Monday, July 28, 2008

Voyuerism as Therapy: The 30 Minute Hour

Why are you watching that shit? You seem like a pleasant, intelligent enough person. And I am not so much of a snob that I don't appreciate the allure of other people's grief. Even Aristotle defined luck as the arrow going into the guy next to you. But Christ, how many bewildered, celebrity-craving, human disasters (their eyes made small and hard through genetic bankruptcy) have to endure a public breakdown before you are satiated? It's as though television has become the genuinely ugly girl that the moderately ugly girl hangs around with, in the hope that she will appear less ugly by comparison. And you are that moderately ugly girl.

Or, I guess, WE are that moderately ugly girl. I watch a lot of this stuff on that show "The Soup." It's a funny, low budget, video anthology of deformity and mayhem, and it goes well with a Sierra Nevada and a shot of Maker's Mark. The thirty minutes fly by. And, like sex or whippets, afterwards I briefly feel pretty good. Actually, in contrast with the show's unfortunate participants, I tend to feel like a cross between Baruch de Spinoza and Michael Jordan.

But, the feeling passes. And I begin to sense an itch deep within my reptilian brain. The logic is precise; it felt good once, this exercise in palliative schadenfreude, and it should feel good again. And why not? Other people spend thousands of therapeutic dollars just so they can tell perfect strangers about that dream they had where they set their boss on fire and then skull-fucked her smoldering remains. Watching an alcoholic transvestite regurgitate a plate of silkworms on tv seems positively benign by comparison. And less expensive.

The danger in this form of therapy is that it is so easy to build up an implacable tolerance. Suddenly, it is no longer enough that some tweeked out Nebraskan caught Chlamydia from her autistic brother. Ever greater feats of weirdness and depravity must be sought out. The Random Public Execution Hour with Jim Lehrer might fill the gap; or is it simply too late? I'm sure TV execs are doing their best to help, but even those gifted minds must be approaching the end of their collective tether.

So, at the risk of oversimplifying, turn the damned thing off. Eat an apple. Pick a daisy and duct tape it to a pony. You may feel a little better; and, hell, we are not designed to feel all that great anyway. This is why I limit myself to that half hour of The Soup. It frees up the rest of my day and allows me to deal with the complicated nonsense that I managed to make of my own life.

Your 30 minutes are up.

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