(un)Real TV

This week French TV screened a new ‘reality’ show entitled, “The Game of Death.” Contestants were invited to defeat their opponents by giving them near-fatal electric shocks. Happily, these shocks were not real. The ‘opponent’ receiving the shock was an actor and the electrical supply wasn’t even connected – but the people playing the game didn’t know that. 82% of contestants went ahead and administered the shocks anyway.
The producers of the program claimed it was an experiment to demonstrate the way in which so-called reality TV blurs the boundaries between reality and fiction. It seems that people were easily encouraged to abandon their own principles once they get in front of the TV cameras. Was it just the build up of adrenaline or the exhortations from their hosts that led to their lack of compassion for the other?
Since ancient times humanity has always had to battle against its dark side. Gladiators in Rome fought one another to the death for the entertainment of the crowd; warriors in countless wars have committed atrocities in the name of the orders they claim to have obeyed. Yet, each of us, when it comes right down to it has a choice about the way we behave. We can choose whether or not we harm another person. By seeing another person as an opponent or enemy we distance ourselves from them and make it easier to hurt them. One of the dangers of TV reality shows is that they often pit people against one another, dividing them into winners or losers.
It is hard to understand why people are entertained by the pain and humiliation of others, if indeed they really are. However, there must, presumably be an audience for this type of entertainment or it wouldn’t get made. Even in TV no one has cash to waste on programs that have no audience.
Jesus taught that all human beings are valuable, and the two main principles of his teaching, love God and love each other, point the way to life in all its fullness which is so much better than a Game of Death.

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