Call it a crisis of conscious, but boxing promoter Damon Feldman has cancelled a match featuring George Zimmerman and rapper DMX.
Feldman, who was previously charged with “fixing” celebrity fights and promoting without a license by Pennsylvania authorities, caused quite a ruckus with his newest moneymaking scheme.
This isn’t Feldman’s first time at the rodeo.
Former Olympic figure skater Tonya Harding, former major league outfielder Jose Canseco and D-List actor Willie Ames all took home a piece of the purse after fighting in a Feldman-sponsored brawl. Two years ago, he tried to convince chart-topping recording artists Chris Brown and Drake to lace up the gloves and work out a bitter feud. The bounty was $1 million per man.
Zimmerman, who could no doubt use some pocket change these days, lost out on a payday that was rumored to be in the high-six to low-seven figures. For many, myself included, the very notion that Feldman would provide such a lucrative financial opportunity to the man whose only claim to fame is killing 17-year-old Trayvon Martin was stunning.
But, make no mistake. We would have watched.
One of the more peculiar aspects of American culture is our propensity towards voyeurism. Not only do we enjoy watching people do and say things that, we ourselves, would like to believe we would not do under similar circumstances, but—as in the case of this match—things we actually would want to do, if given the chance. Feldman, as slick and savvy as P.T. Barnum, was offering up the prospect living vicariously through the taped and gloved hands of DMX.
A legal fight, in a roped-off ring surrounded by spectators, not a darkened sidewalk in a Sanford, Florida subdivision. An unarmed Zimmerman would have to stand toe-to-toe with a black man— one who is years beyond and arguably more accustomed to getting it “popping” than the late Trayvon Martin.
We can blame Feldman for basing his business model on human tragedy, or we can take a closer look at ourselves.
Only the naïve believe that, given the choice, we would only elect to consume only content that is nurturing and reflective of our best and highest values. What better proof it there than the meteoric rise of “unscripted” reality television?
Reality shows and, in fact, a broad swath of the most successful, most watched content in popular culture caters to some of our most deviant thoughts. What would we do if we were not constrained by good sense? There is apparently an insatiable, collective appetite for dramatic productions—the same drama we eschew in our own lives—real, fixed or fiction.
Sure, one is more likely to stand up and root for the good guy. What is clear, however, is that we want to see evil—even if we do not always want it to win. Often, as was the case with the Zimmerman-DMX bout, we are satisfied with the lesser of two. After all, if you lined them all up shoulder-to-shoulder, who can pick a housewife from the top-rated Bravo franchise that you would truly want as an in-law? After the first “Pillow Talk” episode, is there one Atlanta housewife that you would be truly proud to call your mother, sister or daughter?
Reality television is a lot like the “stories” my mother used to watch back in the day, only these soap operas have real-life consequences. Real people catch a champagne bottle in the head. Guns were produced during a recent fight at an Atlanta restaurant opened by cast members from VH1’s Love & Hip Hop.
Feldman may have called off his latest match, but in a few hours the second round of “Pillow Talk” will air. There won’t be any ringside judges, no fight doctor, and no statuesque models donning cardboard signs to signal the next round. In what promises to be one of the most-watched episodes in the history of the franchise, seemingly ordinary people will forego every modicum of self-respect and regard for other human beings to participate in an all-out donnybrook. Each of them will take home a hefty paycheck for their efforts.
For the record, there are various reality television shows that I enjoy immensely and, while I am acquainted with several RHOA cast members, I do not watch with any regularity. Atlanta is what I call “the biggest small town on earth.” Everybody knows everybody here. To say that there is a palpable feeling of embarrassment in the air would be an understatement.
In a general sense, though, reality television allows us to escape into another world—for just one hour—then return to the safety of our mundane Monday morning car pool line. The passing of Oscar-winning actor Philip Seymour Hoffman earlier this month brings to mind the essence of his creative genius—his ability to immerse himself in villainy and reveal to us our own.
America loves a good fight— especially when it is with ourselves.
Editor’s Note: This has been a #breakingBLACK column. Goldie Taylor is a featured Grio columnist and her #breakingBlack columns will regularly appear every Monday. Follow Goldie Taylor on Twitter at @GoldieTaylor, and join the discussion at @theGrio with the hashtag #BreakingBlack.