I’m not really the target audience for the new NBC show Stars Earn Stripes, which premiered earlier this week. I don’t come from a military family, I only have a few friends who have served, including one Marine who was in Iraq, and frankly, I’m just not interested in the subject. But, I had seen the commercials during the Olympics, and since it happened to be starting when I turned my television on Monday night, I figured I would give it a shot.
A reality program, Stars Earn Stripes pairs together “celebrities” (I use the term loosely, since Todd Palin is one of them) with someone who actually knows something about war, like a Navy Seal or Green Beret. They compete in challenges that are based on actual training exercises conducted by the U.S. military, and the money won by each celebrity will go to a specific military or veteran charity.
While the program is hosted by a rather big name, retired general Wesley Clark, the cast isn’t that great. The most recognizable are Dean Cain, Nick Lachey, and Laila Ali, in addition to Palin. While I got bored after 20 minutes and turned it off, I do find the controversy surrounding the show very interesting.
On the Roots Action website, there’s a petition that the public can sign that reads, “Dear NBC, Your entertainment show ‘Stars Earn Stripes’ treats war as a sport. This does us all a disservice. We ask that you air an in-depth segment showing the reality of civilian victims of recent U.S. wars, on any program, any time in the coming months. (StarsEarnStripes.org has provided a few resources to help you with your research.)”
Those who are against the show believe that it makes war look like a game. They also point out that GE, which is one of NBC’s corporate parents, is a weapons manufacturer. Several Nobel Peace Prize laureates, including Archbishop Desmond Tutu, agree with this sentiment, and have signed a letter asking for the show to be cancelled. NBC believes the opposite (obviously, as it’s their program), and sees Stars Earn Stripes as a way to, “Pay homage to the men and women who serve in the U.S. Armed Forces and our first-responder services.”
When I first heard about Stars Earn Stripes, I thought it sounded like a weird premise for a show, because who wants to watch Nick Lachey go through a mud pit covered with barbed wire? The thought that it could come across as glorifying war never even crossed my mind because I was stuck on just how random it all was. Now, I understand where those who are against the show are coming from; while this certainly shows one side of the military, it doesn’t capture the devastation that war can cause. During the short amount of time I watched the program, nothing I saw seemed to be glorifying war, although they did have a lot of fancy schmancy equipment that might appeal to some. However, something did stand out to me that was a bit troubling: one of the professional military partners on the show mentioned during his introductory piece that as a sniper, he had killed over 160 people. He said it in such a nonchalant manner that I was taken aback.
Many will argue that you can just head down to your local theater, and most likely a war-related movie will be playing. But, as the powerful letter signed by the Nobel Peace Prize winners states, “Real war is down in the dirt deadly. People–military and civilians–die in ways that are anything but entertaining. Communities and societies are ripped apart in armed conflict and the aftermath can be as deadly as the war itself as simmering animosities are unleashed in horrific spirals of violence. War, whether relatively short-lived or going on for decades as in too many parts of the world, leaves deep scars that can take generations to overcome–if ever.”
What do you think? Do you agree that this show is ill-conceived, or do you think it will increase respect for those serving in the military? If you watched the show, will you tune in again?