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Voyeurism and Exhibitionism in Culture

Great article by Tim Challies on the increasing levels of voyeurism and exhibitionism in culture. Here are a few highlights..

This weekend a friend sent an article to myself and to a list of other people. He was outraged at a story that appeared in the St. Paul Pioneer Press. He is no doubt right to be outraged. Here are some excerpts from the story.

Just how far will people go to get their hands on a new PlayStation 3? Just ask KDWB-FM, 101.3's morning show host Dave Ryan, who on Tuesday morning asked folks if they were willing to give up their baby for 24 hours in exchange for one of Sony's highly coveted video game consoles. More than a dozen people called to offer up their kids, but only a few realized it was all just a gag.

"We got more calls than we could handle," said Ryan, who referred to the practical joke as a "social experiment." "They were lined up willing to turn their kids over to strangers for a freakin' PlayStation."

KDWB morning show executive producer Steve "Steve-o" LaTart said he was surprised how many people were interested in the bogus swap, which consisted of handing over your child to LaTart for 24 hours in exchange for a PS3.

"There were a lot of phone calls that we didn't even get to, and I would say three- quarters of them were serious," said LaTart.

People with babies of all ages -- including a 2-day-old and a 1-week-old -- made it on air. One of the more serious sounding calls came from a woman named "Katie," who agreed to give up her 1-month-old for three days. She wanted to sell the PS3 on eBay to make some extra money for the holidays.

"In a way it's flattering that we've built up 13 years of trust and that's great ... yet at the same time, hey, we thought we knew Kramer too, you just never know," said Ryan referring to Michael Richards, who played Kramer on "Seinfeld," and his recent racist comments.

After announcing that the contest was a prank, "Katie" called the station and asked "does that mean I don't get the PlayStation?" She was clearly more than willing to give up her child to get her hands on this year's top gift. It seemed to her a small price to pay for a Playstation. It's sick.

Challies goes on to say...

And yet for some reason it didn't surprise me a whole lot. This is the kind of behavior that is only too common in our culture. We live in what is now an voyeuristic, exploitative society. We love to see into other people's lives and because of technology, this is easier to do than ever before. But there is more. As voyeurism has increased, so has exhibitionism....

We, the consumers, feed this frenzy. When we turn on the television we want to watch celebrities, both new and old, living out their lives before the cameras or learning to dance or cook or crochet. We want to watch families whose spending has spiralled out of control try to fix their broken finances. We want to watch families whose kids are overweight learn how to eat healthy food or adults who are fat lose weight or couples who have forgotten the joys of sex to rediscover intimacy or normal people slurp down blood, guts and bugs. We want to see people learn what not to wear, to see people with rolls on their stomachs get liposuction and funny-looking noses get the perfect Hollywood nose job. We want to escape our own problems by wallowing in other people's problems which somehow always seem so much worse than our own. We want to see the sad, pathetic, tragic details of their lives, their personalities, their bodies. The more detail we get, the happier we are.
I think its true. I get caught up in some of the 'reality' stuff on television. There is something about watching other people that hooks you in. In the article Challies gives some interesting insight into a show that I really like: Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. He points to an internal memo from ABC which details the kind of stories they are looking for. The most tragic the better. Because more tragedy equals more viewers.

Good stuff to think about. What role do you play? What role do I play?
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