Skip to comments.Masochism TV : Why do we keep watching unpleasant shows?
Posted on 02/27/2014 4:30:06 AM PST by SeekAndFind
Okay, Im all caught up. Done bingeing on House of Cards. Cant quite shake the sight of Frank Underwood decapitating the minority whip during the State of the Union . . .
Oh, right. SPOILERS. But everyones watched House of Cards by now, right? That was one hell of a season ender. Even though the entire Congress, the Supreme Court, the cabinet members, and the millions of viewers saw him lean forward and whistle the scimitar, saw the head bounce down the steps. You know hell get away with it; the only question is how? You hope he gets away with it, too. Franks interesting! He talks to us. Takes us into his confidence, spills his secrets, shares his wisdom. Franks cool.
Right? Well, hes a Democrat indeed, the entire show seems to exist in a world where theres just one party. This leads the suspiciously inclined to think were supposed to admire Frank. He may be a snake, but he can be counted upon to vote for extending the Family Leave Act to cover an 18-year break. More likely the shows producers didnt believe that someone like Frank could possibly be conservative, because hes smart and utterly self-aware. A Republican version would have to project a façade of morality while secretly downloading underage Thai ladyboy videos while speaking in tongues. Besides, the show requires a phalanx of Decent Government People who want to move serious issues through Congress and help people, and such people do not exist on the right. So thats off the table.
Party affiliation aside, Franks a monster. Married to a monstress. The second season began with Americas Hot Power Couple, Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey) and his wife, Robin Wright, whose severity makes the Ice Queen in Frozen look like Drew Barrymore in Firestarter. Theyre clad in black like ninjas, running through a nighttime park in D.C. Thats it. Thats all you need to know. Swift figures of stealth, at home in the dark.
Are we supposed to like them? No. Cheer for them? No. Boo and hiss as comeuppance gathers in the wings? Who knows? Im pretty sure that when Frank did something very, very naughty in the first episode imagine, if you will, LBJ kicking a reporter out the door of Air Force Two in flight we were supposed to be caught off balance and shocked, and we were. Grateful, even, if you want to be honest, because (all right, seriously, SPOILER) that little reporter looked like a sullen elf whod just had an electroshock treatment.
But is this entertainment? Why do I want to hang around with these people for ten hours?
Its masochism TV, a new genre. The grittier the show is, the darker its premises, the more Important it is. The prime example is The Walking Dead, the main point of which seems to be: There are probably a couple hundred people left in Georgia. Lets see how long it takes for them to kill each other. While its an unsparing examination of a Hobbesian world where people stage pitched battles for the possession of a can of cling peaches, it is unrelentingly joyless, fetid, miserable, violent, hopeless, and filthy. The occasional happy ending goes something like this:
RICK is in the woods with his SON who hates him. RICK falls and breaks his ankle. SON shoots approaching ZOMBIES but runs out of bullets. As the last ZOMBIE approaches, its head is cleaved from its body by STRONG GLOWERING FEMALE. Before he passes out, RICK smiles, because he thought she was dead. AUDIENCE is momentarily uplifted.
STRONG GLOWERING FEMALE is alone in the woods, having been sent on a mission by THE SCREENPLAY WRITER. She is suddenly surrounded by ZOMBIES, all of whom she dispatches by driving an axe into their foreheads. She is covered with viscera. She hears a twig snap and raises her axe, only to see three people who have been wandering the backroads in search of SEASON FOUR, where they will be sympathetic or bothersome until they are captured, raped, and eaten. COMMERCIAL. Hey, look at this car! Man! That things a beaut.
It never occurred to anyone to head north for the winter, where zombies would get stuck in the snow, fall over, and freeze, and you could just chainsaw the lot and relax for a while. No, we have to spend a season hunkering down at a farm where the crazy old mans got Zombie Ma chained in the barn, then come to love the old guy because hes full of farmer wisdom, and then flee the farm for a merry season in a prison where everyone gets some strange barfing flu. Because if theres one thing a show that features bloody torsos crawling their way through spilled guts and severed limbs needs, its the barfing flu.
And yet I watch every episode. Why? It has a moral center: Rick, the law-enforcement officer whos trying to keep some semblance of humanity and order, who has every excuse for shedding every civilized inhibition but still seems to wear a star nonetheless. Ive no doubt the show will end with his complete and utter punishment for being our symbol of hope.
But. If youre a 16-year-old boy, its awesome, just like the online mayhem where you fire rockets up your buddys backside and send him two stories in the air is awesome, or a Grand Theft Auto mission where you run over a guy who flips up in the air and gets hit by an airplane is awesome. None of it means anything. Its just, you know, fun. If youre older, House of Cards appeals for the same reason: Watching bad people do bad things over and over. None of that means anything, either.
