ETV – the channel we deserveby Brandon Edmonds / 21.05.2009
Apparently during WW2, there was a roaring trade in life-size cardboard cut-outs (fake tanks, fake soldiers, fake stockpiles) used to dupe Nazi spy planes into reporting back to Hitler HQ that the Allies had much greater capacity to wage war than what actually existed on the ground. It was an elaborate form of subterfuge, of strategic suggestion, and, who knows, along with unsurpassed courage and commitment, it just may have helped beat the Nazis. No such noble claims of historical utility can be made of the ETV website – though it remains a supreme example of hoodwinking sleight-of-hand; worthy even of David Copperfield (the Claudia-Shiffer-shtupping-uber-illusionist who once made the Grand Canyon disappear, but still got dumped by that teutonic minx!). The website is clean, glossy and efficient. It suggests a TV channel in control of its message. A channel attuned to the interface protocols of online communication: be immediate, be clear, be informative and do what your user wants done. You get a TV Guide, upcoming movie reviews, links to current shows and a poll wondering who the ‘sexiest soapie hunk on etv’ is? So far so inane. It’s Ben from Sunset Beach. Anyway. The website works. Except, there’s nothing there. It’s smoke and mirrors. The shows advertised are almost uniformly dire. The local content is weak, badly realised, appallingly performed, and just about unwatchable. This is a channel that has taken the pulse of the South African populace and felt nothing beating there but an appetite for drek, for kak, for the lowest of the low. Its a channel hopelessly devoted to wrestling, to the retrograde ouvres of Chuck Norris, Sly Stallone and the ‘muscles from Brussels’. It often seems nothing more than act as a platform for lame soft core titillation ‘come’ the midnight hour (is there anything more stultifying and un-arousing than watching Americans pretend to have sex?), toxic appeals for subscriptions to ringtones and a gambling format virally caught from the UK racking up call minutes while masquerading as actual programming.
Catch The Passion Network on ETV next Sunday morning at 02h10
Bleh! Who is watching this shit? You’d have to be a male, neck deep in puberty (or at least mentally arrested at this stage of maturation), uninterested in the world around you, its wonders, its challenges, its injustices and opportunities, woefully if not willfully ignorant, if you like. And you’d have to have a reduced, impoverished, limited sense of your own intellect, your own gifts and your own future – to routinely settle for what this channel puts before your eyes!
But hey, it’s free.
Perhaps there’s more to it. It’s as if the minds and the money behind ETV have picked up a newspaper and taken a look at the reality of the country, and they’ve seen the raw truth of this place, as it is (and was). The slayings, the rape, the carjackings, the forced entries, the Aids orphans, the single-parent families, the plummeting value of a life, the lack of service delivery, the graft and corruption, the indifference and the lies, the ever-widening chasm between those who have and those who don’t, those who can and those who can’t, and they’ve said:
“We’ll give them what they want. What they deserve! We’ll set up a channel that feeds them images and talks to them at a level they can understand! We’ll give them… shit!”
It’s inspired, really. Its almost revolutionary. Its bold as punk rock. It just might be, besides ‘Disgrace’ by JM Coetzee and a few paintings and a couple of protest songs here and there, the most significant cultural intervention of the post-apartheid era. A TV channel that (un)consciously mirrors the worst of a people. Speaks to what is basest in us. Flatters what is lowest. Encourages whatever holds us back, be it moral weakness, greed, venality, lust, mindless violence or self-destructive despair. This is ETV – the channel we deserve, given the shit we’re doing to each other, and the mess we’re making of our chance at renewal.
Don’t worry, SABC, you’re next.