Resisting the decline

datePosted on 17:19, March 3rd, 2010 by Lew

This is art, can you believe it?After some reflection and consideration of the pretty well-made arguments against my last post on Sensing Murder, I now have a bit more understanding of and sympathy for the position of those who are so infuriated and offended (thanks, Tony, Keir, Andrew and others). While I still think the difference between psychics and other sorts of entertainers is one of degree rather than kind, I accept that it’s a pretty big difference of degree, and that matters.

I wonder if there’s a correlation between those who object most strenuously to shows like Sensing Murder and those who generally bemoan the falling standards of entertainment and current affairs, and particularly the rise and proliferation of reality TV formats, and the consequent “realitisation”, if I may coin the term, of other genres. I’m thinking, here, of shows like Lost, which started out basically as a fictional version of Survivor; and 24, which is basically a video game in serialised form; the talking-head rent-a-quote instant-experts which predominate in news and current affairs programming; and the reality-esque coverage of media heroes and antiheroes like Clayton Weatherston and David Bain.

I reckon there would be, and I reckon that no small portion of the reason people hate on Sensing Murder so much is because it represents the most egregious example of this trend toward manufactured verité — in entertainment, in real life, and in how real life is presented to us. In this, it’s just another example of “resisting the decline” of society, which happens to an extent every generation.

I should hasten to add that I think it’s important that the decline be resisted — but by the same token I think it’s important that the reasons for resisting it be clearly stated and understood. But here’s another thing: while there is undeniably a great deal of dreck in the reality TV ouvre, and a significant amount of bland mediocrity, has the move genuinely brought nothing of value? The most venerated examples of the reality genre — Survivor for one; Idol and so on for another — have given zillions of people a great deal of pleasure, and now form a pretty central part of our* culture. I have a particularly soft spot for Survivor since it’s essentially just a big ball o’ political, social and psychological theory implemented in a handy ritualised narrative form.

In case you think I’m a trendy hipster libertine, I do personally disdain a huge amount of pop-culture — but not to the extent that I wish its absence on others who are into that sort of thing. That’s where I draw the line with Sensing Murder: let those who have been duped of money or faith complain to the small claims tribunal, or Fair Go, or the Advertising Standards Board, or the Commerce Commission. Let those who dislike the programme turn it off, and voice their disapproval to TVNZ and the show’s producers. Let those who object to public money being spent on it, and to the Police becoming involved in it make their objections known strongly, but let it all be done in the knowledge that some folk want it anyway and are willing to pay for it, even if it is all faked (and, deep down, they know it).

Last generation’s trash is this generation’s treasure; and vice versa. So it has ever been. This is part of what it is to live in a liberal society. Is it not?

L

* Permit me this generalisation, since I don’t want to write, nor (I am sure) do you want to read, yet another awkward definition of the “self” in this context.

categoryPosted in Media, Social change | printPrint

6 Responses to “Resisting the decline”

  1. Me on March 3rd, 2010 at 20:00

    “While I still think the difference between psychics and other sorts of entertainers is one of degree rather than kind, I accept that it’s a pretty big difference of degree, and that matters.”

    It’s a pretty big degree, indeed. Idol, Masterchef, Survivor – all revolve around people who want the spotlight. They may be misguided as to their gifts or prospects, but they participate voluntarily.

    Sensing Murder re-victimises victims in the name of entertainment. In the case of my family members, a specific episode led to the children being tormented at school, taunted that their father was a murderer. He is a known criminal but he has not been convicted of murder. Yet the programme clearly implicated him (he is a suspect but there is no evidence).

    Had this been a factual, measured programme about the Police seeking to solve a serious crime I would not have been offended; but this programme raked over old wounds, re-opening distress for all involved (including the victims’ children) – in a tacky, taudry lowest-common denominator kind of way. The aim was not to solve the crime – because they never do – but to make money.

    You can’t get much lower than that.

  2. Andrew W on March 3rd, 2010 at 20:28

    I wonder if there’s a correlation between those who object most strenuously to shows like Sensing Murder and those who generally bemoan the generally falling standards of entertainment and current affairs, and particularly the rise and proliferation of reality TV formats, and the consequent “realitisation”, if I may coin the term, of other genres.

    Not in my case, I think you’d find the disdain for Sensing Murder has its roots in a disdain for the promotion of supernaturalism and the deception the psychics practice, rather than the TV aspect, personally I think the show is popular in part because it is well put together.

