Recently, one of my fellow HOYA columnists, Dean Lieberman (COL ’11), wrote a column outlining the virtues of HBO’s “Entourage” and its reflection of American ideals (“Seeing Ourselves in `Entourage,'” THE HOYA, Sept. 23, 2008, A3). He contended that the lives of Vincent Chase and his friends were more than simply the jet-set amusements of the rich and famous. Their lives are, according to the column, nothing less than the quintessential American dream: the fully realized pursuit of happiness. If television programming is an accurate gauge of society’s priorities, then we should be seriously concerned with the current manifestation of the American dream.

I will admit, the show is undoubtedly entertaining. From the neurotic sarcasm of Ari to Johnny Drama’s hilarious oddities – including some surprisingly clear conclusions about life – “Entourage” certainly has a clever collection of characters. Yet, I always find myself at a loss when pressed to answer why the show is so loved. To me, it has never been more than a weekly romp with the good ol’ boys. I don’t mean to be too harsh to Lieberman, as his analysis may be quite an accurate assessment of the show’s enormous popularity. But, if “Entourage’s” popularity is as Lieberman proffers, we must ask ourselves why the American dream is so focused on wealth.

I don’t mean to be an alarmist. It isn’t as if the escapism of television and movies hasn’t always existed in one form or another. Celebrity watching has been an engrossing pastime since at least Versailles, where investigating the frivolity of courtiers was almost a profession, like it is for today’s paparazzi. We have always been intrigued by the indecent exploits of the world’s most financially privileged. Yet, growing up in upper-middle-class suburbia, it always seemed rather illogical to me for the richest 1 percent of people on earth to be watching the “adventures” of the minutely richer .001 percent. Even more dumbfounding was that many knew how closely their own lives mirrored those of the celebrities they were watching. Instead of leading us to find better uses for our time, that only made watching TV more fun, effectively feeding our own self-destructive egotism.

In the realm of superficial programming, MTV’s “Cribs” must be near the top of the list. Though some may view the recreation of celebrities opening up their obscenely lavish houses – replete with gold toilet seats and fish tanks in the ceiling – as amusing, others are more impressionable. “You know, sometimes, I just like to lie down on the couch, so I thought I’d have one put in the ceiling. What you know about that?” Having effectively taught the viewer the new meaning of leisure, the celebrity then orders the cameras out so they can proceed to enjoy the newly-installed TV in their linen cabinet. After an episode, I usually find myself open-mouthed in disgust, only to turn and find my wide-eyed friends planning their own designs for flat screens to be installed in their dresser drawers. American dream indeed. If that’s what we dream of, then it is no wonder that the international community denounces us as superficial.

In the end, I hope that when our generation is remembered, it is not for “Entourage,” or any other TV show. I hope we are remembered for having contributed substantively to our world, despite enjoying an occasional episode of a silly show or wanting to take a spin in the DB9 Aston Martin E drives on “Entourage.”

The ideals of our nation teach us a greater meaning for the pursuit of happiness than the vacuous materialism all too present in much of the programming popular today. Though I can only speak for my own experiences, I am confident that the vast majority of Americans have been nurtured with an upbringing valuing more than fast cars and fast girls (or guys).

Rather than teaching new generations of adolescents to value self-absorption and meaningless relationships, perhaps writers will get off the beaten path and find something a little more creative. Or we could always just change the channel.

Aakib Khaled is a junior in the School of Foreign Service. He can be reached at CURA PERSONALIS appears every other Friday.

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