Dr. Seth Meyers, Clinical Psychologist

Dr. Seth Meyers, Clinical Psychologist

Monday, March 2, 2009

HOT TOPIC: Octu-Mom - America’s Methamphetamine

Nationally known publicist Howard Brackman – known for bailing out Tinseltown stars in steel cells – recently told the Los Angeles Times that the ubiquity of the Octu-Mom reflects America’s intrigue with watching personalities who have gone a little crazy. I think there’s some truth to his comment. On the highway, America slows down to witness the carnage of a car accident, and we do the same thing as we watch television.

In some ways, this is Anna Nicole Smith all over again. The media couldn’t dish out enough of that story, and the media hasn’t yet stopped with the Octu-Mom. Here’s my concern – aren’t we on the verge of a Depression? If you remember the coverage of Anna Nicole Smith’s death, you should also place it in time with a terrible time for our country at war. It’s like everyone forgot that as they tuned in to images and sound bites depicting someone whose life couldn’t have been further from their own.

How long will it take us to rip ourselves away from watching the accident? How long do we remain in our self-induced media coma until we realize how predictably we interfere with our own futures? Just think how many letters the viewing audience could have written to their Congressmen about the stimulus package or moving more troops to Afghanistan while they chose, instead, to sleep-watch another mindless segment on television about the Octu-Mom.

It’s a pet peeve of mine when people blame the media – hey, we are the cat-like fools lapping up the media’s milk. The most frustrating part is that our fascination with these absurd stories is always directly proportional to the severity of what’s going on socio-politically. The more dire the economic or political situation, the more we escape by following an insane story. True, the Octu-Mom as a symbol intersects enough hot button issues that it was destined to be a story, but the gravity of today’s climate intensifies our voracious appetite for her story. How many Anna Nicole’s and Octu-Moms will it take for us to learn and to see our communal pathology for what it is?

In the same way that stress triggers the symptoms of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, a dire economic and political climate kick-starts our own compulsive reaction – turn on the television and focus on something absurd. In these moments when our lives are faced with layoffs, lost retirements, and other woes, we self-medicate with the Octu-Mom. Yes, for a minute, her story brings up interesting questions about important issues. Weeks later, however, our interest become more like an addiction. In reality, we’re no sicker than the meth addict off to find his dealer on a late-night run.

Watching train wrecks is America’s compulsion when things get bad. Call me crazy, but my suggestion is that we see this predictable cycle for what it is and kick it to the curb before our obsession with insanity catapults us there, too.

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