Generation V – The Age of Voyeurism

Come, look

I don’t think this generation can be called Gen-X or Y or any other letter of the English alphabet. I think we are in the midst of a growing generation of voyeurs. The funny thing about this moniker unlike the others is that it covers nearly everyone alive. The other categories seem to be temporal or spatial but not Gen-V as it stems from the basic (as in base) instinct of human beings. But I won’t meander through the thickets of taxonomy.

Till a while ago, all we had was Buniyaad-like serials. That and Nukkad made most of our TV viewing, excluding music programs. Then came Mahabharat and Ramayan with their special effects. Pan to the days of Saas-Bahu serials which had daughter-in-laws and mother-in-laws nod alike with vituperative glances at their foe. Soon viewers started connecting to the characters in the serials. It wasn’t uncommon to hear newly wed girls gossip about how much their mother-in-law mirrored the vile woman in so-n-so soap-opera. I believe men didn’t play much part in these never-ending soaps (except for looking younger than their daughters).

Till a long while ago, we had 19:30 regional language news followed by one more at 20:30 in Hindi and then another in English (if I remember the timings right). It would have been absurd to imagine an entire channel for news. It would have been considered the joke of mankind to imagine a 24 hr news channel. What on earth could ever happen 24×7? All our politicians would be asleep and we don’t quite care about some French premiere did with his in-house policies! Right? Fine, maybe there would be news for at most 4 hours in a day. Why would we need a 24×7 channel? 10 of them? Are you nuts?

Till a long while ago, newspapers were thin and the raddiwala came once in 2-3 months to collect them from us. We would be happy to see a few kilos balance the scales and a sum of Rs. 20 come our way. We would invariably buy some groceries for the kitchen and that would be it. International affairs would take 2 pages, sports, 2, domestic affairs would be 2-3, other states would command another 2 and the really local news would be a terse one page. There would be an editorial and reading the paper was a religious excursion into the words of the wise and informed! Why would I need a God-in-Gucci column? Why would I need a column about what celebrity X eats? The standard bulk of the daily in Bombay is a whopping 1 kg! Seriously, who can ever read all of that? It would require me to sit through the day with these papers and do nothing else. Especially, if I have to understand how Pamella Anderson’s sprung a leak and forced her into reducing her assets. Or why Rahul Mahajan picked D and not N and why the wedding was getting delayed which would need you to be informed about his uncle’s demise which would require you to be informed about the ceremonies surrounding death in the Indian communities, which would take you into an analysis of superstition in India and the atrocities done unto the Dalits and how Dr. Ambedkar was a great man before his affair was revealed, drawing a parallel with the affairs of great leaders like Nehru and Tagore (though not a real leader), finally rolling all of it back to the fact that Rahul Mahajan might not postpone his wedding because his uncle killed his father before ending in a serious debate about whether Rahul should forgive his uncle and delay his wedding with Sri Sri Sri … Sri Ravishankar commenting on the importance of forgiveness and marriages and blessing the newly wedded couple.

Which brings me to the then-and-now topic of weddings and marriages. I have always seen weddings conducted differently. Thank my lucky stars, I still see them being conductive in a manner I can understand. Along came the Swayamvar (and later Swayamvadhu) brigade and weddings are no longer what they used to be. Marriages are no longer what they used to be. Now everyone has to know how I chose the bride/groom, what I had dreamt of when I was 5, 10, 15 (puberty set in and we would have experts commenting on the effects of hormones on our conception of our mating partner and how premature conception happens), 20 and now at the age of 27 when I am finally getting married (no, I am not!). They have to ask 10 of my friends what kind of girls did I letch at (well, they were too busy leching to notice) and a tarot card reader to divine how my first night would be (the two of clubs show a rather masochistic night with the queen of cups showing drunk revelry). Oh! In those days, the first night was really the first night (at least in India)! FYI…

Welcome to Generation V (pronounced “generation vee” or if you wish to be cool you could pronounce it “generation wee” (not wee-wee) or if you wish to sound educated then you could pronounce it “generation five” or if you wish to sound Churchillish (or hellish) you can pronounce it “generation victory” or… well, you sure are jobless!)

This is the generation of voyeurs. Frankly speaking, every decade had it. Human beings, as such, are voyeurs. We would spy on the mating habits of tigers and rabbits (do you ever find them peeping into our bedrooms?), and the affairs and flesh display of our fellow human beings. We were always curious about how the neighbour made it rich. We were always curious why the neighbour’s neighbour was fighting with her husband. We were always curious and our curiosity led to voyeurism when all that we had in our life was surplus time to create and satiate curiosity and very little substance. We soon got curious about the actors on screen. We got curious about our actor’s pet poodle. We soon got curious about our curiosity.
With gadgets making life simpler and somehow people having more time on their hand than options to utilise that time: enter reality shows and reality content. I will avoid trying to sound preachy, but hey! I may slip. I will dwell on the voyeurism in news, TV programs, movies and relationships. Surprisingly, that covers 80-90% of most people’s lives.

