A man attempts to auction himself and his family on E-Bay and is rewarded with a movie deal and admiration. A movie in which a group of young men perform mindlessly deadly stunts is big box office. People from has-been celebrities to suburban families are vying for a chance to be humiliated and emotionally flayed on national television.
It is all part of the phenomenon sparked by what is called reality TV and it is the moniker that frightens me more than the content. Who's reality is this?
It is a reality carefully sculpted to appeal to all our worst instincts the lowest common denominators.
The thing that upsets me is not that these denominators exist in us, but with an old saying my mother used to repeat when I was a precocious child, "If you keep making that ugly face someday itll freeze that way."
"Oh Mom!" was the response born of the knowledge that the child is smartere than the adult.
However, with all the chiding, I took the advice to heart.
Now, looking at my 38-year-old face in the mirror and seeing the laugh lines that set there as the result of taking Mother's advice I have come to think there may be something to that old saying.
The trouble with making that ugly face on our reality is that it will take years for us before we see the lines that are setting in.
Which lines? Well, the line some of us are always saying were trying to hold. The line Hollywood and television producers are constantly redrawing.
As our nation struggles to find allies the way Diogenes scoured the seven hills of Rome looking for that honest man, only with less success, perhaps we should consider the face we are showing the world.
Examine the face.
It winces in horror - not at drug dealers murdering the innocent or any social injustice, but at a fish tank full of maggots into which a girl in a bikini is about to be emersed.
Tears run down it - not because a child is found dead in a trash container in a Newark, New Jersey home while his siblings lay around him, starving , but because it is laughing so hard at a young man setting himself on fire for fun.
It beams with admiration, not because a conflict was resolved without bloodshed, but at the gleam of a new luxury automobile gliding across the screen.
When this mouth opens it spews out advice, orders and threats. It talks about the importance of protecting its values.
It isn't my face. Maybe it isn't yours. Yet it is this face that we are selling on the covers of our magazines, extolling in our newspapers. It is this face we show the world. It is the face we are fashioning for our children to wear.
If I were living in another, more sheltered part of the world, looking at this face as it grew and filled my vision I would be terrified. Perhaps I would even be crazed with my need to defend against it.
I certainly would be slow to heed its voice, even when I saw another side to the face. This would perhaps increase my fear for I would be looking at a monster.
In this free society I cannot in good conscience demand that these shows not be produced or aired. However, I can ask that we turn our faces away.
Turn away and do not look back, lest we turn to stone inside and out. Even the Lord warned us, not wanting to see his children's faces freeze that way.
The older I get, the wiser my Mother becomes.