Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Last Night's Hoarders Hits Too Close to Home

Posted By on Tue, Jan 5, 2010 at 4:03 PM

click to enlarge hoarders.jpg
If you've seen one episode of Hoarders, the A&E series about compulsive hoarding and the slow-burn toll the disorder takes on everyday lives, you've seen them all, because everyone featured is one dead cat away from losing their job (or home, or family, or sanity, or life). But hey, last night's show was apparently filmed around these parts. The show said it was set in Tennessee, but this article mentions that Nashville's 1-800-GOT-JUNK division was the featured haul-away helper, meaning the show's setting probably wasn't far from here. (Here's part of the episode.) Not that it matters, since the formula is basically the same: Old guy or gal suffers a one-time tragic event like the loss of a child or spouse OR has a lifelong problem collecting or not cleaning. Fast forward to a couple years or decades later, and so-and-so is living in jaw-droppingly sad filth, piled high with unimaginable loads of usually worthless bric-a-brac. Whether it's mouse droppings or bedbugs, beer collections or Beanie Babies, these folks don't know how to part with shite, sometimes literally (at least two bathrooms were dens of fecal infestation). I believe one episode featured a child who'd clearly internalized his parents' hoarding habits, a notion too damn sad to even expand upon. The show, of course, is really about the way we infuse objects with meaning, the way we can surround ourselves with things that supplant emotional connections, ambition, real intimacy, genuine effort. The hoarders are such fragile people, so broken, so tentative as they're forced to examine their collections bit by bit, picking out items for sacrifice. You'd think they'd been asked to murder their own children the way some of them agonize. What's perhaps more horrifying is that they mourn their stuff even as their actual children/friends/spouses stand by baffled, devastated and generally heartbroken. And yes, the show is all the things it's advertised to be: fascinating, compelling and mesmerizing TV. But it's also mental-health porn, a sad-sack's idea of an easy respite from our own--perhaps cleaner but no less consumer-born, distinctly Western--problems. Still, I watch. But there's hope: If you too suffer from a compulsive need to watch a show about compulsive hoarders, try washing it down with palate-and-conscience cleanser The Story of Stuff, an award-winning animated short film about the root of consumption that should be required viewing in every American home.

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