30 June 2008

Sanitized for Your Perversion

Last night, I watched a zombie flick; this, in itself, isn't too much of a shocker. We watch these with some kind of regularity, ranging from the terrible B-movie "is that guy supposed to be dead?" variety on up through the multi-million dollar major studio productions. This one, strangely, managed to tread the line; the real curiosity, though, was the morality of the tale itself. The point of the movie, aside from the standard-issue scares about people who should be dead deciding not to be, seemed to center around the effects of mass-media, desensitization of the viewer and the cameraman, and whether or not humans are, on the whole, worth saving in the event of, say, zombocalypse (zombie-centric apocalyptic scenario); there was also a heavy lean on not believing what the media sells as fact -- news reports and whatnot -- and the power of the internet to spread the "truth" of matters as seen by the eyes and camera lenses of those who are there.

I'm not a film reviewer, critic, or what have you. I'm not going to get into whether I thought it was a good movie for whatever reason; I'll even leave it up to you to find out what it was, if you're so compelled. I will say this, though; for better or worse, it got me thinking some, and that's an uncommon thing in movies these days. It really is an interesting phenomenon, to consider all of the regulations and social standards that we try to force across the board when it comes to our prepackaged news lunches and low-quality frozen dinners a la CNN, and then consider the pomp-and-circumstance that they use to "gussy up" the gems of what they bill as "real, raw" reporting, even though it still, at times, seems staged and so very plasticized. From there, we move on to the shock value that's capitalized online; the personal videos that people upload of some of the most horrific things that they can find, and the humor of the dregs of these here tubes that feeds on, and breeds, a sense of contempt and hatred for humanity as a whole, while exposing within it the very things which might make it contemptable and propagating the sense of superiority that comes from revelling in filth.

It's hard to measure the psychological impact of some things. Are we more prone to file away the things we see as less than appalling if we've been exposed to more gore-fests Hollywood productions? Does the fiction we indulge in, at whatever age, set the measuring stick for how we judge the reality we're exposed to later, or are we simply becoming more accustomed to the general attitude that "people die, things break, get over it" that seems so pervasive in the modern world, where we dehumanize everything, separate the essense of "us" and "them" so as to cope with the fact that we know that these things are happening, and that we seem helpless to change the fact that the world is a dark place at times? We cling to hopes and fantasies that force these realities from our mind, even as we admit knowledge of them plainly, and see their images plastered across our televisions nightly, in news reports of how many have died, in staged celebrity appearances telling us we can make a difference for pennies a day, in fiction and in reality, in our humor and in our tragedy; they all begin to whirl in to one entity, until we start to lose focus regarding the truly appropriate emotional response -- as long as it's not happening to us, it seems, we fail to connect with a reason to care.

Even in that, though, theres's a full examination to be done. Are we losing this connection with humanity because we so often see these things put into the wrong context, or is there something else at work here? It could be that the images simply begin to lose meaning as we see more and more of the horrific nature of the planet; perhaps the desensitization isn't a result of the images themselves, but an internal trigger meant to defend us from the surge of emotion that our brains would otherwise unleash; we lose that response not because we fail to care, but because our brain is not willing to allow such a powerful thing to overtake it based on the digital images of halfway around the globe, and so it tries to convince us that it's alright, that these things are normal or acceptable, that so long as there's nothing we can do, there's no sense in worrying about what is happening. So long as these carefully-crafted personalities are presenting the information with their flashy graphics and dramatic theme music, there's a sense of sensationalism that seems to equate what we're seeing with what registers, to the brain, as something aside from what is real; we candy-coat the blood and ichor so as to remove from it that sense of revulsion, making the whole thing easier to mentally digest -- for better or for worse.

In the end, I suppose there's too many variables in play; the fact remains, however, that we seem to use these vehicles to distance ourselves from our fellow man, while at the same time seeing that when these things hit home, the sense of community is nearly automatic. While we can easily endure to view the suffering of others, when our home is wounded, we bind together like so many blood cells pushing to heal the hurt; there's a sense of what we refer to as humanity when our own peace is destabilized. There will never be anything produced for television or internet broadcast which can capture the raw essence of what is experienced firsthand; and that, I think, is the true shortcoming of these media -- that no camera can capture the reeling mind, that no lens can reflect the soul of those in torment; images are easily processed, filed neatly away in lip-service categories -- but the scene of such things as we have already been made accustomed to is wholly a new experience when the filter of camera crews and streaming data is removed, and we're plugged straightway in to the dirt of the world.

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