Are You Hungry Enough to Eat a Barbary Lion?
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Though short-lived and unsuccessful during its own time, AYHETEABL? is widely recognized as the earliest reality show, and for spawning the rumor that Romans fed Christians to lions, when, ironicalistically, the opposite was accurate.
Not long into his reign, Nero realized his empire was a-swarm with Christians. Then as now, fundamentalist Christians took themselves far too seriously, and were droning on endlessly and at the slightest provocation about the nigh-approaching approaching end of the world, and how their God was going to return any day now. Seriously, any day -- could happen tomorrow. Another frequent topic of Christian ranting was the sexual immorality of the populace.
Noting that many Christians regularly starved themselves, confusing the resultant dizziness and fatigue with the Blessed Touch of the Mighty Finger of God, a whim came to Nero's mind. On his order, the Praetorian Guard rounded up a group of Christians, and presented them to Nero. The emperor asked the Christians if they were hungry, and in response, the Christians rambled on most tediously about the true nourishment of the spirit and told an incomprehensible story about a Nazarene called Joshva Ben Yvsef who was able to feed an arena filled with people using only a smoked fish and a biscuit.
Tiring of the prattle, Nero turned away, but as he left, he overheard a Christian whisper that she was, in fact, hungry enough to eat a Barbary lion. This sparked an idea in Nero, who quickly crafted an entertaining performance for intermission between gladiatorial matches.
For the debut of AYHETEABL?, Nero ordered a Barbary lion caged, starved, de-clawed and de-toothed, and a group of Christians similarly caged and starved. Once the Christians were actually denied food for several days (rather than sneaking trifles and snacks during their purported "fasts"), their resolve quickly cracked, and the Christians slightly reinterpreted their previous vows of abstinence, thereby permitting themselves to eat the lion.
On cue of host Ryanus Seacrestus III, the Christians were given knives, and released from their cages. Pouncing on the starved Barbary lion, the Christians cut it to ribbons and ate its bloody flesh, much to the approval of the Roman audience.
Distribution and Christian propaganda
To preserve this spectacle for later generations, Nero ordered a series of paintings documenting the Christians' activity. Dreadfully embarrassed by their lack of resolve and their behavior in the arena, the Christians organized a propaganda campaign: the Christians claimed that the starved, defenseless lion had actually eaten the Christians(!). Additionally, despite lucrative offers from the good-natured Nero, Christians refused to participate in future editions of AYHETEABL?.
Then as now, Christians were terrible gossips, and the absurdity of the "lions eating Christians" story was widely accepted throughout the Christian community. In contrast, Nero was such a perfectionist that the paintings commemorating the actual events was delayed for more than seven yeas. By then, the Christians' lies were widely believed.
AYHETEABL? is still widely recognized as the first reality show, and seven of the nine commemorative paintings are in the permanent collection of The Louvre; the other two are feared lost, though Wilford Brimley was widely rumored to have owned at least one before selling it off to fund the travel costs of his mail-order Asian chick concubines.