Monday, August 25, 2008

Quiz Show? "Fifty million people watched, but no one saw a thing"

Robert Redford's 1994 hit Quiz Show is a movie about morals. Dick Goodwin, a young government worker discovers that the hit TV show "Twenty-One" has been fixed due to the attention that former contestant Herbert Stempel has brought about. Dan Enright, producer of "Twenty-One", had asked the man that couldn't be stumped Herbert Stempel to intentionally loose. Stempel unwillingly does what he is asked, throwing possibly the simplest question he had faced to date. Charles Van Doren is then able to answer a question which he had already known the answer to and take Stempel off of the show. Now the moral question here is, should Van Doren have answered the question knowing the show was fixed and was it right that he did? What's right and what's wrong? These are moral questions that we ask ourselves all the time and questions that we might even give a different answer to under certain circumstances.
Charles Van Doren is faced with this very brain teaser, is it OK for him to cheat on the show even if no one is hurt in the process? Many of us were brought up taught that cheating is wrong and shouldn't be accepted in culture. Van Doren was merely a pawn in the game of television, brought on only to spike ratings for the station. Van Doren had told Enright that he didn't want to cheat at first and he wanted to beat Stempel in a fair game. This of course wasn't the case, as Enright asked Van Doren a question which he knew he would get right. What they did was morally wrong but technically not illegal at the time. Congress quickly made rigging a quiz show a federal crime.
The cheating was done for the sake of entertainment, to draw in a crowd using Van Doren. They were able to exploit him, by using his families fame and his look. He was the perfect face for the show and quickly became a hit, and had almost instant fame. I believe the sudden burst of popularity somewhat blinded him to what he was actually doing, cheating. He went from caring that he was cheating and not wanting to cheat, to going along with it and not caring because he believed no one was actually getting hurt in this process. No one was actually physically being hurt by this, but the "50 million" viewers watching the show were not being told the truth and being lead to believe something that was nothing more than an act. Things like this still happen to this day. Children are being lied to about things such as Santa Claus or the Easter bunny, and people still watch shows that appear to be real but aren't such as wrestling. The only difference between these lies and the quiz show lies is the huge sum of money being given away to the "winner".
Hundreds of thousands of dollars were being given to these people for "winning" the quiz show for the multiple weeks they are on the show. This technically doesn't hurt anyone other than the station providing the show to the general public. I believe that if the station had no idea that there was cheating going on during these shows that it should be legally wrong. Other than that it's just people being human, believing what they are told is real. actually is real. In my eyes it comes down to human stupidity, you can't possibly believe that everything you see on TV and if you do it's really your own fault for being "hurt" by it. It comes to a point where you have look at things for more than what they seem to be. In the situation of the quiz show scandal you have to think, one person can only be full of so many useless facts and there has to be a point where they are cheating to some degree.
Cheating happens, no one is going to be able to completely stop what most believe is cheating. If there was no sort of cheating in a quiz type show, which could be as small as informing a contestant what categories will be on the show, than contestants would constantly bomb questions leaving no entertainment value to the show. No one want to watch a show where people are constantly getting answers wrong and no one is winning anything. All of these small "cheats" are done for the entertainment purpose and to bring in ratings for the station. So 50 million people may have watched, but at least one should have been smart enough to realize something was wrong.

-A. Snow

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