Like a lot of men (and women too) I enjoy watching home improvement programs on TV. As a homeowner I always have a long list of projects on my “To Do” list. And most of them I plan on doing myself. (Sometimes friends even have me do projects on their homes!) So I have a good reason for being interested in home improvement programs.
But there are a lot of avid watchers who, I suspect, have little intention of doing anything to their own home more challenging than change light bulbs. They watch for the vicarious thrill of seeing someone else turn a dull, dysfunctional kitchen into an modern, ergonomic miracle, or transform an eyesore of a yard into the envy of the neighborhood.
I’ll admit, it is a very satisfying experience to look back a half hour or so and remember the ugly chaos that has now been transformed into a thing of beauty. And yet, I never feel completely satisfied.
One day I was watching “This Old House” I think it was, and I became aware of a vague sense of inadequacy. I knew that I would never be as good as Bob Villa, that my projects would never go as smoothly or quickly as his. I know from my own experiences that there were probably little problems that Bob failed to mention, steps he glossed over, mistakes that were edited out. I always encounter challenges that Bob never has to deal with. I like to think I am a capable and careful craftsman, but watching Bob made me feel that when it came to home improvement I was nothing more than an amateur, a Bob Villa wanna-be.
Sure, seeing Bob do something I hadn’t seen before still made me want to go try it. And even as I realized that he probably wasn’t as good as the TV program made him seem, I really admired the guy. (It wasn’t just tool envy, but there was that.) I couldn’t really explain why I felt the way I did about not only Bob Villa but all the other home improvement shows and their stars.
As I recognized the conflicting emotions of excitement and inadequacy the home improvement programs generated in me, I realized that the shows were not just “infotainment” but pornography.
Just as traditional porn portrays sex in an unrealistic, fantasized way, the stars of home improvement shows create a false impression of what it really takes to do these projects. They make it look easy; they’ve always got the right tools, everything turns out perfectly. And they do it all without getting dirty. How can real people compete with that?
(I guess that makes Bob Villa a porn star. Mmmm…plaid. At least you can trust him to know how long eight inches is.)
In a way it was a relief to realize I was watching home improvement porn. I can just sit back and enjoy it. I know that when I try something I saw Bob Villa or one of the others do I won’t be able to do it nearly as well. I’ll do the best I can, and it will have to do. Now if I can just explain this to my wife.