The Junk Decade

The following is a transcript of an upcoming episode of Geraldo Rivera's hard-hitting TV expose series Geraldo. It's scheduled to air January 5.

Geraldo: What is it about our society that requires us to place labels on our decades? Ten years is such a long time, and so many diverse events and trends sweep through our lives in that time, it would seem impossible to capture the essence of a time period in one broad brush stroke. And yet my guest this hour claims to have done just that. Cap'n Dave, welcome.
Cap'n Dave: Thanks, bud. Great to be here.

Geraldo: They say that journalism is the first draft of history. In your role as a journalist, then, as a first-draft historian, it is your judgment that the decade we've just completed will be known to history as the "Junk Decade"?

Cap'n Dave: Yep.
Geraldo: Explain, please.
Cap'n Dave: Well, Geraldo, it's like this. I was assigned to do an end-of-the-decade story for my paper. I couldn't call the Eighties the "Me Decade"--that was the Seventies. And I couldn't call it the Roaring Twenties. Obviously. After about a half-hour of really intense concentration on the subject, I came up with the "junk" angle. For about a week after that, I became totally consumed with the "junk" idea, meaning that I thought about it during almost every waking moment when I wasn't either eating, playing pinball or watching the World Series. This idea struck me as being so original and so profound, and so loaded with commercial potential, after a while I became concerned that someone else had already come up with the idea, or that someone else was working on it at the exact same time that I was. The concept was so powerful, I was certain I'd get "scooped"--as we call it in the business--if I didn't sit right down and pound it out. So, after some really frenzied typing, the concept was born. Now I'm here talking to you, just as I expected I'd be doing the second the Junk Decade idea popped into my head. Frankly, I hope to milk this for everything it's worth. In fact, I'm already working on the Junk Decade board game and an exercise video. Geraldo: That's all well and good, my friend, but there's an audience of people waiting out there to hear the details of this grand idea. The Junk Decade. What's it all about?

Cap'n Dave: To help everybody understand what I'm talking about, I guess I should start with a definition of "junk." For the purposes of supporting my thesis, I'm defining junk, in this case, as all the stuff we prop up around our lives in the desperate, false hope of giving them meaning. Almost all junk is stuff we don't really need, but we buy it anyway because we think it will help us live more like people on TV. Everything that can be bought in your typical shopping mall is junk. Everything that is influenced in any way by marketing experts--and this includes entertainers, preachers, politicians, music--is junk. Anything that can be advertised is junk.

Geraldo: Now, wait a minute. Are you saying that your theory goes beyond mere consumer items, that some people are junk, too? That's outrageous.
Cap'n Dave: Junk people are a big part of this theory, yes, but I'll get to them in a second. First, I want to give you a better idea of what I mean by junk in general.
Geraldo: Fair enough, but first we need to take a commercial break. Were the Eighties the Junk Decade? More in a minute.
Geraldo: Where were we? Yes, junk in general.
Cap'n Dave: Right. To start with, let's look at a simple appliance that really became hugely popular during the Junk Decade: the videocassette recorder. Is there a junkier product than the VCR in all of history? I don't think so. Before the VCR, it was impossible for people to record and store episodes of Who's the Boss? Now it's possible. Man, that's junk.

Geraldo: Let me play the devil's advocate here. What about movie rentals? What about the people renting classic art films by Bergman, Fellini, Truffaut?

Cap'n Dave: I don't recall seeing a Bergman aisle at my neighborhood video-rental store. Maybe it was back there behind the Nightmare on Elm Street aisle.
Geraldo: One more thing. What about the people out there right now watching this show on video? Have you thought about that?
Cap'n Dave: Um, yeah. I'm tempted to say, "I rest my case," but only because I see all the chairs are bolted down on this set.

Geraldo: Ouch. By the way, Cap'n Dave, do you own a VCR?
Cap'n Dave: Sure. But like most VCRs, it broke down two weeks after its warranty expired. It would cost more to have the machine repaired than to buy a new one. I don't mind, though, because this process has allowed my VCR to evolve into a purer form of junk. In my eyes, it's worth more now than it was when it worked. Plus, if I leave it on the shelf, there's a chance some junkie will break into my house and steal it.
Geraldo: I get it. You're saying that you're a connoisseur of junk.
Cap'n Dave: Aren't we all? I'm not saying that junk is bad. If junk is so popular, then by definition it can't be all bad. My theory celebrates junk. As a member of this society, I want all the junk I can get. More junk than you have, in fact. Give me some of your junk, or I'll arrange a hostile takeover of your junk. Maybe I'll buy up some junk bonds first. Vivre le Junque, I say. Geraldo: Very interesting, but I'm still not getting it. Maybe we need more examples.

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Cap'n Dave