It’s been a while since I saw this program, but as it is about to enter into its third season I was reminded about the premise of the show and the message it sends to viewers.
The Premise: The show begins by describing the company and then takes a look at the personal lives of (usually) the company’s CEO. Typically this is done in such a way so the company heads are made to look like the average Joe, making it in a tough world by merit and hard work. For the remainder, the show documents the CEO going undercover in their company to see what it is like to work at the blue-collar level.
What is interesting to me is that for each episode that I have seen the CEO’s ‘companions’ are always in a difficult personal situation, struggling to make ends meet, trying to ‘better’ themselves. I have yet to see them be paired with an apathetic worker who just goes through the motions of the daily grind. The result on the CEO’s part is to bestow money and rewards to these ‘fellow’ average Joes, usually these are promotions, scholarships or better work equipment.
Nevertheless the fairy tail ending always results in the corporate heads being presented in a night in shining armor, riding in on their horses to save the poor of their woes. Usually the blame for all these terrible circumstances are directed at the middle managers, no mention is made of corporate crime or pressure from above. And very rarely are any systematic changes made to benefit all workers within the company, only the lucky few.
So at a time of occupy protests and global recognition of the problems corporations present, the media still presents a rosy picture of the American dream. Viewers are lead along a rosy path of ambition and opportunity where your local Subway or Hooters can put you in a successful career based just on hard work and motivation.
It makes me wonder about how many people still believe this is what happens? Do these programs reinforce the blindness in so many people toward racial, gendered and class based inequalities (and more)? How many of us really see these programs critically?