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Postmodern Village
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Slammer Time!: The Triumph of the Intellectually Bankrupt
By Geoff Slates

Television talk shows about out of control teens have long relied on the "scared straight" experience. A 13-year-old terror always ends up being yelled at by a former bodybuilder, ex-professional wrestler or drill sergeant and, after a commercial break, is magically moved to tears, loves her mother, God and America. No more sex, drugs or videotaping her single parent's illegal/illicit activities and uploading them to YouTube; nope, it's all smooth sailing thanks to someone’s screaming.

Slammer Time! is the latest idea, mercifully still as yet unsold, that attempts to put that tough love into action, although it too feels scripted, unbelievable and unlikely. Billed as a "reality show," it stars Kim Kardashian who, according to paparazzi reports, is not a real person. In Slammer Time!, Kardashian has been assigned as a prison guard at a juvenile detention facility--you know, one of those celebrity guards that only works a couple of hours between taping their other reality shows and leaking sex tapes. It is Kardashian that is expected to offer either homespun wisdom or brutal, butt-kicking discipline. She does neither, instead offering tips for more effective partying. This is rehabilitation? I assume that this casting choice had more to do with someone watching too many women's prison movies in the '70s and nothing to do with Kardashian's emotional presence.

And it is that sexploitation tradition that we definitely have a reason to repeat. With an economy in shambles, gas shortages in the southern U.S., ineffective leadership: what is really so different? Is not some of this backlash against the real strong women shown on the news? Does this have more to do with Hillary Clinton and Cindy McCain? The parallels between McCain and Kardashian are striking: both are heiresses who surround themselves in luxury while Rome burns. The modern Nero wouldn't fiddle, he'd buy a plane, some Louis Vuitton luggage and throw the most kickass party in every time zone.

But yet the smart chicks are the bitches, the ones viewed suspect, the boring and unsexy. They're the ones mocked for wearing pantsuits that cost less than the average American house. Sarah Palin gets adored when she doodles her name, but Katie Couric is a meanie for "harping" on her to figure out what newspapers the woman reads. In Slammer Time!, when a "smartass" drug dealer asks Kardashian what she's looking at, she answers, "The only magazines I ever read--the ones with me on the cover." What’s pathetic is that’s a clearer and better answer than Palin gave Couric. Kardashian is not the bitch she’s supposed to be, and that’s part of the problem here. Instead she’s dumb, but sexy in that FHM and Maxim way.

Slammer Time! makes everyone feel a little alienated from American culture, which, if that's what American culture is, isn't necessarily a bad thing. The out of control teens often bond with Kardashian, whose catchphrase is “Is that all you did? That’s nothing!” She typically offers to get them better lawyers and then take them to some really wild parties. Slammer Time! does more than any other reality show to demonstrate the difference between the haves and have nots and for that alone it must be commended. It need not be actually watched by the have nots (you may choose whether you use McCain's or Obama's definition of rich here). We have nots (myself included, by either measure) know all this already.

The dumb women have got us all, hormonal teens and all, captive this year. John McCain more than anyone else probably is recognizing this--perhaps too late.