Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Kitchen Nightmares

In a glorious turn of events, we've started to receive a live stream of BBC America on our computers at work. This has brought me into contact with a show called Gordon Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares. The premise is that this world-renowned chef, Gordon Ramsay, travels England and North America, visiting dying restaurants and coaching them back to success. I've come to love this guy, as at first he's really a heartless, confrontational British asshole. Half of his dialogue has to be bleeped out, in true cockney fashion. As the show progresses, though, we realize that he really does care for the people he's helping. I've been trying to figure out what his appeal is, outside of the Simon Cowell meets Paula Abdul, "set-your-hair-on-fire-because-he-cares-so-much" persona. I think a big part of it is in the people (restaurant owners, chefs, etc.) that Chef Ramsay is there to help. As most ordinary people do, they all have some distinctly unlikeable characteristics about them. They are arrogant, whining, coniving children oftentimes, that refuse to admit their insuffecieny and accept their dependence on someone else. They represent things I don't like about myself, often. It's therefore so easy to watch the show and make up dialogue that would "put them in their place." I tell myself, "if I was there, I'd tell that guy he's an idiot, that he needs to grow up, etc."
But, therein lies the beauty. All those comments that I tell myself I'd make, Chef Ramsay makes. He picks some impressive fights on the basis of truth with people that need to be confronted; fights about a) their inability to acheive whatever they think they're capable of, and b) the inherent dependence on others that life brings with it. He calls men out for being babies and making excuses. He calls women out for being too emotional. He calls out young people for thinking they're invincible. He calls out old people for their refusal to change. It's like Gordon Ramsay is this alter-ego that I have that goes out and tells people what they need to hear, regardless of how they will receive it, and regardless of how they will feel about me afterwards.
I wonder, often, if I enjoy this show so much because I can hide behind it, in my fear of confrontation, and feel like a strong, courageous man vicariously through Mr. Ramsay. Have we become a culture that is too concerned with how people will perceive us that we refuse to shed light on the truth that we see? Am I so insecure that I have to live out truth-saying in mere fantasy through a streaming television show? Or is truth-saying not something that I should aspire to, outside of deepening relationships with people I care about? All I know for sure is that I love this show.

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