November 17, 2009
BIG BROTHER WHERE ART THOU
I don’t know how it works in LA, but in Tel Aviv there are only two occasions on which traffic literally stops. One is Yom Kippur, and the other was last Sunday night. But as I strolled along the deserted streets of Tel Aviv, I couldn’t for the life of me remember what Holiday it was. First, no one had been taking my calls for the last half hour, and now it seemed I was the last remaining person on the planet.
What did everyone know that I didn’t?
Luckily, it didn’t take me too long to find out. I walked into a local kiosk and found the owner staring up at the TV screen, with a few other customers crowded around the tube.
“Excuse me,” I began, but received no sign of life. Had the body-snatcher invasion began?
“Excuse me,” I tried again, a little louder. “Where do you keep the milk?”
Without batting an eyelash, the kiosk owner pointed me to a spot behind him and to the right. But before I re-routed myself, I glanced up at the screen and found out that the body snatchers of Hollywood East had done it again.
Tonight was the first night of the second season of the wildly successful reality show: “Big Brother”. And apparently there wasn’t a single resident in Tel Aviv that was going to miss it.
I joined the zombies riveted to the television, determined to find out why exactly “Big Brother” has become a show that hypnotist’s would give their “lean back and relax” couches for.
The opening season introduced 16 colorful characters, ranging from a hot, single Mom, a trans-gender, a gay loner from a religious home, and even a deaf model. Then they hit the audience with the perfect couple: an overpowering pregnant woman who revealed way more skin than I would have liked to see, holding the tight leash of her pathetically hen-pecked husband.
The real clincher – for me – was the criminal-defense attorney who, when asked what he was extremely good at, answered “hitting on women.” This women-beater was a friend of mine. And it dawned on me that three months from now, when the show ends, I’ll know more about him than I’d want to know, or he wanted me to know.
But after seeing the whole country tuning in to the lives of these people, I couldn’t help but wonder:
Is the shortest path to stardom necessarily the right one?
A few months earlier I had been approached by someone casting for “Big Brother”. She felt I was a “character” they still didn’t have, and promised that participating in the show would catapult my career forward.
“The whole world will know you, whether you win or not. You’ll be famous. Doors will open and you’ll be making a ton of money just from the publicity.”
As a kid, sharing a room (or my parents) with my other 8 siblings was almost impossible for me, so how could I share the “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune” that have made up my life, so far. When she countered that a true actor can “act” her way through any reality experience, I was momentarily tempted to take on the challenge, and finally accept my destiny.
But then the image of all of Israel (at least all of Tel Aviv) tuning in to watch me pour a cup of coffee for myself appeared in front of me. How on earth could I find my 15 minutes of peace and quiet in the morning, if the whole country is judging my excessive caffeine consumption?
I’m sure you understand, I had to turn down the offer, as tempting as it may have been. “As an actress I pride myself in putting masks on, not taking them off in front of the whole country,” I explained to her, putting on my most diplomatic mask.
For me becoming famous through “revelation of self” in a public forum would be traveling the worst path to stardom. I believe that most actors would willingly give up the paparazzi, the invasion of privacy and the rumors that go along with being an established actor. What I want to do is act, and unfortunately, in order to make a proper living off it, loss of animosity is an unfortunate side-effect of being recognized for you skills. So I’m willing to lose “some” of my self, but not stand naked in front of the world pointing out my personal flaws (assuming I have any).
Yet I have to admit that lately, reality stars are in the consciousness of the Israeli public much more than actors, movies and TV shows. Reality shows are cheaper, give their audiences instant gratification as they invade every nook and cranny of their contestant’s life. In other words, it’s a peep show we don’t have to pay anything for.
On the plus side, if you want to stroll down the streets of Tel Aviv Sunday nights, you’ll finally get a little quiet.