30 days to a better you

So last night, I watched FX’s new reality show 30 Days.  It’s produced by Morgan Spurlock, of Super Size Me fame, and the idea is that each show is about someone immersing themself in a different way of life for, you guessed it, 30 days.  In the opening episode Morgan and his girlfriend, Alex, try to live for a month on what they can earn in low-wage jobs (the show says minimum wage, but Morgan at least earns a bit more).

The show wasn’t profound but I think it did a decent job of showing some of the hardships that low-income families face, the tradeoffs they have to make, and the ways that even a small splurge (like going out to dinner) or setback (needing to take a taxi because the buses stopped running) could make a big difference to the bottom line.  And the comments on the US health care system — how you can walk into an ER and be treated if you’re sick, but preventive care is hard to get — were totally on line.  The only thing that I think was unrealistic was that they both went to the doctor when they felt sick; most low-wage workers wouldn’t go to the ER for a sore wrist unless the bone was sticking out through their skin, and I’d guess that most would have let the UTI Alex got run its course for a few days to see if it would go away on its own before seeking medical treatment. 

And then at the very end, in wapping up, Morgan said something like "this experience has made me a better person."  I was curious as to what he meant by that.  I’m not in the school of thought that holds that poverty and suffering are inherently ennobling.  And while he certainly knows more than he did before about what it’s like to be poor, I don’t think that necessarily makes him a better person.  (I don’t think that I’m a better person than I was before I did my own one month experiment of living under the Thrifty Food Plan; less ignorant, but not a better human being.)

Turns out Spurlock has a blog, and he amplifies the comment a bit there:

Meeting people who are struggling everyday just to survive made me see that I myself didn’t do enough to help those around me. Since then, I have done more to volunteer, to reach out, to give a "hand up."

I don’t think that’s quite accurate.  I think it was the combination of meeting the people in great need and meeting the people at the Free Store, who gave him and Alex furniture, and made doing more feel possible.

2 Responses to “30 days to a better you”

  1. LPF Says:

    If I remember correctly, you’ve read Nickle and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich, but she did pretty much the same thing. I think there’s a valid idea in immersing yourself in something totally outside your world, especially when it comes to socio-economic difference, but, of course, you risk the situation in the song “Common People”: But still you’ll never get it right, cos when you’re laid in bed at night, watching roaches climb the wall, if you call your Dad he could stop it all. But, better to experience something in a “I can end this any time I want” situation then never at all.

  2. Kai Jones Says:

    If it’s so worthwhile to try a different life, I’d like to try Paris Hilton’s. I did the not-eating-every-day, moving constantly, power turned off this week, life when I was a child, so I know that one already.

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