Military propaganda, as seen through NBC’s ‘Stars Earn Stripes’

Military propaganda, as seen through NBC’s ‘Stars Earn Stripes’

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The soundtrack to 'Top Gun.' (Flickr/Tilemahos)
Summer is usually known for its dearth of impressive television programming, and this year is no exception: NBC is currently in the middle of airing Stars Earn Stripes, a reality TV show where “Eight celebs compete and take on challenges of real American heroes.”

Stars Earn Stripes isn’t just the latest in reality TV glut; it’s the latest endeavor in a long history of Hollywood and the United State’s government’s use of film and television, argued performer, veteran and former WBEZ employee Matt Ulrich at The Paper Machete. “The thing is, it’s you’re American right to give a show to the general public that showcase an altered reality of military service,” said Ulrich. “It’s your constitutional right, a right that is defended and protected by real military servicemen and women. It’s a burden that they earn.” Read an excerpt below or listen above:

Earn is a word with many definitions. In Webster’s dictionary this verb has three of them, but the most fitting one would be; “gain or incur deservedly in return for one’s behavior or achievements : through the years she has earned affection and esteem.”

Keep that definition in mind when you sadly find yourself with enough free time to watch Stars Earn Stripes on NBC, 8 pm central time. This program is a showcase of seven nobodies, and Terry Crews (the only tolerable actor in the movie White Chicks) as they go through a set of military training followed by a series of combat operations with real life soldiers and first responders by their side. They compete against one another during every single one of these exercises for, what is oh-so-fitting to all war scenarios, a cash prize! Now even though these nobodies, and Terry Crews, are pseudo-celebrities and could probably use the money, they don’t get to keep it. Instead they earn their winnings for military-related charitable groups such as The Wounded Warrior Project, Hiring our Heroes, USO, and so on. All of these charities have done great things for our current soldiers and veterans so no one, including NBC, should have a problem with them receiving any funds of any kind.

However, this doesn’t take away from the video game like presentation of war that NBC delivers this program to national viewers.

Now I’ve challenged myself to sit through a two hour debut of Stars Earn Stripes through the scope of a seasoned veteran. My first knee jerk reaction came when they presented Terry Crews as an action star. I felt this was an insult to him since he has made me laugh more than he’s made me feel “action” so I began to mentally root for him from the beginning. But once the smash cuts of all the celebrities began with reasons why they are participating in this show, he said, “I can’t wait to fire a real gun, with real bullets.” Maybe NBC’s crack team of editors allowed me to take this out of context, but I couldn’t help but feel appalled. That’s sort of like being on a reality show based in a morgue, and our pseudo-celebrity James Woods, says “I just can’t wait to touch a dead body!” And with that began the increase of my anger and frustration for the next 120 minutes.

The Paper Machete is a weekly live magazine at the Horseshoe in North Center. It’s always at 3 p.m., it’s always on Saturday, and it’s always free. Get all your The Paper Machete Radio Magazine needs filled here, or download the podcast from iTunes here.