|The Loud Family for the PBS documentary An American Family,|
which "devastated" them when media called them "affluent zombies"
while accusing gay son Lance Loud (upper left) of
"camping and queening about like a pathetic court jester".
"We all become living specimens under the spectral light of ethnology, or of anti-ethnology which is only the pure form of triumphal ethnology, under the sign of dead differences, and of the resurrection of differences."
-- Jean Baudrillard, Simulations (p. 16)
With the mission of chronicling the "daily life of the Louds - an upper-middle class family from May 30 to December 31, 1971, PBS museumized the family as it fetishized their interactions and relationships in the series An American Family aired in 1973. They became specimens before the camera, which precipitated the parental divorce and the punk antics of Lance Loud, who had famously corresponded with artist Andy Warhol as a teen. Sited as the first "reality TV" show, An American Family changed the lives of the Louds, and it "changed my life," stated Craig Gilbert, the creator of the series stated in 2011 in a New Yorker interview. In a subsequent HBO drama titled Cinema Verite about the making of An American Family aired in 2011, the producers tried to "convey the surreal enormity of An American Family to viewers who are more accustomed to the idea of living in public, whether in front of cameras or through social media" and understanding the innocence of the early 1970s. Writes Baudrillard, "More interesting is the phantasm of filming the Louds as if TV weren't there. The producer's trump card was to say: "They lived as if we weren't there." An "absurd paradoxical formula--neither true, nor false: but utopian"(50) wrote Baudrillard while concluding that the family were victims of a sacrificial spectacle offered to 20 million Americans (51-52). Such museumification of human subjects continues more broadly today in everyday life everywhere as every minute seemingly is captured and uploaded for all to see. An American Life is a harbinger of the Internet exploitation of the individual and all of the social media disasters to come.