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Redemption Fantasies

By November 5, 2011 No Comments

A girl can’t spend every minute thinking deep thoughts and reading classic literature, so on occasion I flop on the couch and watch myself a little fantasy TV.  I am not talking about cheesy Arthurian drama (though I groove on that) or science fiction (which I take quite seriously) or costume dramas involving Romans or Tudors (meh).  I am talking about HGTV and the DIY channel, which, as far as I can discern, are pretty much interchangeable.

DIY shows depend for their appeal not on sex scenes, explosions, or galloping horses, but on the viewer’s fondest consumer fantasies.  In my wildest daydreams, I would never dare to imagine a hunky landscaping expert accosting me in Lowe’s and charming me into relinquishing my lame yard project into his calloused hands.  I would never in a million sunny Saturdays dare to fantasize that this hunky expert would then arrive at my house with his team of fourteen master tradespeople and twenty-six manly laborers, whisking aside my modest little yard musings and presenting a design scheme exploding with insane luxury, and that this troop of work-booted elves would then complete all the work in two days—give or take a minor crisis or two—just in time for a dramatic and tearful reveal.  All this with network advertisers footing the bill for project costs so obscene the final amount can’t even be mentioned on family television.  And yet, and yet—that is exactly the sort of fantasy I can watch unfolding, in half-hour increments, all hours of the day and night on the home improvement channels.

This can’t be healthy.  I mean how many commandments is this sort of show prompting me to break?  The potential for violations in the coveting category alone could make one weep penitential tears.  Ah, but I must choose between piety and patriotism, as consumer fantasy is precisely what makes the economy go round.  The real estate market is in a shambles, so the home improvement industry sees market share opportunity.  Rev up our fantasy life and we all head down to the big-box stores for fire-pit kits, patio furniture, and potted palms: ka-ching!

Oh I could fall for this.  I could.  Watching a disastrous mess transform in half an hour into a flagstone patio surrounded by fresh sod triggers a nice dopamine rush. 

Strangely enough, though, after an episode or two, I get bored.  Would I really want a flatscreen TV affixed to a pagoda near the twelve-person spa?  Nah.  When you cross over the line to silly, you lose me.

So I try to limit my fantasy viewing and curb my consumer daydreams.  Instead, I take my inspiration from those work-booted elves and get in touch with my female empowerment mode.   I’d like to plant some tulips, doggone it, and I’m not waiting for fantasy hunks to make it happen.  I’ll just do it myself.

Debra Rienstra

I am a writer and literature professor, teaching literature and creative writing at Calvin University, where I have been on the faculty since 1996. Born and bred in the Reformed tradition, I’ve been unable to resist writing four books about theological topics: beware the writer doing theology without a license. My most recent book is Refugia Faith: Seeking Hidden Shelters, Ordinary Wonders, and the Healing of the Earth (Fortress, 2022). Besides the books, I’ve written well over two hundred essays for the RJ blog as well as numerous articles, poems, and reviews in popular and scholarly contexts. I have a B.A. from the University of Michigan (Go Blue!) and a M.A. and Ph.D. from Rutgers. I am married to Rev. Dr. Ron Rienstra, and together we have three grown children. Besides reading and writing, I love classical music, science fiction, fussing in the yard, hiking, and teaching myself useful skills like plant identification and—maybe someday—drywall repair.

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