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A Painful Obsession This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This work has won the Teen Ink contest in its category.


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How many times on television shows, in movies, or on the Internet have you seen someone suffering, being hurt, or murdered? Today in the U.S., entertainment has become obsessed with the pain of others. From reality TV to YouTube videos, people seek to escape their own problems by watching others being hurt and humiliated. Like the gladiator matches of Roman times, reality-show contestants are pitted against each other with prizes of money and fame dangled in front of them. A shocking number of Internet videos feature humiliation and suffering. Movies have also become extremely graphic, and the violence has been brought to an unprecedented level with more and more explicit depictions of death.

Reality shows like “Wipeout,” “The Challenge: Cutthroat,” and “Survivor” require contestants to endure various levels of pain and humiliation to win. In “Wipeout,” viewers take pleasure as contestants flail and fall as they navigate a challenging obstacle course. Whenever I watch this particular show, I find it hard not to laugh at the contestants as they are flung through the air. One particularly humorous segment features the “Shake-a-Lator” – contestants must cross a platform that jerks and shakes beneath their feet, causing most of them to fall off into the water.

Another show that exhibits the pain of others and has been successfully running for 21 years is “America’s Funniest Home Videos.” Many of the videos are of the slip-and-fall variety, in which innocent people get hurt in stupid situations.

Like reality shows, many videos on YouTube exploit the pain of others as a form of amusement for viewers. One example is a three-second video called “Go! Bwaaah!” In this clip, a little girl is playing with a large golden retriever while holding its leash. She throws a ball and shouts to the dog “Go!” The dog bolts, dragging the girl with it like a ragdoll, causing her to fall face down on the cement. As she falls, she shrieks something that sounds like “Bwaah!” The first time I saw this video, I struggled to suppress my laughter, but as I watched a second time, I was disgusted with myself. That video has had over 2 million views, with 16,000 likes and not even 300 dislikes. There are hundreds – maybe thousands – of videos like this on YouTube.

The depiction of someone getting hurt and the humorous reaction it causes is nothing new. This type of comedy is called slapstick. Probably the most well-known example is the Three Stooges. In each hilarious episode, Moe, Larry, and Curly are accidentally injured in exaggerated ways. The difference between the slapstick humor of the past and the entertainment of today is that instead of skilled actors faking getting hurt, now the pain and injuries we are laughing at are real.

Even in movies, screenwriters and special effects artists create new and ever more graphic ways for characters to be maimed and killed. In the movie series “Saw,” everyday people are abducted and put through gruesome trials or “games,” often resulting in their death. These movies showcase many squirm-in-your-seat moments that leave you wondering how the horrific scenes are conceptualized and made so realistic.

Another example of how movies have become more violent and gruesome is the film “127 Hours.” This movie is based on a true story of an overly confident solo hiker who becomes trapped in a crevice with his arm pinned under a boulder. Being ill-prepared, his only escape is to cut off his arm with a pocket knife. It will be interesting to see how audiences react to this graphic, gut-wrenching scene.

With our newly evolved slapstick humor, it seems as if we have reverted to a semi-barbaric society. Similar to the Roman Empire, we have become fixated on the pain and humiliation of others. We live in a great and powerful society, much like Rome in its glory, but if we ignore the lessons of the past, we may unknowingly contribute to a decline of our own.

I believe that many factors are causing this obsession. The rapid expansion of worldwide connections is one of them. Global news reports show us images of graphic true events and suffering affecting thousands of people around the world. I believe this causes us to become desensitized and less shocked by individual misfortune. As a result, the entertainment business must up the ante to get a reaction from its audience, whether it’s humor, fear, or pity.

In the 20 years since the World Wide Web was popularized, the ability to share information has grown exponentially. Also with the availability of digital video cameras, anyone can record and upload a video to the Internet instantly. Finally, it seems that many people watch others being humiliated in order to escape their own troubles. For these reasons, entertainment on TV, the Internet, and movies has become obsessed with the pain of others.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

This work has won the Teen Ink contest in its category. This piece won the April 2011 Teen Ink EBSCO POV Contest.





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DarkIsThyThought said...
Apr. 20, 2012 at 8:55 am:
I have to agree with RomanScholar. The romans were very innovative and intellegent.
 
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BlueRainThis teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. said...
Dec. 31, 2011 at 8:48 am:
I don't really see the major draw either. If I do see those shows, I really only laugh at ones that don't cause them major harm. About the humiliation part; the clips that are shown on AFV are sent in by the people who filmed them. It isn't just taken off Youtube or stolen from someone's website. They basically volunteered to humiliate themselves on television, which is their choice. Which means that when you're laughing, they're probably laughing along with you. In a real life situation, howe... (more »)
 
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RomanScholar said...
Nov. 19, 2011 at 4:02 pm:
The Roman Empire was more than a barbaric nation that killed and hurt other people. Stop continuing this incorrect idea. Read about the Romans, the true Romans who were hardworking farmers and merchants, and then you'll see Rome was more than a bloodthirsty empire.
 
RomanScholarMyButt replied...
Nov. 25, 2011 at 10:04 am :
Umm.. Sure Romans were hardworking and nice little famrers until their peak. The "bread and circus" provided by the governemtn to please the people with blood and death reflects that they were far from being nice little craftspeople and honest merchants. This article isnt dissing Romans.. its just making good connections to the past about our society. And in my opionion, the corruption, bloodlust and evil that led from the "bread and circus" led to Rome's down fall soooooo there take that
 
USA!Alltheway replied...
Nov. 29, 2011 at 5:09 pm :
bro.. speak english man.. yo no comprando
 
KatsviewThis teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
Feb. 2, 2012 at 8:52 pm :
This article was really good. Congrats, and this made me think a lot more.
 
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KelliBThis teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. said...
Oct. 4, 2011 at 12:02 pm:
I vote five stars! What a great way to make your point. I find your article very thought provoking.
 
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freakshow108 said...
Apr. 18, 2011 at 3:24 pm:
Listen, dont go whining about the bad stuff that people do on youtube and in movies. If you dont like it dont whatch it. If people want to do stuipid stuff then let them do it and dont ry to stop them.
 
notaloneinthisworld replied...
Jul. 18, 2011 at 11:13 pm :
"Listen, do not go whining about the bad stuff people do on Youtube and in movies. If you do not like it then do not watch. If people want to do stuipid stuff then let them, do not try to stop them."
 
DarkIsThyThought replied...
Apr. 20, 2012 at 8:52 am :
Ha Ha.You are stupid.
 
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HannahBanana23 said...
Apr. 15, 2011 at 2:03 pm:
I love this... and yes i have this problem too. i absolutly love wipeout it is my obsession. i love love love watching them fall and flail into the water.
 
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MediaGuy4 said...
Apr. 1, 2011 at 11:22 am:
Are you a Cumberland High School Student?  Nice Article!
 
CircleJerkAlert replied...
Apr. 8, 2011 at 10:46 am :

WEEEEEEOOOOOOHHH WEEEEEEEEEEOOOOHH

 

 
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