So, I watched last night’s episode of Wife Swap (jeez, the things I do for you people!) and I’ll be darned: it was actually a pretty even-handed, non-exploitative show. Well, as much as one named Wife Swap can be, I guess.
For one, no one person was made out to be the kook. Even the raw foodist’s desire to “eat sun” was handled with delicate humor (in the funniest moment, one of the little boys declares privately to the camera, “She eats sun. That’s creepy.”). The vegan family’s daughter stood up for her beliefs and refused to eat or buy meat and the hunting family’s husband even saw how a more gentle approach to child rearing can work with more hyper, violent kids.
The most important lesson, though, was the one that the vegan/raw foodist mother learned from the hunting father: one person can’t carry the weight of the world on their shoulders. Animal rights activists have a high rate of burnout and this is exactly why. It’s easy to become discouraged with the unending suffering that seems impossible to stop, and if we let that overtake us, we just end up as miserable grouches who either can’t get anyone to listen to us or who completely give up activism, seeing it as a lost cause. We’ve got to take time for ourselves and enjoy life. In the end, everyone benefits.
The only real frustrating point of the show came when the hunting mother (who was the only person on the whole show who didn’t seem to change at all) had a showdown with the vegan father and daughter. It was an unfortunate argument where the mother claimed that AR activists were trying to vilify her and her family because they need to hunt for food to survive. This could have been easily diffused by explaining that the majority of AR people focus their attention on “sport” hunters and not the few that actually need to (and do) hunt for their food. Of course, by the end of the episode, she was out hunting in what looked more like a sporting manner than one to supply needed food for the family.
All-in-all, it was a well handled episode that–though it lacked the sizzle of the God Warrior on Trading Spouses–showed two families learning something from each other and being (relatively) respectful of the other’s beliefs.
There’s something wrong with the world when I’m criticizing 60 Minutes for being uneven and praising Wife Swap for their fairness.