Monday, 27 July 2009

Guilty of more than just incivility

Clearly I’m missing something here. Modern culture can be airheaded, boneheaded and braindead, as I’m often prone to point out at these electronic pages and others have thoroughly diagnosed, but something recently made me wonder if we all might have underestimated how bad it is.

Even as Sophie Elliot’s murderer was preening himself in the witness box last week, the news media was covering him like the new hero of a “reality TV” show. And even as New Zealanders were crying out in disgust that “this murderous butcher was too evil to watch,” the same news broadcasts in which this bloody killer was allowed to star were advertising, guess what, a whole TV series in which the hero is a serial killer -- “a show about an unrepentant mass-murderer who mutilates his victims,” advertised as my friend David McGregor tells me with oh-so-clever lines like "Who put the Laughter into Slaughter" and "Who put the Fun in Funeral."

“Sick” doesn’t fully describe what that says about the culture. That such a show can be paid for, produced and advertised, and obviously finds an audience wide enough to appear at prime time on local TV says something bad about the culture which gives it house room. It’s bad enough that films and TV shows running short on plot ideas resort to having their protagonists hunt for a serial killer or two – in fact it’s almost a sign that you’re about to see something untouched by human minds – but a TV show in which we’re invited to empathise, sympathise and follow around the life, loves and adventures of a psychotic “thrill killer” must be some sort of sign we’re approaching rock bottom.

On this at least I’m with David. I mourn the loss of our civility.


  1. Well, I guess I'll be the first to say, I really enjoy Dexter. A blog comment is too short a place to explain the layers of morality that the show wraps around Dexter (brilliantly played by Michael C. Hall) and the way it challenges viewers, with the central question, perhaps, being "can murder ever be justified?". It doesn't hurt that the show is smart, stylish, funny and filmed beautifully.

    TV3's lowest-common-denominator advertising, insenstively displayed during the Weatherston trial, is a separate matter.

  2. Oddly enough, Luke, a close friend recommended the programme to me a while back. (I've never seen it).

    And I must point out that she's somebody who shares my general disgust with much of what airs on TV.

    Back to the post: "We all might have underestimated how bad it is", PC? Not really. It's gradually been becoming more airheaded for many years. Combined with the culture of celebrity-at-all-costs, so-called 'reality' television is/was its natural conclusion.

    I believe that the advent of the internet has enabled many to spurn television for entertainment and information and, as a result, lose touch with what screens -- particularly during primetime. There's some real crap out there.

  3. I agree with Luke, the irony is that Dexter is actually quite a deep show, and is a lot more than just "lovable serial-killer). I constantly found it quite thought provoking, and it certainly made me question my values a lot of the time. Don't bag it until you've seen it.

  4. Seconding Luke and HerrSchnapps. Is on my "must watch" list, which means I'd have bought the dvds had it not made it to tv here....

  5. "Killer Serial: It's really time you started watching Dexter."

    After reading that, I'm even less likely to.

    Pop psychology in the service of popularising evil. No thank you.

  6. Try it before you bag it. At least it can be enjoyed for the excellent writing and creativity involved in producing it. It's a favourite show of mine.

    Reality TV, no writing, no talent, just a giant waste of space. There's something worth ranting at.

  7. Elijah Lineberry27 Jul 2009, 13:14:00

    I had never heard of the show until now, but gosh, the premise sounds bizarre and revolting.

    How on earth does a producer walk into the office of a Network Executive and say "Bill I have a great idea for a TV show; it is about a serial killer, a chap who is quite mad and goes round killing the rest of the show's cast throughout the series; can I have $20 million to fund production please?"

    Bill, presumably scratches his chin and says, "Yes, Bob, sounds good; here is the funding let's get stuck in and have it ready for the new season"

    The mind boggles...

  8. "How on earth .."?

    The same way somebody thought it a great idea to line up two dozen attractive young women, house them in a gorgeous location and have one equally attractive young man routinely "date" them all in front of a camera crew until he finds "the one".

    Or house/locate a bunch of idiots together and film them, supposedly all day every day, for the home-viewing public to vote off one at a time leaving "the winner" to take whatever prize is on offer.

    Or frighten the pants off volunteers with increasingly ridiculous "tasks" until there's a winner. Urrghh to the lot of them.

    Correct, Greig. Definitely worth ranting at. A lot. :)

    "Dexter" might not be for me at all. I might loathe it. But I'll take the recommendation of people I know and whose opinions I value over anything else in the first instance.

  9. I have not watched TV for over 6 months now. The internet has everything I need and more.
    It's hard for me to see myself ever bothering with TV again in my lifetime. Well, enjoy the drivel and second hand fantasies, TV watchers.

  10. I have not had TV (as such - meaning I do not have reception of broadcast TV channels, and I do not subscribe to SKY or whatever)for over 2 years now - best thing I ever did.

    What a waste of a life - sitting in front of that THING.

    I have a TV and hire movies of my choice out if I want to watch it

    I have not had to watch nannys drink driving campaigns , anti smoking stuff, bloody adverts, reality tv Coronation/Shortland street or campbell live - and I thoroughly recommend it.

  11. Anonymous - calm it down, you sound like a born again non-smoker! ;)

    Tomahawk Kid - You never HAD to watch nanny's admonishments. It was always your choice. Unlike paying for them, little choice there I'm afraid.

    Why do people think there are only two options here? Give up TV entirely, or have your brain sucked out by lame programming 24/7? We're people. We can choose. If there's nothing on, cool. If there is something you like, watch it (skipping ads where required). Nobody has a gun to your heads.

    I work with a guy who makes that sort of argument. It drives me batty. Acts like he's superior because he has no TV. Of course, he also believes in fairies, so you know... ;)


1. Commenters are welcome and invited.
2. All comments are moderated. Off-topic grandstanding, spam, and gibberish will be ignored. Tu quoque will be moderated.
3. Read the post before you comment. Challenge facts, but don't simply ignore them.
4. Use a name. If it's important enough to say, it's important enough to put a name to.
5. Above all: Act with honour. Say what you mean, and mean what you say.