Friday, June 01, 2007

Reality Sadism

I’ve never been a fan of any of the “reality” tv shows, somewhat because I know how scripted and reshaped after filming those things are, but mainly because of the degrading way they deal with people, even the “uplifting” house reconstruction shows. The major selling point of even the “who wants to be the next person to have a half hour show early on Saturday mornings on the Food Network?” shows is to show us people subjected publicly to criticism, much of it staged for tv effect. Yes, I realize this attitude is dyspeptic and makes me even more of an outlier, in this world but not of it, but I’ve found a kindred spirit at Discover’s Mind & Brain blog. A very good analysis of how these shows are in real reality a repeat of Stanley Milgram’s old electro-shock experiments that almost single-handedly brought on institutional review boards and hyper-vigilance in how universities now do research. Here’s the key quote:

Sooner or later those of us feasting on this orgy of tele-sadism will have to accept our complicity in the process. After all, in Milgram’s experiments the real subjects were not the recipients of the electric shocks but those administering them. As the virtual reality versions have proved, it doesn’t matter whether what’s happening is real or staged: We react as if the pain inflicted were real. By sitting still for the elaborately staged social experiments of reality TV, we supply further evidence for Milgram’s main conclusion: “Ordinary people . . .without any particular hostility on their part, can become agents in a terrible destructive process.”

Wish I’d said that.

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