This is a short piece of writing, and really only takes a broad swipe at the concepts the author introduces. This is the kind of subject matter in which the more you know about the characters getting these procedures, the more engaged and invested you’ll be. In the short amount of space Gordon gives this story, we don’t really get full characters, just quick sketches. There’s also a little twist at the end, something which I generally enjoy but felt a little out of place here.
To say much more is to give too much away, and I don’t want to to that. “Attitude Adjustment” is enjoyable enough, but it really opened up a lot of questions that I’d like to see explored more fully. Perhaps this is a subject the author will return to at another time. In the meantime, if you’ve got a tiny hole in your reading schedule and ninety-nine cents to kill, you could do worse.