Perpetual escapism

by Michael D. Shaw,  staff writer

One definition of “pornography” deems it—The depiction or portrayal of acts in a sensational manner so as to arouse (as by lurid details) a quick intense emotional reaction.

With but a moment’s thought, you can see that this will apply to many sorts of things besides sex. In fact, it is quite possible to develop an unhealthy voyeuristic/vicarious interest is such things as movies, sports, and current events (to name just three). Let’s consider each of these briefly:

While one may like a particular movie or admire the talents of a particular star, it is quite another matter to watch the Oscars every year with what could only be described as a “rooting interest.” Why should a typical viewer care who wins the awards? Does he have a financial interest in the film, is he personal friends with anyone on the crew?
Some women have told me that they watch the Oscars only to see what the stars are wearing. Now that’s interesting. Is there even the most minute chance that these common folk would ever spend the thousands of dollars required for those originals? Could we call this “fashion pornography”?

Likewise, it is one thing to watch a sporting event for its temporary entertainment value, but something far different to “live or die” with the results of the team. I recall an incident from some years ago when I was at a parents’ weekend at the University of Arizona. There, I encountered an elderly couple who were rabid fans of the University of Washington–the football opponent for that weekend.

They proudly told me that they had attended all games (home and away) for many years, and were dressed in all the purple UW regalia. We continued to converse. I was astounded at the ardor of their support for all things Husky. I gently suggested to them that neither the University of Washington nor the composition and code of the football team in any way even remotely resembled what they experienced during their attendance in the 1940s. In fact, I would venture that the present-day school represents a value system that they are in disagreement with! So, to what were they being “loyal”? Their reply: “We had never thought about it before.”

More than that, isn’t physical culture supposed to be about keeping yourself fit and healthy, rather than garnering some sort of, yes, pornographic fulfillment in the physical accomplishments of others?

As to current events, we all know someone who is absolutely obsessed with keeping up with what’s going on. But, why? If you truly are a fan of Obama, how does his “triumph” of passing Obamacare make up for the fact that in all likelihood, it will actually destroy your current plan? How do his endless vacations help you personally? If you happen to be Black, how does his success help you personally? Is their some vicarious thrill of putting down The Man?

In the end, it is all escapism…pornography by another name. Imagine if people had to face their lives of quiet desperation (as Thoreau so elegantly put it), without this crutch?

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  1. rings true with viewers, if not TV critics, this week: his network won Monday primetime among 25-54 year-olds who are the currency of news programming ad sales with programs featuring exclusive interviews with two key figures in the trial. At 9 PM, Piers Morgan Live was cable news’ top-rated programming in the demo. The show featured Morgan’s interview with Rachel Jeantel – the last person to speak to unarmed teen Trayvon Martin before Zimmerman killed him with a shot to the heart. An average of 678,000 viewers in the age bracket watched her tell Morgan that Martin feared Zimmerman was following him because he “might be a rapist.†That’s Morgan’s biggest audience of that age since his show launched in ’11. (FNC competitor Hannity logged 424,000 viewers in the demo and MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow snared 263,000).

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