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Does character count on TV?

Recently, Donald Trump proclaimed the week of October 18 to 24 as “National Character Counts Week.”  In an extensive notice to the public, Trump talked about the importance of moral character in Americans.

The announcement spoke of the “opportunity to show consideration for [others] … [as] an opportunity to build habits of kindness and strengthen … character.”  The intent is to highlight those people who are examples of “honour and virtue” as the country builds “lives and communities grounded in moral clarity.”

It’s a lovely sentiment.  And after laughing at the hypocrisy, I thought more about it.

What does it say that the President has to proclaim a specific week to do what most of us are taught from childhood to do on a daily basis?

Given his rhetoric on the campaign trail, his lies to the media, and his personal attacks on colleagues, opponents, and minorities, one could surmise that Trump doesn’t have a handle on basic human decency.  Unfortunately, he’s not alone.

Celebrities attack one another for their political stances.  Citizen groups are planning to kidnap and murder elected officials.  And whether or not you agree with the various actions taken during the Black Lives Matter movement, there is a definite inequality in the treatment of minorities.

So people besides Trump are not following the basic character traits he set out in his proclamation.  And based on the few new shows that made it to the television schedule over the summer, “moral clarity” isn’t high on the average viewer’s priority list.

Recently evicted Big Brother All-Stars houseguest, Memphis Garrett, admitted he developed alliances with those he felt he could “manipulate.”  While one could argue that his treacherous behaviour led to his eviction, the other players’ actions were influenced solely by their desire to win the grand prize and not some righteous indignation or punishment.

NBC’s Weakest Link appears like a team game at first glance.  However, it celebrates taking down those weaker or the greatest threat to a player.  And that player is ultimately rewarded for those acts of self-preservation.

Until it was shut down due to safety restrictions, Survivor was the epitome of playing dirty to take down an opponent.  And after 40 seasons, it had the ratings to prove that viewers not only loved this behaviour, they also respected the players.

And this fall’s new drama Filthy Rich focuses on a bible-thumping family who makes millions off of other people’s faith.  Unfortunately, for them charity begins (and ends) at home.

Sure, the pandemic has brought forth periodic news of people helping people that warm the cockles of our hearts.  But they definitely don’t get the president’s all-important ratings that watching people behaving badly seems to.

Despite the proclamation, Trump’s usual vitriol and name-calling has continued during his Character Counts Week. So it’s completely hypocritical.  But before viewers tune in next Wednesday to see who’s won Big Brother, perhaps they should take this week to consider what they’re cheering for.  And what it says about their character.