And in the end, it's not the years in your life that count. It's the life in your years.

~ Abraham Lincoln ~

Happy Days Fraud

February 27th, 2012 ~ Est. reading time: 2 mins, 17 secs

Escape into make believe, or happy days fraud?

Thanks to the medium of  TV, happy days fraud happens easily. It sets the measure for what we expect, what matters, and what’s normal. But though it pretends to be real, it’s all a grand illusion. Just one big happy days fraud. Really, TV is a mix of unreality shows, edited trouble (the news), sassy ads, canned laughter comedies, phoney romance, drama, and lashings of violence on the side. Natural life, however, is not as it seems on TV. Nor is Fonzie, making an appearance through saloon doors saying “Aaayy!” every time something happens, anything like real life. Despite what they tell us, reality is nothing like locking twenty people in a bugged house and then spying on every kiss, burp, and flatulent moment.

You might say, “Who cares? Happy days fraud or not, it’s just television. Everybody knows it isn’t real.” But ask a child. They can’t tell happy days fraud from happy days reality. Even once grown up, the power of emotion and story is such that flashing fiction pulls us in. We want to believe. Besides, TV gives stability. With 24/7 presence, it’s a lifetime authority. Setting values and ideas, TV pumps out messages of what “real” is.

Education is crucial. But many kids weaned on flashing images and entertainment resent its intrusion. Learning and thinking are “boring” compared to being entertained. If only everything was entertaining, then life would be “right”… happy days fraud. Complicated things, like solving family and marriage problems, take time. But not in the thirty minute world of TV. Set the scene, introduce the problem, and then resolve it; all in thirty minutes minus breaks. Simple. If people lack positive parental examples, leave it to TV to show the way. Were this only half true, it would still be a wake up call, wouldn’t it?

The whole happy days fraud is that everybody lives out a contrived version of a pleasing life. In the case of Happy Days, life is small town niceness. With tinier problems and fast food fun in the malt shop, handling life seems easy. Flip to modern in-your-face shows and you not only get excessive violence but more conflict than you’d get in a lifetime.

The Nazi propagandist, Joseph Goebbels, said “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.” Without meaning to do anything more than sell products, and provide a diet of entertainment, television now says:

  • You must be glamorous
  • To matter, women must be highly attractive and sexualized
  • “Real” families have a mother, father and two kids (boy and girl)
  • More than anything, money, power, and fame matter most.

Those old American shows like My Three Sons, Gilligan’s Island, The Brady Bunch, and Happy Days provided innocent entertainment. Light-hearted and designed to keep family viewers happy, they were hugely popular.  But, like all fictions, trouble comes when people own the happy days fraud in whatever its guise. Life as 50’s malt shop theatre, action packed guns blazing adventure or, celebrity illusion, is hardly real life. They’re portrayed as entertainment. Yet, whether happy or disturbing, we need to consciously stake our claim on reality by discovering life for ourselves. Compelling as TV’s created stories and images are, they’re not the real thing. We are.



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