Sunday, June 16, 2013

Emotional pornography: talent shows and the division of labour

The division of labour, a revolutionary labour management solution, pioneered in early manufactures of the Cordovan Caliphate and later on in the Northern Italian city-states, has freed us from having to single-handedly in order . It has provided us with a constantly expanding range of ever-more affordable commodities, which have, no doubt, have our lives more comfortable.

On the other hand, it has made the work lives of most of us a bit of a senseless drudgery, whereby we are divorced from the purpose, or the final product of what we do Monday to Friday. With at least one third of our waking hours spent so, our life routine is boring and predictable. We have traded our lifetime on this planet for creature comforts and a promise of stability. 

However, humans cannot sustain on material welfare alone. Emotional consumption is at least just as important as consumption of market commodities. In fact, the two are two sides of the same medal: e.g., in retail therapy we seek an emotional high, the purchase itself being merely instrumental.

This is where very cunningly barges in the entertainment industry. Talent shows like X-Factor and [Fill In The Country] Has Talent shrewdly extract genuine emotions from starry-eyed hopefuls to peddle close-up images of ecstatic or devastated contestants and awed audiences alike to the jaded masses glued to their plasma screens. As shielded from this kind of psychological pollution as my largely media-free life is, I briefly found myself gawking at one after another YouTube clip of talent show stories, devouring the cleverly packaged emotional trips with an addictive gusto.

Scientist's analytic streak however quickly kicked, and I started pondering over possible repercussions of what this industry of emotional pornography does to earthlings. 

Firstly, this vicarious enjoyment of someone's cynically hijacked and broadcast emotions provides a powerful emotional kick to those whose lives are largely void of that. In some ways, it is not unsimilar to the common-and-garden masturbation to porn videos, except here one is exempt from any kind of effort to obtain gratification: it is delivered ready-made, pre-chewed and pre-digested, straight to your senses by a devilishly professional TV production team.

Secondly, it upholds an illusion of meritocracy, of a society with a speed lift of social mobility for the gifted. Never mind that most winners fizzle out into oblivion a few months after the show, abandoned to their own devices to deal with the aftermath of falling down from so high.

Thirdly, it also contributes to a culture of instant gratification, an illusion that success can be achieved if you only hit the right button at the right time, no effort required on your side. A generation of youngsters is tricked into believing that having a great voice or good looks will automatically promote you to the highest rungs of showbiz. The fact that such big-time entertainers as Beyonce and Brittney Spears have effectively had no childhood having to work non-stop to achieve their present position is conveniently glossed over, while the superficial trimmings of success - fancy clothes, shiny cars and glamorous lifestyles - enjoy a disproportionate, voyeristic coverage.

The neurotic conflict between the simulacra of the media-manufactured delusional desire and the reality of structural violence and social immobility is what one of the major drives of the 2011 urban riots in the UK. Simon Cowell and the Co. are most certainly among the actual culprits.

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