While the Women’s World Cup was being played out in Toronto, Ben Affleck and Matt Damon announced they are bringing the FIFA scandal to the big screen. Based on a book that hasn’t even been published yet, Houses of Deceit will chronical the escapades of American FIFA executive, Chuck Blazer, who used his position to collect million in bribes and kickbacks.
It’s ironic that Affleck took part in a bidding war for the rights to the scandal while he, himself, was embroiled in a personal one. After working with the PBS show Finding Your Roots to track his ancestry, Affleck requested certain family details be cut from his episode.
So was Affleck any different from Blazer in using his power and influence to get what he wanted? Not really.
However, it does raise questions about these genealogy shows. Programs such as Who Do You Think You Are? and Finding Your Roots are becoming very popular – especially with the involvement of big-name stars who have historically significant ancestors.
Most of our forefathers’ stories would be dull by television standards. In Affleck’s case, the ancestor in question was a slave owner. The irony is that a white man of a certain era in the U.S. who owned slaves is hardly noteworthy. Compared to the others that were featured in the episode, this twig on the Affleck family tree barely had any fruit, let alone anything juicy.
And yet, when WikiLeaks released the hacked Sony emails, Affleck’s request was turned into a plot to hide a “dark part of his family history.” Furthermore, PBS cried foul, claiming producers has “violated” their standards and demanding a complete overhaul of their editing process.
PBS likes to tout its “editorial integrity.” But the truth is, these programs survive on editorial license.
The editors don’t name every Uncle Bob or cousin Edna for the viewers. They only highlight the ones with the greatest drama quotient. And since their editors can decide who makes the cut, why shouldn’t the subjects of these shows have a say as well?
Do viewers really believe they have some constitutional right to know that a hundred and fifty years ago Ben Affleck’s predecessor owned slaves? Or should we instead consider it a gift that he allowed us to go on this journey into his family’s history with him?
PBC says FYR helps people “discover long-long relatives hidden for generations.” It sounds very altruistic. What is left unsaid is that they will then air it for all to see – as they see fit.
And it’s their right. But we forget that while yes, Affleck is a “megastar,” he’s also a human being. He was embarrassed. In that situation, who wouldn’t ask that one family member out of dozens was left out when it was shown to the world?
PBS can argue editorial integrity all they want. The true irony is that these human interest programs are made based on ratings and drama – with little thought for the human factor.