Friday, September 14, 2007

Voyeurism?

I seldom watch day-time TV. Years ago when I was a young mom grappling with 2 littlies, running a smallholding (growing veggies, fixing fences, milking my cow, making jam, butter etc) and simultaneously running a pottery studio, it wasn't an issue anyway, I barely had time to BREATHE, never mind watch TV!

But at the time, I met the middle aged wife of one of Max's colleagues who was very obviously bored, lonely and depressed, and she had got into the habit of mooching around in her dressing gown, watching whatever rubbish was served up on TV all day long.

I felt sorry for her, (especially as South Africa only had 1 TV channel in those days, now we have 4 if you are not on satellite, and even now it is often hard to find anything worth watching!) but I really took it to heart, I never wanted to end up like that.

So it became a sort of unwritten rule chez-farty that the TV did not get turned on during the day, and even now all these years later, it still usually applies. Exceptions are when one of us is sick in bed, and needing mindless entertainment to pass the time, and when expectant daughters-in-law are staying! (In this situation, all rules fly out of the window, we egg each other on wickedly to eat copious quantities of chocolate and gawp at daytime TV to our hearts content!)

I have obviously glimpsed trailers for the odd soapie over the years, and jeered in a superior way at their inane mindlessness, not to mention acting which is so bad that it is comedic. I have often speculated about what motivates otherwise intelligent people to sit enthralled by these shows, and decided it was probably some form of voyeurism and escapism.
However, it was all very clearly hammed up fiction, so, though mindless, it was probably harmless.

The new trend in programmes is way more disturbing, because it now revolves around the real lives of real people being dissected on National Television. The popularity of shows like Jerry Springer and Rikki Lake just blows my mind! In these, there is not even an attempt at altruistic motives such as public awareness of issues or actually attempting to help (as in the case of DR Phil or Oprah.) It is plain straight forward salacious entertainment, and clearly destructive to both participants and viewers.

And it says some frightening things about our society,

  1. that such dysfunctional interpersonal dynamics are common,
  2. that people have so little dignity or sense of self worth that they subject themselves willingly to become objects of public scrutiny and entertainment,
  3. that hopefully more functional individuals find it all entertaining rather than repugnant, and feed the whole sick thing by watching such programmes!

For me an all time low is the sordid one that has been on our TV on Sundays recently, called “The Batchelor.” The whole concept of 25 women being available to throw themselves at 1 man, who gets to screw around with them literally and figuratively, until he rejects all but one, and then in some sort of magical way is suddenly supposed to transform into a faithful loyal guy who would make a good husband to her….it just boggles the mind!

I mentioned Dr Phil and Oprah. They, at least, have the noble stated intention of helping, or shedding light on social issues. But I must admit, I have often wondered lately if it is all as altruistic as it appears. How much do they need to stretch their personal integrity at times, to show things which go beyond what is needed to help the people, or inform us, but which add spice and make “good TV”?

I have been trying to put a label on the way I sometimes feel when watching these shows, and I think the closest word that I can get to is ‘defiled’. There is often good and useful content, but I am also seeing stuff that does go on in many homes, but am I any the richer in my heart for seeing it? Do we need to constantly be exposed to the seamy, sad, dishonest, aggressive or sordid, to be aware that it exists? Will it eventually tarnish or desensitize us to the point where we are no longer shocked or saddened by these things? Will we become so numb that they become ‘normal’ to us?

I often feel as if I am crossing a personal boundary too, I suppose I could describe it as that guilty feeling one would get while peeping through a keyhole and spying on someone, whilst knowing it was reprehensible to do so.

If seeing other people’s real-life pain and trials as entertaining is becoming the norm in society, why on earth are we shocked and surprised when crime rises, kids run wild, and people have forgotten how to respect themselves or others!

So, I guess, there was some merit in that unwritten rule, and I am glad I have not seen more daytime TV over the years. I may be ignorant about many facts that have been revealed, but I am relieved that I still find it all offensive enough that I can only stomach it in small quantities!

here ends the rant.... have a nice day!

4 comments:

Chris said...

Hello, I came over via Ruth's blog and found your rant. I had to smile, we have similar rules in our house for day time TV plus it was never allowed before school:-). We work on the principle you can watch it if you're unwell, but when you are bored with it (which doesn't take long) its time to go back to work :-) Great post!

RUTH said...

Well said; I never watch TV during the day and even in the evening rarely find anything of interest. There are just so many reality shows which bear no resemblance to REAL life as far as I can see....and then there are the "celebrity" shows...I guess I don't watch enough TV as half of the celebrities I've never heard of! I do like a good drama (these seem to be few and far between nowadays)and will occasionally sit and watch a film....and a gardening programme of course :o)
As a matter of interest do you have to pay for TV licences?

Shirley Goodwin said...

Hoo! I even got a photo of my name being picked out! Lucky me.

What gets me on TV is the huuuuuuge number of programmes on violent crimes, serial murders, cutting up bodies and so on. Sick.

Ash said...

Yup! Your thoughts echo my own, except they are much more eloquently phrased than I could manage. I HATE the whole 'reality TV' rubbish that is a thin excuse for cheap voyeurism. Daytime TV is bad but much of the evening stuff is no better and I generally avoid it too. Keep on ranting!