Thursday, 18 February 2010

Why channel-hopping is a bad idea

I really should only watch commercial-free television, at least when I'm alone with the set. This is because I can't resist flipping through the channels with my trusty remote while I wait for whatever I'm watching to return. I've been burned as a result, on three memorable occasions which left me fighting off disturbing images in my dreams and in my waking hours for days afterward. You'd think I'd learn.

There was the time about ten years ago when I stumbled on to a particularly vicious slasher film starring that noted thespian Corbin Bernson. As it was 4:30 on a Sunday afternoon, I was startled, horrified, and traumatized to catch a glimpse of a dentist using the tools of his trade to take revenge on a straying wife.

That cured me for a while, until 2006. Having been seduced by David Tennant (quick break for wishful thinking) into watching Doctor Who, I decided to check out Christopher Eccleston's episodes which CBC was re-running after midnight on Friday evenings. I don't know about your corner of the world, but Friday night in this corner of Ontario, which is in close proximity to the, shall we say, looser province of Qu├ębec, is Porn Night. Which, as a relative newcomer to Hades, I'd forgotten. Until I started flipping through the channels at the first commercial break: Lesseee...news...talk show....infomercial...YYEEEIIIKKESS!

See, I don't see myself as a rabid anti-porn crusader. I don't care for it; I don't think it's done any favours for how women are viewed in society, but I don't embark on letter-writing campaigns. However. I don't like being ambushed. Okay, maybe I need another word. Moving on...

You may have heard that Canada is hosting the Winter Olympics this year. If you're in Britain, your intrepid reporters have apparently been telling you that these are The Worst Olympics Ever. Well, maybe so. It's been less than a week, the Summer Olympics at Atlanta are heavy competition for the title, and I'm 3000 miles and three times zones away, so I wouldn't know. I would like to just gently say to the British media: Let's just wait until you're safely shot of the 2012 Olympics in London, shall we, boys? Just sayin'...

Anyway, we all know what the Olympics mean. Commercials. There are about fifteen let's-support-our-athletes-by-buying-this-crap ads in heavy rotation and we've been treated to them since last autumn. My fingers strayed inexorably to the remote....

Bad move, Persephone. On TV5, I was confronted by a rapid sequence of images of Nazis being hanged. By Americans, by Russians, by Poles... As you can imagine, the techniques varied in their efficiency. Frozen in horror, I failed to switch the channel before the documentary-makers felt it necessary to demonstrate why these fellows were being strung up. And I don't mean the stock footage of naked people being driven to ditches and shot, dazed prisoners staggering off freight trains en route to the gas chambers, or the bulldozers burying piles of bodies at Bergen-Belsen. You may want to skip the next paragraph.

A man in a laboratory coat is dispassionately flipping a naked girl. She's, I dunno, somewhere between six and nine. He's gripping her hips, and holding her out at arm's length in front of him, makes her body flick out like a whip, her head snapping back. Crying and crying, she hangs in the air with her knees drawn up to her chest and her back curved over. I couldn't bear to see what he would do next and flipped the channel, gasping for breath, leaning over my own knees.

I imagine, or least choose to imagine, that the makers of La Traque des Nazis (a documentary on longtime Nazi hunters Serge and Beate Klarsfeld) meant well. Why is it, then, that I feel this is feeding into yet another kind of porn? It seems to me that there is an appetite out there for footage of executions and tortures, ranging from those who get the glad-it's-not-me frisson to those who actually like watching this stuff. Does a documentary like this educate, or does it pander to such people? Does it stop such things from happening again, or does it provide (heaven help us) inspiration?

As for me, I've been sitting on those long bus-rides to and from younger daughter's school, gazing out at the bleak landscape and trying to chase away horror and despair with music. This was probably not the best week to get that Beautiful South CD out of the library (geez, talk about "bleak"), but there are songs on my iPod to make my heart lift for a while.

Here are a couple, if your heart needs lifting too. The first is a Great Big Sea standard, and happily, there's a classic 2006 music video by Almost Angst Free Productions (since we were talking about David Tennant and Christopher Eccleston, so why not drag Paul McCann, Tom Baker and Sylvester McCoy into it?): I've probably embedded this one before, but I don't care...

The other is brand new (to me). I was listening to CBC Radio Two yesterday morning while waiting at the bus stop and Bob Mackowycz said this one just makes him "melt". So he played it and I did some mean back-up singer moves in the fresh snow. Fortunately, the street was deserted. Although I did dance into the bus... Forty Days. Hmmn. Well, Lent began yesterday, so there you go. Giving up channel-hopping seems a worthy Lenten goal...

1 comment:

Jane Henry said...

Eek. That sounds hideous. With you all the way on our stupid meeja. Don't they have the wit to think we will have it coming to us BIG time if we cock up on the Games (and I am 50:50 about that. I WANT it to be fabulous but am worried it will be another Millenium Dome screw up). But then our meeja are nasty stupid twerps who can never stop criticising others. We probably deserve them as the great British Public does seem to lap this shite up.

Anyway, I disgress. Will look forward to hearing both tracks once have worked out how the children have turned off the sound on my puter...