Are there any greater lessons to be learned from either show, wrapped up in a Telling Commentary on Our Times? Sorry; no. Walking Dead is literally about the 1 percent dealing with the ravenous demands of an unproductive class, but the show doesnt go for allegories. House of Cards might suggest that we think our ruling class is either despicable or weak, but distrust of Washington is not exactly a newly bloomed rose heretofore unseen in our communal garden. Dead concerns itself with keeping alive the essence of humanity in a dying world; House is about moral decay in a monumental, manicured world at the height of its strength. You could drop either one in any decade past and it would fit.
Neither is attractive; both are compelling. I wont miss an episode of either, but I know what Ill feel when theyre done. Relief.
The good thing about these type of shows (and all reality type shows) is it broke me of my addiction to TV.
I am a child of television. Back when broadcast were limited to about 16 hours a day (the day ending with the National Anthem and a test pattern) with only three channels to choose from. A time when at least the message on television was of hope, and good does triumph over evil. A time when for the most part families consisted of a mother, father and children, and the children were while not perfect were respectful of their elders.
None of that is true today. What is being shown on television is changing our nation. (Simple point. If what is shown on television did not have an effect on people, why do businesses spend billions of dollars are advertising?)
Of course television has had an effect on our nation.
Today, with 700 channels, 24/7 there is almost nothing on I want to watch.
So while there may be three TVs in our home, they are not used much anymore. Thank you Hollywood for breaking my TV habits, I think I enjoy my life more more now.
TV? Who watches that stuff? There are still books to read, right?
Why? I don’t . I haven’t paid much attention to any television (sports included) in 23 years. That is right about the time I purchased my first PC. My wife and children, they still watch regularly. (I must say that True Detective has very recently caught my attention. MM is outstanding as is the dialogue with WH who is also very good along with the actress who portrays his wife. I don’t know if I’ll watch every episode. I don’t even know why it caught my attention.)
Television - I have not missed it at all. The “programming” is disgusting.
I don’t watch unpleasant shows. Real life is about all I can take.
I am always amazed when a show with 10 million viewers and people act as if everyone watches
I remember seeing a few episodes of the original BBC series “House of Cards.” Didn’t really get into it, though.
My tv is either on MLB Channel, TCM, UP Channel, or RFDTv. when it is on. I haven’t watched a network tv show in over 20 years. I also will not watch the latest “greatest show on tv” mini series about zombies, dirt bag meth cooks, bikers, poilticians, or any other loser.
“I dont watch unpleasant shows. Real life is about all I can take.”
I agree! Give me an old Miss Marple mystery or even an old Perry Mason ‘Made-for-TV-Movie’ (remember those?) and I’m happy. Cooking shows send me to the Moon!
I don’t have cable/dish so co-workers are always trying to get me to rent/borrow and watch this or that gory series...and then they WONDER how I have time to read, bake, garden, sew, crochet, remodel my house, etc.
I don’t watch most of the garbage that is put on the TV screen.
TV producers are fascinated with people being rotten to other people. It’s the main theme of most shows. They go out of their way to search for and find examples of the lowest kind of human behavior.
There is little difference between the “news” and the shows. Both seek out and promote interest in anger, strife, mayhem, injury and murder.
The “news”: fire, blood, accidents, rape, shooting, robbery, scandals.
The “who’s your daddy” shows were the last straw. Promoting and glorifying the condemnation of children to a life without a normal set of parents, in order to sell trial lawyers’ services.
This, on the other hand...
I’m down to NCIS, Arrow, and Downton Abbey; waiting for return of Warehouse 13. Do watch the odd episode of Man vs Food and Diners, Drive ins, & Dives
Last night, I watched a 1942 movie starring a teenaged Shirley Temple. Cute show, but badly colorized: her teeth were blue half the time!
Now that Discovery, History, Nat Geo, Animal Planet have pretty much gone "all redneck, all the time", I'm just about ready to cut the cord.
Gosh reading all the posts so far, it appears I am the only one that watches TV. I saw both seasons of House of Cards and it is great. Well thank goodness we all have different interests.
I’ve never watched either of these shows.
Vikings is dark but entertaining.
We tried to watch “Breaking Bad”, but it was depressing.
(No TV in my house. No loss.)
I like TV and do not plan on giving it up. Haven’t watched this show because it doesn’t interest me but I like watching TV at night. Only watch cable channels though. Don’t like network shows.