Okay, my gut reaction to the Fox News faux pas was ‘Ooh, that would’ve been crazy to watch!’ Yes, I know: it’s disgusting. Even I am appalled at my voyeurism. But like I say, that was only my gut reaction. A little voice in my head casually mentioned the idea, that’s all. And hey, I’m cool with that, since my moral turbo-charger fully passed its MOT and I didn’t actually entertain the idea for any considerable length of time. But it was there – just saying before I start so you don’t think I’m getting on my high horse later on.
It’s normal to want to be let in on the secret that the whole media is in on. It’s a classic high-school scenario: nobody wants to be the only one who hasn’t seen the latest episode of “Gossip Girl”. But whether or not it’s normal doesn’t really matter, but perhaps it’s something you should really keep to yourself on a first date. Similarly, it might be normal to have a mild interest in the video of a real-life car chase Starsky and Hutch style, but it really is sick to watch it again and again. No wait: it’s COMPLETELY WEIRD and dysfunctional to seek it out to watch on replay. If you’re bored, BBC iPlayer have enough episodes of the “Great British Bake Off” to keep you going until the end of time.
Even the name of the websites that have put the video up for all their baying fans reek of voyeurism: gawker.com? Who actually wants to advertise that fact about themselves? Sorry to go all OED for a second, but for QI the definition of gawking is staring “openly and stupidly”.
The fact that car chases are a regular feature of American TV is a bit depressing. I spend a lot of time trying to tell worthy types that they shouldn’t make blanket statements about Americans and their culture. But come on! It does sound like a caricature. “Oh yah, Americans are all really fat and lazy and they just eat McDonalds all day and watch car chases and get wildly over emotional about everything.”
It’s so puerile: who watches a live car chase? Luckily, I don’t have to make a blanket statement about Americans, but I can make one about ‘us’ just for good measure: we’re so unbelievably childish and nebby. Ban Ki Moon was prank-called for a TV show. What? Ban Ki Moon?! Why? That’s disrespectful and more importantly a giant waste of everyone’s time: the prank caller knows it’s all a sham, poor old Ban Ki finds this out pretty soon and 3 Africans die in the time he’s wasting on the phone when he could be chatting up Bono, the TV production company are probably pretty gutted that they’ve been reduced to churning out such drivel to please their audience.
The media are still ogling Megan and her family, even though now she’s been found and the job’s technically over. I don’t believe that she was the first girl to run off with a guy her parents disapprove of (and, judging from the CCTV pictures, they do have a point), but her USP is that she’s under 16. Newsrooms across the world shout: this is a real scandal. The real reason the media got so involved in the case is that they just want a gossip. They’re not actually bothered about whether she’s okay, they just want a juicy story. What makes that worse is that we all know that the story will sell.
Gossip, like being nosy, is a natural, normal part of our slightly unattractive human nature. But do we really want our culture subsumed by it? I’m not somebody who sneers at low culture – I’m a philistine and proud. But unless we stop indulging in exploitative E4 documentaries with ridiculous titles like ‘Unicorn Boy’ or reality TV shows that will only really be interesting in 100 years’ time as a representation of 21st century life, we might lose all sense of what entertainment really is.
Kirstin Fairnie is a 2nd year student at Oxford from Orkney and who makes bloody good bread
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