Should stars be earning stripes as entertainment?

By Elizabeth Lefebvre| comments | Print this pagePrint | Email this pageShare
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I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who spent most of this weekend in front of the TV watching every second of Olympics coverage that I possibly could. So I’m guessing I’m not the only one who has seen the ads for one of NBC’s newest shows, the reality program called Stars Earn Stripes.

The show’s website explains the premise: “Eight celebrities will gather at a remote training facility where they will be challenged to execute complicated missions inspired by real military exercises. From helicopter drops into water to long-range weapons fire, the contestants will be tested physically, mentally and emotionally.”

This idea—and the commercials themselves—definitely made me uncomfortable. The ads hype the show up as “reality,” making a big deal that the celebrities are in real situations using real ammunition where they could REALLY get hurt and die.

Really? The whole premise of Stars Earn Stripes seems to fly in the face of real wars that kill real people. The show’s description claims that it “pays homage to the men and women who serve in the U.S. Armed Forces and our first-responder services,” and the celebrities are competing for money to donate to a charity that benefits the military, veterans, or first-responders. But how exactly is this honoring these people who have sacrificed much on behalf of others? The more we hear about things like moral injury (in addition to post-traumatic stress disorder, physical disabilities, and homelessness among other issues) facing our returning veterans, and the more we hear about war in places such as Syria today, the less it seems that glorifying war by turning it into a competition is really honoring our service women and men.

I can understand (even if I don’t fully appreciate) the premise behind shows such as Dancing with the Stars – I can see the argument that taking celebrities out of their element and teaching them a new skill would make for (some would say) entertaining television. But when that skill is warfare – is that entertaining television, or is that just in bad taste?