Tuesday, June 24, 2014

VICE: Finally, a Show That Doesn't Make You Stupider

The HBO show offers entertainment and a lot of food for thought.
 by Yanga Lubisi

Television has undoubtedly been one of the main causes behind the dumbing down of society. The rise of mindless, vapid television programming has become unstoppable; this is most clearly seen in the high demand for reality television shows which involve senseless people being given praise for just that… being senseless. The list of these pointless shows is endless, from the ubiquitous Keeping Up With the Kardashians to the exploitative garbage I Wanna Marry Harry. This has resulted in lamentable effects on humanity, as we seem to be succumbing to the mindlessness, and many seem to worship these reality stars as idols. Being a celebrity and a world icon no longer requires any amount of depth (or class for that matter), as shamelessly portraying your ignorance, prejudice, vanity or poor decision-making skills seems to grant you more popularity: the casts of Honey Boo Boo, Duck Dynasty and Jersey Shore are some notable examples. In light of this dismal state of television, when I stumbled across a documentary TV series entitled VICE, I had to rejoice at the manner in which this documentary is conducted, mostly because it is appealing to a wide audience while maintaining a sense of intelligence in a sea of contemporaries that only value mindlessness.

Due to the very stressful nature of contemporary society, when the average person arrives home from a long day at work the last thing they want to watch on television is an educational program or anything that would actually stimulate brain cells. This has given rise to the smut in current television shows, as television producers took the idea of relaxation and "switching off" too far, leaving us with shows that are deadening and actually seem to destroy our braincells as we watch them. VICE not only offers some education to the public, but it also offers what most schools in America do not offer their students: an opportunity to learn about the world and delve into the dynamics of other countries and their cultures. The series offers this educational platform by examining two very different topics in a short 30 minute program.

VICE first aired in the US in April of 2013 and was also available on YouTube for those who preferred streaming the series. HBO talk show host Bill Maher acts as the executive producer. The reception of the show has, as expected, been mixed, as the show does discuss incredibly controversial topics that most would rather sweep under the rug and forget about entirely.

Shane Smith is one of the co-creators of the show and is also one of the hosts. His relaxed manner when delivering each episode makes the viewer feel as if a friendly stranger at the bar is describing his escapades and culture shock experiences while traveling the world. This particular factor works in their favour, as the show itself has attracted a wide range of viewers, including an audience that would not ordinarily watch documentaries but can watch VICE as it offers a unique and entertaining approach in tackling the topics it discusses.

Season two premiered on 14 March 2014, and featured a detailed investigation of the misuse of the average American taxpayer and how the middle class is yet again used to pay for the mistakes of the elite and do damage control after Afghanistan. The season went on to include stories involving the devastating condition of the ice melting in Greenland, the battle in Syria, and the legion of women in India taking a stand against rape and abuse in their country.

VICE has the potential to introduce a new type of television, if other shows take note: a show that stimulates not only your eyes but the brain that is seated behind them. The show will continue educating the public with season three, expected in 2015. For now, do yourself a favour and catch up with past episodes. Watch one episode from Season 1 below:

What do you think of VICE? Do you think that the public could use more intelligent television? Share your thoughts in the comments section.