You know it’s over …when he’s filming you

by | Jul 28, 2013 | Comment, Detroit Free Press | 0 comments

The idea was simple. Hide a camera. Film someone in an embarrassing situation. At the end, have a nice guy come out and say, “Smile!” and tell the victim it was a setup.

They called it “Candid Camera,” and it was so successful as a TV show that it ran, in some form, for more than half a century.

It’s off the air now. Instead, we have YouTube, where anybody can create their own “Candid Camera” moment. Last week, a video surfaced and instantly went viral; it had people wondering just how close the person secretly filming you might be.

Maybe no further than your wedding vows.

The video was taken by a married Tennessee man named Jim Mongiat, who filmed his wife, Whitney, throwing a temper tantrum in the car. The impetus for the tantrum was Jim’s refusal to take Whitney to the lake on a hot Saturday. She kicks and screams – literally – slamming her feet against the dashboard and yelling that she needs cigarettes, that she never gets her way and, multiple times, that she wants to go “to the LAAAAAAKE!”

It is not flattering. It’s a training film for staying single. It is hard to listen to, hard to watch.

And hard to fathom.

Because it was put up, for the world to see, by the man who just 14 months ago told this woman, “I do.”

You wonder if “for better or worse” was part of the ceremony.

Privacy is passe

Now, I don’t know much about the Mongiats, other than their blitz of recent news media reports, in which she claimed he tricked her and he claimed he had no regrets because the whole world could see what he had to put up with.

But I do know something about being married. And anyone who is in that club can tell you there are many moments where you are glad there is no camera around. Every couple can look childish, temperamental, mean, loud or obnoxious if you catch them at the wrong time. It is the reason we used to have this thing called “privacy.”

Look it up, kids.

It’s in the section with “VCR” and “manners.”

Today, there is no such thing as privacy. Cell phones, video surveillance, even flying toy planes with loaded cameras ensure that you never know when you are being filmed.

But being alone in the car with your spouse used to be a moment you could trust. Not anymore. Mr. Wait-Till-My-Friends-See-This has ruined that one. You wonder how he managed to capture his wife’s meltdown while driving. They have laws against phone calls or texting behind the wheel.

I guess we need a no-filming law as well.

For better or for YouTube

What’s truly sad about this is that our culture now leads people to treat a million strange eyeballs as judge and jury. People post videos of themselves performing to gauge reaction – even though the people watching mostly laugh and deride. They post unflattering videos of celebrities in hopes the public beast will roar. They post impassioned diatribes on this or that, in hopes of swaying people they will never meet.

In such a world, all you once held dear is potential fodder. So marriage may no longer be between two people; it’s between two people and the millions who can watch and judge it. What did Jim Mongiat hope to accomplish? He had to know this would likely end badly (the latest report is that they are divorcing). Was that what he wanted all along?

If so, have the decency to face your spouse and ask for it. Don’t go to the town square and unpack her dirty laundry – especially when you’re not revealing your own.

You wonder what went so wrong so fast in this marriage that one party enjoyed total humiliation of the other. Or maybe this guy doesn’t see it as humiliation. Maybe he sees life as something we lead for the entertainment and judgment of others.

Which is even sadder.

The lesson learned is this: Be careful with your temper. And be careful where you allow yourself to be human – because you never know who might be filming, including the person on the pillow next to you. In “Candid Camera,” they used to come from behind a wall, a nice guy said, “Smile!” and would presumably ask you to sign a release.

But “Candid Camera” is gone. And when it comes to using the world as a stage, there is little smiling and a real shortage of nice guys.


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Mitch Albom writes about running an orphanage in impoverished Port-au-Prince, Haiti, his kids, their hardships, laughs and challenges, and the life lessons he’s learned there every day.

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