Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Television and Media - Is Iraq the Next Big Hit for Reality TV? Essay

Iraq – The Next Big Hit for Reality TV We went into Iraq with a heroic action movie playing in our heads, but the photographs from Abu Ghraib showed us another movie. Not Independence Day but Kill Bill—and, in the deluge of new photos and videotapes, Kill Bill 2. Yet for all that the photographs from the Iraqi prison invite comparison to big-budget depravity, this is to give the perpetrators too much creative credit. Ultimately, the better comparison is not to the imaginative chaos of a Quentin Tarentino movie but to the mundane chaos of reality TV. To compare the kind of humiliation suffered by the prisoners in Abu Ghraid to reality TV may seem in bad taste. The shows deal with middle-class men and women who have willingly chosen, based on some twisted idea of celebrity, to subject themselves to public humiliation. The photos deal with citizens of a conquered nation whose humiliation is coerced. The prisoners are literally and figuratively a world away from the caterwauling TV contestants. What is similar about the two situations, however, is the underlying dynamic and the role the camera plays in both. Reality TV is the enactment, for entertainment purposes, of primal drives. These are the drives that Freud identified as libido (the drive for sex) and aggression (the drive to destroy). The two archetypal shows in the reality line-up are Survivor and The Bachelor. The former favors aggression; the latter, libido. Other reality shows can be viewed as spin-offs of one or the other of these two: The Apprentice, for example, is Survivor set in the corporate board room; Extreme Make-over is The Bachelor set in a plastic surgeon’s office. Although in most of these shows, one drive predominates, it is impossible, as Fr... ... purgation and a penance—and perhaps in some cases it does. But the general result is to normalize the unfettered display of aggression and libido. In a culture saturated with the exposure of primal impulses, constraint no longer carries any weight. The camera has given lease to the idea that everything is permitted when it is exhibited in public view. Who can blame the soldiers, then, for behaving as though they were on a reality TV show? The humiliation to which they subjected their prisoners probably seemed to them like the antics perpetrated on Survivor only a few months earlier. Because cameras were present, their behavior probably seemed more acceptable rather than less. After all, if one takes a picture, it enters the culture of representation where it becomes normalized into a prank, a spectacle, or, at worst, the unfortunate consequence of losing a game.

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