Mario Lopez plays Anti-Robin Hood taking dignity from the weak and restoring it to the strong
Dramatically satisfying humiliation rolls only one way and that's uphill.
CBS can get a hit reality show out of sending CEOs into the workforce and letting blue collar workers laugh at their inability to pick up trash or handle an assembly line.
CBS could not get a hit reality show out of sending a high school dropout, hand-to-mouth single father of four, into a corporate boardroom unprepared, let the guy make a couple dumb suggestions and then watch the suits mock his ignorance before sending him home empty-handed. [Ignore, for a second, how frequently that's exactly what happens on "The Apprentice."]
There are exceptions in the case of a show like "Same Name," in which an Ordinary Joe had to live the life of a Famous Joe and invariably learned that being famous isn't nearly as easy as he might have imagined. But in the case of "Same Name," not only was there an equal level of humiliation, with the Famous Joe recognizing that he probably wouldn't do so well living the life of an Ordinary Joe, but beyond simple reciprocity, "Same Name" episodes ended with the Famous Joe doing just a little bit to improve the life of the Ordinary Joe, through a well-considered gift. The need for the episode-ending present was a tacit acknowledgement that even if you conclude with a less powerful person recognizing the difficulties of a more powerful person's life and *even* vice versa, equality isn't sufficient for dramatic satisfaction. The viewer realizes that whatever lesson the powerful person learned isn't sufficient payback, because they're still returning to their position of power (usually with a welcome dose of humility), while the normal person learns a lesson and returns to their second mortgage, their failing business and their more relatable struggles. On an intellectual level, viewers know that nothing the famous person could possibly do would even that playing field (and it's all a bit condescending), but viewers appreciate the token, at least on an emotional level.
When the weak mock the powerful it's counter-hegemonic, it's iconoclastic, it's revolutionary.
When the powerful mock the weak, it's bullying.
Even if we weren't in a period of economic unrest, it would require a profound disconnect to think it a good idea to do a humiliation-based reality series in which the humiliation rolls downhill, a show in which the powerful make the essentially disenfranchised look like fools and then lecture them on their failings.
Enter Mario Lopez and The CW.
The "Saved by the Bell" star and the "TBL: The Beautiful Life" network have joined forces on "H8r," an astoundingly stupid and offensive reality series in which Mario Lopez's D-list friends confront people who dislike them and make it clear that it's unacceptable for anybody to have an opinion or express it on the Internet, or at least a negative opinion.
So when The CW encourages you to tweet or Facebook during its programming, I have some advice: BE CAREFUL. Feel free to praise Blake Lively's fashion sense or celebrate the "Supernatural" stars and their cheekbones. But don't think that it's OK to suggest that a budding thespian on "One Tree Hill" is an inadequate actor or that one of the "90210" kids is much too old to be playing a high school student. Because if you do... Mario Lopez is coming for you, and when it comes to people who aren't tolerant of his friends, Mario Lopez is not a very tolerant guy. And Mario Lopez doesn't care how little money you make or what you do or even if anybody out there on the Internet cares about whatever mean thing you might say, because he's got a point to make, one that he believes in strongly: Even the lowest-level celebrity -- ESPECIALLY the lowest-level celebrity -- should be exempt from criticism. But feel free to love them and write about that.
It's pretty insecure stuff, but I guess if Mario Lopez wants to be the Anti-Robin Hood, stealing dignity from the less fortunate and restoring it to Snooki from "Jersey Shore" and The CW wants to enable him, that's their mutual prerogative.
More after the break. I'm hoping that if I type for long enough, Mario Lopez will come bursting through my door, because I'm sure that if there's anything less acceptable than h8ing on Kim Kardashian, it's h8ing on "H8r."