If we claim we care about others, why do we enjoy seeing mental breakdown’s people enduring a public fall from grace?
SINCE reality TV hit our screens and became such a monster hit, why do we as people, fans and viewers take such delight in watching others endure mental breakdown’s and public upset? Let me give you a quick example of what I’m on about; if you remember watching Big Brother you got all sorts of characters with various sorts of personalities, and I think it’s fair to assume that the producers somehow hoping for some sort of Clash of the Titans-style personality clashes. For instance, do you remember Nick Bateman, or Nasty Nick as the tabloids called him? He was the first contestant to be removed from the house for cheating and attempting to rig votes.
Now because of what he did and how he manipulated people we, both as viewers and fans, were all too happy to see him endure a public fall from grace and become a sort of panto villain. Though I’m not sure whether the infamous panto villains themselves quite got a public backlash as he ever did.
I openly admit that in some ways I am as guilty as charged as anybody else would be. Not long after the news broke out, I remember talking about it on the phone with my sister, who also took great delight in telling me how she’d defaced a front cover of a tabloid paper with Nick’s face on it with devil-like features. Every time I saw pictures of him in the months that followed, I looked at his face with vitriol claiming how he deserved any abuse he got.
Going back to 1999 to the BBC t.v series, Castaway 2000, it’s the show where a group of people were selected to live on the remote Scottish island of Taransay to make a small community for whole year. One of the people on the programme was a guy named Ray Bowler, and one of things that we pretty much remember him for was his aggressive outbursts. In my naivety, and due to the footage I saw of him, he just came across as an aggressive guy who I wouldn’t want to be in the same room with. Looking back at now I think it must have been quite upsetting for his family to see him portrayed as a constantly angry guy who just seemed like he was ready to raise a fist to anyone whenever he temper flared. For all we know he was probably a decent guy for whom it had become too much for. And all because of the mechanics of reality tv and our joy in watching his frequent shout-fests we just saw a man type-cast as an aggressive man.
As avid reality-t.v obsessives we don’t seem to be quite helpful in these sorts of situations, especially where the supposed entertainment-factor is. If anything, we seem to want more of it. As though we can’t seem to get enough of other peoples’ misfortune.
Now another programme I’m not a fan of in anyway is The X Factor, especially in its early days. Contestants who were hungry (or desperate) for a shot at fame went before the judges and did what they could to secure a vote and be liked by the viewers. However, the moment humiliation begins we just begin to find some sort of pleasure in watching some poor soul be publicly slaughtered, for all the nation to see. A few years ago, I remember seeing footage of a young male contestant doing whatever they could to impress the judges enough to be selected. Sadly, the guy wasn’t chosen but what happened afterwards, I think, looked almost unbearable. The infamous rejections from the judges began then escalated into a heated war of the words and swearing. The man in question then ran off stage, barging past the two co-presenters in the process in a state.
For as much as I don’t know the guy in question, I just remember feeling quite sorry for him as when he ran off the stage there was a tidal wave of laughter from the audience. I mean, to suffer a small embarrassment before your friends and family is one thing but to suffer total, soul-destroying humiliation before an entire crowd is quite another. Yet all made worse knowing that millions around the country observed it to.
Something we really need to ask ourselves is if these shows have a negative impact on someone’s well-being, what pleasure are were actually getting out of it, and is it really worth it?