Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The kind hearts and gentle souls of Washington Post readers

Jesus. Hank Stuever's Extreme Home Makeover opinions are ignorant and callous -- he actually uses the word "schadenfreude" in a story about a family facing foreclosure -- but the readers' comments are often worse.

You know, Extreme Home Makeover is a terrible show in many ways. It's sappy and so beyond heavy-handed as to be exploitative. And this is not the first time someone's struggled in their made-over home. But I think the show has helped a lot of families and the vast majority of them are still in their homes. So I don't quite get Stuever's claim that "If it was wrong to think the economy could go on forever subsisting on money that no one actually had, then it was wrong to think there was something wonderful about watching shows where people got houses for nothing, and then expect them to live happily ever after." What does the sub-prime mortgage crisis have to do with this particular case? Stuever seems to breeze past another important point too: These aren't typical reality show contestants or random lottery winners. The Extreme Home Makeover families really have faced unimaginable hardship. The show has also built a church, funded college educations, donated to food banks and created a meeting center for Native American service veterans. Was it wrong to think that was wonderful too?

Stuever and his readers sure are clear about what isn't, in their opinions, wonderful. They abhor Disney. They don't have much regard for stay-at-home moms. They're indignant that the re-built houses are worth over $400,000 -- all those fireplaces! -- although I wonder what is the appropriate dollar value and design of a donated home? Look, I hate Extreme Home Makeover. I can't exactly believe I'm defending it. But it's silly to make this show and this family one big national symbol of whatever it is that's irritating you at the moment.

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