Horror Movie Right There On My TV

534e01c691d9be30b605d95d8b29bb2cTo be completely transparent, the focus of this post is death and how it is portrayed in the media. I’ve held it back for weeks because of the bleak theme and I’m dreading the prospect of this heading my blog until I write something more cheerful. This is a genuine content warning, I even made myself depressed writing it. If you are new to my blog, it is not normally this dire and I promise the next one will be about kittens, unicorns or rainbows. Please leave a comment, your feedback is always welcome.

I don’t possess much curiosity. I’m not tempted to open a door that forbids me to enter, if someone taunts me with ‘I know something you don’t’ I frustrate them with my indifference and if a news reader warns me of distressing footage, I leave the room. I’m not devoid of it, there’s that little bit of morbid curiosity within me that makes me crane my neck to glimpse a bingle on the motorway. And while it is founded in curiosity (‘what’s happening?’), there’s also worry (‘is it someone I know?’) and concern (‘are they OK?’) and empathy (‘I feel for them’). And I think it exists to offer us resilience and the bravery to run towards the fear and offer help.

Seeing and living tragedies is clearly different to watching them with a more detachment on television. I clocked a fair few childhood years before I noticed any news broadcast. I suppose my parents switched the TV off if they deemed the content too ‘adult’ but the first news event to register with me was the Challenger disaster. It had a huge affect on me – image after image on every channel of the shuttle disintegrating in mid air. We learn about the crew members – five men, two woman. One of those a teacher who had children my own age. In my pyjamas, from the comfort of the living room, I realised “we are watching these people die”.

This thought has never left me. From the Hindenburg disaster to more modern day events, whether accidental or intentional, whether captured on film or digitally recorded – we are watching people die. And sometimes I think we forget this basic truth, we become so mesmerised by the spectacle we lose sight of the tragedy. On TV you can watch those sensationalised documentary programs investigating serious traffic accidents, plane crashes and heinous crime. They break the incident down into such fine increments you are almost able to relive the terror. Some of these incidents are only a few years old. What about the families of those who died? Were they asked? Are public tragedies public property? If it’s not your country is it legit?

How do we decide what footage goes too far? Does it depend on who, or where? And if it’s worthy of the warning “some viewers may find the following images distressing” – why show it at all?

I receive chain emails from friends. They contain light hearted jokes or cat videos or cute animal pics or beautiful photography, but occasionally something upsetting seeps through under the guise of humour. Like a Porsche with its roof peeled back because it drove under a truck – real traffic accidents in which people have died. They were probably released into the public as lessons against speeding or drink driving – at what point does this deserve a funny caption?

The chain email that lead me to write this post had a video attachment, simply titled, ‘That’s not a handrail!’. The footage began innocently enough on a train platform in India. In the background your eye gravitates towards a man walking atop an electric train who then accidently takes hold of the live wire. He dies. I will not describe it. I thought I was going to be sick, it replayed in my brain for days as my brain tried to process its horror. I feel sick now making myself remember it. Perhaps more disturbingly, someone I knew emailed it to me and they didn’t feel revolted by it.

In this digital age, there’s an ever increasing likelihood of capturing disturbing events on film. I’m not saying we should remain trapped with these horrendous visions in our minds, or relive them as we first saw them. It is natural for us to heal and adjust, but I don’t want to lose sight of what I’m looking at. I don’t want to become immune to the horror, because if I become immune, then it’s not horror, and if it’s not horror, then what is it?

Then what are we?

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5 thoughts on “Horror Movie Right There On My TV

  1. Oh, my God. What sort of person would send you a link like that – particularly if they *know* the effect it will have on you – and expect you to find it funny? I’m like you; I also remember the Challenger disaster extremely clearly as being one of the first major ‘world horrors’ of which I was aware, along with the famines which inspired LiveAid, and I also find things like the ones you described incredibly hard to take. I find myself getting extremely moved by things I see on news stories where people have suffered and died, to the point where my husband worries because I seem to be crying all the time, and I can’t even think about watching a video like the one you were led to watch.

    You make such a good point. If we lose our sense of what we’re looking at when we watch these things or see these images, then we erode our humanity. We lose our empathy and compassion. We burn out our capability to feel moved by the suffering of others, and instead we’ll start to turn away, uncaring, from the real agony going on in our world. That leaves us all vulnerable.

    Powerful post, Kate. Thank you for writing it.

    • Thank you for your comment. I am really sorry about the topic.

      I suspect the person who sent the link to me *didn’t* know the effect it would have on me because they themselves weren’t affected by it. I suspect (my God, I hope) that it wasn’t sent to me because they thought it funny, but because they detached themselves from it enough to find it morbidly ‘fascinating’ – which makes it remotely (really remotely) better. It’s worrying that they weren’t aware others would find it upsetting. I know I do feel things more deeply than many other people and tear-up quite easily – my husband worries too!

      I’ll post something cheerful to replace this in a day or two. xx

      • Don’t be sorry about the topic – it’s important. I’m glad you posted it, though I’m sorry if it caused you distress to write it. That’s what a blog is for, after all – writing about what’s important to you.

        And, sometimes, I think the greatest value of a blog is finding that you’re *not* alone, that you’re *not* the only person who thinks about things in a particular way, that there are people who share your views. I find that comforting! So, don’t apologise for what you choose to post. I’m grateful for your blog.

        Have a lovely evening. xx

  2. I have to admit I’m not as easily shocked by videos where people die as those where animals are hurt. It’s enough for me to remember a photo or a video (and unfortunately I’ve seen far too many while signing petitions and being engaged in some animal rights activities) where animals were hurt and I start crying on the spot.

    It’s probably those images that are forever incrusted in my mind that make me less sensitive to people’s pain than I was before. Now that I know just how many tortures and horrors a man is capable of inflicting upon defenseless animals, I just cannot think the same about humankind anymore. I’ve become quite a pessimist. I used to think most people were essentially good and kind but after the last couple of years I’ve changed my mind. Now I think only a small percentage of people is really good or really bad. The rest are indifferent. And that’s one of the scariest things I’ve ever come to realize.

    • It really distresses me to see animals hurting too. We sadly seem even more willing to show upsetting footage of cruelty to animals.

      But I really want to believe that the good and kind humans are the majority.I REALLY want to believe that. Thank you for taking the time to comment. xx

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