Entertainment: the experience of watching or attending an event, whether it is real or not, whether it is happening right now or it took place in the past, and relishing the fact that you can watch it from a safe distance. The one being entertained usually has an intense curiosity about the subject matter they are watching and wants to get as close as possible to the scene, to soak up every fine detail – just like a voyeur. They want to “be there” with all their senses, but not really be there. They are aroused by the fact that they can get as close as they like, without having to experience any of the fallout, without having to be a participant in the story or event, someone that may have responsibilities, a role in the story and who may need to take difficult decisions that affect the course of events. Just like in a video game, where the player enjoys “feeling alive” living in the shoes of their fearless avatar, without having to suffer any of the risks or consequences.
Voyerism, as well as entertainment in general, is the ultimate high for humans: they get to “live” as a hero, without dying. This is why entertainment has often been compared to drugs. There is an addictive quality to being able to safely step out of your comfort zone, without even leaving your armchair. Whatever happens, it can’t affect you. You can always turn off the TV, switch the channel, start a new video game. The life that you are living as an avatar or a voyer is taking place on another universe, far far away.
The irony is that, while the voyer is having the time of their life in the virtual world, in reality they are sinking further and further into passive oblivion in the real world. Their addiction gets the better of them, as their real life can never measure up to their imaginary world in either vividness, color or intensity. Their real life sucks. They become permanent voyeurs, pursuing escapism to the point that entertainment actually DOES become their real life, at least in their head. The fakeness of the entertaining world ironically gives them so much more meaning than their real life. So much so, that they become increasingly unable to tend to the things happening right here, right now. To the things happening in their real life, which sometimes are more colorful, more vivid and more urgent, than the “happy end” entertaining world. The voyer is in for a very rude awakening.
But not just yet! Because the voyer has devised an ingenious way to further avoid dealing with their real life. What they do is, they incorporate their real-life events into the entertainment fantasy. Fires, floods, heatwaves are not news to them anymore. They are just images with sound. In their eyes and ears, they have simply become part of the entertainment. And in the final act of this saga, the voyer is suddenly being burned alive, but they still think it is all part of a movie, it is happening to someone else, somewhere else, far away. Even when the words GAME OVER flash up on the screen, they think that they can just take a loo break, press a button and start a new game.
(from the upcoming “Little Book of Doom”)
George is an author, researcher, podcast host, chemist, molecular biologist and food scientist. You can follow him on Twitter @99blackbaloons , listen to his Spotify podcast George reads George, sign up for blog alerts below, or enjoy his books