Monday, July 30, 2012

War is not a Game- still!

"They're not in Hollywood anymore."  That is the tagline for the new NBC series "Stars Earn Stripes" which premieres in August.  Hollywood thinks they have it different this time with the addition of celebrities and the charity aspect as each team competes for a cash prize on behalf of a military, veterans or first-responder charity. The bottom line is that "War is not a Game".  Not now, not ever.

This new NBC television show is getting unprecedented visibility with their advertising during the Olympics.  The NBC site says the show " is an action-packed competition show that pays homage to the men and women who serve in the U.S. Armed Forces and our first-responder services." They advertise "Live Ammo! Real explosives! Real danger!"

I wonder what the demographic that NBC aims to draw into watching this show?  With executive producers Mark Burnett and David A. Hurwitz, known for their popular reality game shows "Fear Factor", "The Voice," and  "Survivor", would it be a surprise that the target might be video game players?  First person shooter video war games have been very popular to gamers, so why not a television show that goes one step closer to this war game, game being the key word?

"Stars Earn Stripes" glorifies the image that most people have of war.  But less than 1% of the population of this country is affected by the war in any way and it is this disconnect that is bothersome. Those 1% are the members of the military and their families, the people who love them.

"Stars Earn Stripes"  minimizes the value and importance of military training actual participation in the military.  The participants in this show will work with military professionals and "will gather at a remote training facility, where they will be challenged to execute complicated missions inspired by real military exercises. From helicopter drops into water to long-range weapons fire, the contestants will be tested physically, mentally and emotionally", but that will only give these celebrities a glimpse of actual military training that takes months and years to produce a cohesive unit and troops that have been tested again and again by this training.

Regardless of the immersion that these celebrities partake, it can or will never, ever compare with the experiences of those who fight these battles in real life and who will live with the images of dead and wounded friends forever, and forever is a long time, not just until the next commercial.  War is not a game, not on video games and not in television.

My message to the executives of NBC and the producers of "Stars Earn Stripes" is this show does not pay homage to the military and first responders.  It is just another way for those who have sat out these wars to pretend that they, too, can withstand the rigors that real members of the military do every day.  1% of the US population has the satisfaction of knowing that they met the standards and values of military training.  It's too bad the other 99% think that "Stars Earn Stripes" does the same. 

War is not a Game!