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Thu Jan 3, 2013, 12:25 AM

 

"Sex House" & the refusal to f...k

The Onion gave itself a simple task: make fun of reality television, a drama already reviled and full of self-parody...A reality show nicely encapsulates Mario Tronti’s argument from the 1960s: that the productive relations of the factory had expanded to all of society. On a reality show, the entire environment is a workplace, a space devoted to producing value for producers... through the work of merely living while on camera...The major problem for reality TV is that real life is too dull to make for compelling television, but compelling television is obviously contrived. The most reliable way to smooth over this contradiction, to hold the spectre of phoniness at bay, is sex. We’re supposed to understand sex as the most authentic expression of our inner selves...

Sex House’s first satirical target is the conventional ideology of the casual fun of hooking up...But Sex House doesn’t just get mileage from puncturing ideologies of sexuality. Its plot hinges on the deteriorating conditions of the house itself...The only provided food, pumpernickel bread, turns into a toxic mold infestation, and the garbage is never taken away. The bosses have neglected to give their workers the basics to sustain life, let alone libido, and the cast turns confrontational, with Derek at the vanguard...The producers bring in the Host to manage these ineffective workers, offering retraining... Derek leads the charge against the dead-eyed host: “Nobody have sex, it’s a trick!” By refusing to fuck, refusing to work, they cease producing any value for the show.

The next few episodes depict the cast coalescing around the strategy of refusal... The cast has a “house meeting to make a list of demands” from management, who, in a shadow of the bargains made with labor unions under Keynesianism, want increased productivity in exchange for improvements. But once again, it’s a trick — instead of real improvement, management only offers a patch (frogs to eat the plague of flies) and a quack therapist, whose solution to everything is to have sex — in other words, suck it up and get back to work...

If you look at the view counts, you’ll notice most people bowed out after the first episode... Something in the show failed to satisfy, perhaps failed to live up to the expectations we already have for a satire of reality TV. We’re predisposed to hate the “attention whore” contestants...But the “love-to-hate” quality of reality TV relies on bourgeois ideology, where the production of the show is only questioned on the level of the morality of an individual choice. According to this line of thinking, the bad parts of reality TV are the prurience of the viewers and the exhibitionism of the contestants...This is the fetishism Marx talks about, where capitalism’s appearance of free contractual association is mistaken for the motor of history. In castigating the viewers and the cast, the two categories of people who actually produce value, the actual workers, it tends to let the owners and managers off the hook.

Sex House, by correctly representing the class struggle as one between cast and producers, refuses this ideology. Instead, it argues that free contracts are a myth, a source of exploitation and misery that can only be properly countered by rejecting the whole state of affairs. More radically, it shows this rejection as a victory — of sorts...Carrying the parody to its end, Sex House’s final reunion show is...the show’s darkest moment. The tortures and hardships of Sex House have been reformulated as a difficult and transformative experience... “I’m more comfortable with who I am,” says a made-over Erin...All the cast members have been sucked into the hypercompetitive production of their own celebrity... ...aligning with the producers they fought just a short time before. In the wake of the refusal to work, the social factory of everyday life once again rears its head — all of the castmates have become professional bloggers.


http://jacobinmag.com/2012/10/sex-house-and-the-refusal-to-fuck/

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