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Thriving on the macabre

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Brutalised What’s the message in the TRP race
Brutalised What’s the message in the TRP race

Leave alone the children even adults cannot take in the blood and gore dished out by TV channels trying to out-scoop others. Serish Nanisettigives the low-down

8:07 p.m., Telugu movie channel; A bunch of street toughs surround a school girl, one of whom fishes out a bottle filled with a liquid. He threatens her. In steps the hero, who pushes the girl aside, just as the goon throws the water from the bottle on her. “What if it was acid,” says the hero’s girlfriend.

8:10 p.m., Another channel, a reporter is reconstructing a crime scene where a girl’s parents have been killed and the girl has a slashed throat. “Rajesh climbed this wall and raced into the house, where he confronted Srinivas’s wife and stabbed her...” he narrates breathlessly and shows the blood splotches.

8:11 p.m., Another channel, this is a chat show where the T.V. screen is spliced into three parts, one where the grieving girl her neck wrapped in bandage is carried on a wheelchair around her parents’ cortege, another segment is the anchor holding forth on how crimes against women are rising, the third part shows the macabre replay of a young man being beaten with his hands tied surrounded by a pool of blood.

The Telugu channels are calling it unmadam (fever/hysteria).

Is it just that? Gross? Grotesque? Gory? Mind-numbing? Did you surf away from the channel?

Apparently no. According to the rating agency which tracks TRP, this is what people want. Just last week one TV channel crowed that its TRP reached an unbelievable 30 points when the chief minister’s chopper disappeared. And they were the first to scroll the ‘exclusive’ footage of spinning dead bodies on a stretcher being winched up to a hovering helicopter.

The dead deserve dignity? Perhaps not in the age of race for TRP. Private grief – haven’t heard of it yet.

“We are treading a dangerous territory here. The repeated visuals of blood and gore may not just be responsible for triggering other copycat attacks by people who have nothing to lose and have low self-worth but will have the terrible consequence of lowering the threshold for violence and sensitivity in the general population,” says a psychologist.

“These images can traumatise or cause what is called vicarious trauma. These gory images get imprinted on the mind and they are hard to let go of and they play in the mind in a cyclical way. The other side of the reaction is the copycat syndrome where people with predisposition to violence can get ideas,” says Diana Monteiro, a counselling psychologist.

“Already we are a very, very desensitised nation. See the reaction of passers-by when they see a bleeding accident victim and you get the point. I don’t know how this will play out in the society,” she says.

To compound the problem, many of these communities which were bombarded with the visuals from their neighbourhood are far removed from receiving any psychological counselling. And as the crimes spiral and reports trickle in from places Miryalguda, Rajahmundry and Warangal news is increasingly becoming a collective trauma experience.

Yes, we have become a communications society, but what we are communicating is the big question.

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