Universalis, About this blog

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Dark Comedy

It was dark comedy on TV and it sickened me to think what it was really doing to people's heads. Specifically, their consciences. Here's a 14-year-old kid asking his mother's guest about his personal life, next he's describing to him the way his (the kid's) mother sounds while making love with his (the kid's) father. The guest's reaction is naturally one of livid outrage. However, this being a comedy, everything is portrayed as hilarious.

What's wrong with this? The show has once again successfully chipped away at the sensibilities of many viewers. What is outrageous was portrayed as outrageously funny. What was serious was portrayed as trivial. And because the subject was couched as comedy, the quasi-experience of the viewers ensure that the kid's behavior will be filed away in their minds under "funny" or "ho-hum" -- and will be recalled as such should this behavior ever be observed firsthand or from afar, e.g., told from another person's experience. A year ago, when I first encountered this "outrageously funny" series, my reaction was frustration. I knew several sensible people who found the show funny, and they're not aware that they are trivializing the seriously scandalous topics that was standard comic fare whenever they enjoyed the show. So my question really touches upon how human beings reach conclusions or form opinions about things. Without any contrivance, we can form very good conclusions and opinions about things based on firsthand experience, e.g., "Ouch, that hurts so I'll be more careful next time." Contrived quasi-experiences, by way of what we read about or watch on TV, can also be good in teaching us things, e.g., "perhaps I should also be more careful so that (which I've just read about) doesn't happen to me or the people I love." However, the contrivance in a show where adultery and even murder are portrayed as funny is dangerous because of the quasi-experience in having viewed that under the pretext of entertainment. You really do get confronted with the situation as portrayed on TV, but the way it is portrayed affects your judgment. One might never get involved in an adulterous relationship, but the quasi-experience of watching everyone on TV having one can certainly affect one's conscience. Everybody's doing it so what's the big deal? So when your brother or your sister or your best friend become adulterous, what will you tell them? Will there be enough shock and outrage to bring to mind the suffering and heartache experienced by their betrayed spouse or their children? Or will your mind react the same way it does when the same sort of development happens on your favorite dark comedy series? Will you grieve for the tragedy or will you shrug off just another fact of life (as seen on TV)?

I wonder...

No comments: