Rat Bastards, "Old War, New Tricks": Spike's new rat hunting show misses the mark

Quick Take: Rat Bastards, "Old War, New Tricks"
There is bad TV. There is terrible TV. And then there is Rat Bastards. 

Review: Rat Bastards, "Old War, New Tricks"
(S0101) Spike TV's new reality show follows a group of Louisiana's finest good ol' boys into the bayou to confront "mankind's worst enemy."

What's mankind's worst enemy? Well, it's not genocide, or nuclear proliferation, or Islamofacisim, or American neocolonialism. Nope. According to Spike TV (my go to place for all things mankind-related), mankind's worst enemy is a 30-pound, orange-toothed river rat called a nutria. Why are these rats such a threat to civilization? Something about them chewing up all of the vegetation and destroying the swamp... aw, who cares, just shoot 'em!

Rat Bastards is another in a long line of reality shows the simultaneously celebrate and belittle America's under-educated, rural poor.

It's short running time (thank god!) ensures the plot and character development are kept to a minimum. The rat hunters are distilled down to mildly offensive stereotypes. There's Shane, the ex-Marine; Kridda, the rookie; Clay, the cool, calm and collected guy; Rigger, the brains of the operation; Squirrel, the "Bayou Bloodhound"; and Skeeter, the grizzled veteran. The episode's narrative is as short as it is unnecessary. Squirell and Shane argue about whether or not to enlist the help of a dog. Rigger and Clay use a GPS device to find a rat's nest. Kridda almost shoots Skeeter with a shotgun. Boom, there's your story. Now let's get to the killin'!

I'd love to say that Rat Bastards is simply pointless, but that wouldn't be entirely accurate. The show does serve a function. Unfortunately, that function is pretty disturbing. The show is basically animal torture porn. Animal rights activists would probably argue than any hunting show is morally wrong, but I'm not one of those people. There is nothing inherently bad about watching humans shoot animals. However, there is something sick about watching a redneck fire an indiscriminate barrage of bullets into a teeming nest with a machine gun. There's no sport in that. Killing animals like that is the kind of shit serial killers do before they graduate to human victims.

Aside from the inhumane killing, my biggest problem with Rat Bastards is the strain of thinly veiled xenophobia that permeates the entire premiere. It's almost as if the show is asking the viewer to substitute rats for illegal aliens in their mind as they watch. Nutrias are "foreign invaders" and “when Americans stand shoulder to shoulder, there’s no enemy they can’t defeat.” The hunters are “men hired to strike back for mankind.” The narrator warns “our homeland is under attack." It's insane, really. The show is chock-full of the kind of rhetoric that sounds more at home at a Klan meeting or a Minutemen rally than on a goofy reality show.

I thought reality television had reached a low point with Swamp People. I was wrong.

By Lucas High

About the author

Lucas High is a man on a mission. That mission: to watch television for a living. Drop him a line at lhigh2@gmail.com, on Facebook and on Twitter at twitter.com/LucasHigh.

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1 Comment
On: Friday, August 3, 2012
Renee said:

thank you so much for this review. i tuned in and was horrified by what I saw. Why do americans wonder about theater shootings etc when they give prime time billing to disgusting filth like this. wow.


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