  3. Lew on March 3rd, 2010 at 21:28

    “Me”, in what way is this any different from (say) 20/20 or 60 Minutes on a bad day?

    Andrew: I accept that’s true in a few cases, but my instinct is that there’s a lot of “kids these days” nonsense lurking in the background.

    L

  4. Me on March 4th, 2010 at 11:14

    I agree, 20/20Minutes also re-victimises crime victims with their sensational crime stories, and exploits them for ratings. They create a sense of unease in the community, undermine social trust and mislead the general public over safety and danger levels. So I’m not defending 20/20Minutes.

    Perhaps I’m splitting hairs but there is one difference between Sensing Murder and 20/20Minutes:

    When 60 Minutes or 20/20 do a crime story, they usually have one of the victims telling their sob story. The focus is on the personal side of crime – look at how devastated this family is, etc. They don’t set out to solve any crime so they aren’t falsely getting victims’ hopes up.

    20/20Minutes can be tacky, just like Sensing Murder, and their crime coverage is voyeuristic, just like Sensing Murder. But without the victims fronting up, they have no story.

    Sensing Murder doesn’t need or involve the co-operation of the victims. It isn’t about them or their pain (although it may increase their pain both by raking over the crime and by getting hopes up). Sensing Murder is about charlatans pretending to have special insight into the crime. And the crimes aren’t just ordinary small crimes, they are the worst kind of crime and the most public of all crimes, broadcast in a public forum.

    Sensing Murder is fundamentally dishonest in a way that 20/20Minutes’ crime coverage is not, even on a bad day.

  5. Ag on March 5th, 2010 at 01:57

    have given zillions of people a great deal of pleasure, and now form a pretty central part of our* culture. I have a particularly soft spot for Survivor since it’s essentially just a big ball o’ political, social and psychological theory implemented in a handy ritualised narrative form.

    Perhaps the answer is that individualist hedonism isn’t a sound basis for a human society.

    it’s just another example of “resisting the decline” of society, which happens to an extent every generation.

    That’s true, but this seems to me to be something different. I think you could put a precise date on when things started to go wrong, and that date is July 25, 1969.

  6. Craig Tristram NZ on January 6th, 2011 at 01:33

    When is Tony Andrews going to get it?? Men like him seem to think that everything in this world can be bought, calculated or definitively explained wake up buddy you ever wonder why the weatherman isn’t always correct?? gee I wonder why that is uuummm maybe beacuse it’s NOT an exact science and the best meteorologists hone their craft through practice, experience and talent….YES you heard me right talent the very same thing that makes you successful in your own trade.

    As for Tony’s piddly offer of 20,000 of his own money (big deal may as well be government money) to any psychic who can prove their ability is simply offensive to a true medium, I wonder what Mr. Andrews response would be if I offered him 20,000 (of my own money) to do my tax return should be and would be easy money but a pure waste of his talent just for a little “told you so”

    Tony if you actually did your research because you clearly have not which is quite surprising for such a successful businessman, one of the most integral parts of developing a successful business is (say it with me tony) MARKET RESEARCH, you would know that the most talented psychics don’t do what they do for the money it is about helping people. Do not judge all psychics by testing one not so talented psychic and then assume they are all the same, or by one bad performance what these people do is developed over time and it’s not a light switch you can turn on and off at will or an exact science one can analyze so I guess I don’t expect you to understand that. I’ll tell you one thing I have met some pretty average businessman in my time being a former business owner myself once upon a time but I don’t think they are all incompetent but maybe I should apply your method of thinking and assume they are all idiots including yourself.

    Many people claim that no murder cases have been solved using a psychic but I ask you what court in this world accept evidence from a psychic? they are quite happy to accept testimony from criminal analysts who reach there conclusions with about the same amount of evidence as a psychic has to offer go figure a judge will accept it as true because someone else did the same once as well they try to file us all away in a nice neat pigeon hole to fit a certain law and look at how well that is working for them. When the polices forces across the globe stop feeling embarrassed to use such evidence you WILL see cases solved using this method, the answer is in the testing process which is where if you had half a brain you could come in and at the same time get the answer to your doubts.

    I have one final question for you Mr. Andrews and that is do you believe in the LORD or GOD? if so where is the proof? don’t throw stones if you live in a glass house my friend.

Leave a Reply

Name: (required)
Email: (required) (will not be published)
Website:
Comment: