Decline and Fall

I grew up learning that the Roman Empire fell because of decadence. This was intertwined with Christianity as interpreted in Texas small towns. I don’t actually know much about Rome and my father, who was fascinated by Roman history, is no longer around to ask.

A quick Google search indicates that, as with many things, the collapse of the empire was the result of many things and decadence is unlikely to have been a major factor. And of course, these days cries of “decadence” come from right wing extremist talking points about drag queens and the idea that women control their own bodies.

So it’s a word one should use with caution.

But I read this Lyz Lenz Substack piece and felt so horrified that my first response was that the world was decaying around me.

What shocked me wasn’t the bros coming out to defend their rapist friend – I knew that happened. It was that there was a TV show called Punk’d over 20 years ago that was a nasty version of Candid Camera on steroids.

The show did appalling things to people for a joke. The one that really got me was the one that set up the pop star Mýa to go on a date with a guy who pretended he was obsessed with her in a very creepy way.

The people who did this had to know about the real problems famous people have with that kind of stalker, not to mention that this kind of obsession is one of the terrible things that happens to many women. But they put it on anyway and then called it a joke.

They got rich making “jokes” like this. And lots of people apparently watched this on television.

Now I think that’s decadent: making entertainment out of people’s very real fears. Continue reading “Decline and Fall”