Rakhi Sawant is a girl you might never marry. She is also a girl you might never want your son to marry and if you are old enough, you wouldn’t want your grandson to marry. People with grey hair (and missing teeth) would summarise RS in one or two words and they aren’t printable. This woman who has the least objection to doing anything on screen in order to get herself 2-10 minutes of limelight, hid nothing. She is gutsy, crude, stark and in your face (something else about her reaches you before her face can reach yours). I can’t stand her because she lacks the ability to articulate and is disgustingly pretentious. RS decided to conduct her wedding (called simply, Rakhi ka Swayamvar, which means: Rakhi’s ceremony of picking her own husband). You can read the details here. I was forced to see a couple of episodes (I was being fed at the house of a very dear friend and I played along). There were games and interviews and all the crap that one could manage to pack into a program (well, or so I thought before hearing about Emotional Atyachaar). RS acted the coy girl straight out of the textbook and continued to disgust me. She finally got engaged to a sleazy looking chap and later they broke up. Expected! All this, including the final breakup, swallowed hours of news channel time and pages of ToI and evenings of millions of people in India. Some kept saying “Oh! Come on, E. It is just timepass” and continued watching. I am sure Tom and Jerry serves as better “timepass” and retains our senses. Whatever! I thought the country would have learnt a lesson and would be wiser (but that, I learnt, is never true about this country).

Enter the drunkard and drug addict. He looks like a hooligan and comes from a family of politicians (less said about them). He acts like he has never seen a piece of feminine flesh and is known to have beaten up his wife and divorced her. That too, was a drama. His father was murdered and another drama conducted. This man would never feature as a model son/citizen/…/human being. He is the kind people use to scare their children into inculcating values and being educated. Mothers in far away villages tell their wailing child “So jaa, nahin to badey hoke uss ullu ke patthe jaise bann jaoge” which means, “go to sleep else you will grow up to be like that good-for-not-even-nothing scoundrel”. Ladies and gentlemen, please run away from Rahul Mahajan. He has nothing to his name except disrepute. He has no job. He has no qualification which will get him a job. He has no history which can be proudly quoted to get him a job. And he decided to get married ala RS on screen. I had the gross misfortune of watching one episode of this while lunching at a dear friend’s place. Her friend was addicted to this reality show and I had to wrench the mobile out of her hand as she was about to send her votes. I had to give her the math behind this SMS voting farce and she was too shocked to even notice that the program had ended (or maybe she just watches all of them in succession). I saw the last 3 girls. One of them was supposed to be extremely educated and looked rather refined. I was thoroughly disappointed to see someone supposedly so classy stoop to such levels. Her mother too joined in this drama. Hence, my conclusion that Gen-V spans age groups.

News channels have already come under fire for their callousness. Barkha Dutt, Rajdeep Sardesai and all the other cartoons of our news channels will not have the decency to stay silent and leave the suffering/embarrassed individuals alone. They will keep hammering them with tonnes of questions while the camera zooms in and out. I had already written about RS (no, not the Swayamvar-wali RS) and his coverage of the Taj Hotel incident. His desperation to be the first to report some disaster oozed out of his words. BD (jalaile?) is equally dramatic and usually insensitive to the individual’s situation while she continues to bombard them with questions and then turn rapidly to the camera with her conclusions. Western news channels had already mastered the art of invasive, voyeuristic reporting before India got its first 24×7 news channel and we obediently copied their style of reporting.

The coverage of the Aarushi murder was another incident which was sickening. The poor girl is dead and her family bereaved. Even if they were part of the murder, the media had no business prying into their lives in such a horrible and cheap manner. Aaj Tak and other news channels with their pathetic taste in background music insist on sensationalising every piece of news and every incident (which sometimes is not news).

Pan to the great scandal of the gurus. India is by far the most stupid nation in that it spawns more gurus per square yard than any other country. And this, in spite of the repeated scandals each one of them gets into. The latest is with Mr. N who was caught rolling on his bed with some actress devotee. My first question was, why does the nation care about what he does in his bedroom? My lifelong question is why do we need gurus when we do not have it in us to cultivate a spark of spirituality? If we had it in us, we wouldn’t seek gurus beyond the nudge they might be able to give us. All the well known babas and swamis and gurus and godmen have landed themselves in scandals. From the Shankar Mutt acharya to Sai Baba (the one alive) to this recent one with Mr. N and the supposed Bhagwan Kalki and Mrs. BK. As long as there will be stupid people, they deserve such knaves. I think it is only a matter of time before something crops up against the great guruji of our times who happens to bug the daylights out of me! But that apart, why was that camera planted in Mr. N’s room? Sting? Why broadcast it? The cheap thrills of watching some godman romp with an actress tickles Gen-V. If his words resonate with you, how does it matter whether he has sex with one or a dozen women? If his words don’t stir anything in you why use his sexcapades to justify debunking him. And in all this, why destroy his ashram and hurt his devotees who are perhaps nothing more than ignorant fools?

We want to know the bedroom-tales of every actor and actress, and if we have exhausted that list then we want to know about our neighbours etc. It is not about whether we are holier than them or not (though a lot of people like to collect these tales to reassure themselves that they are indeed holier then thou) but more about the sheer hollowness in our lives.

Would I, E, be watching these videos or reading these articles if I had a deadline tomorrow?

No.

Would I, E, be watching these videos or reading these articles if I had my child in the hospital?

No.

Would I, E, be watching these videos or reading these articles if I was reading an interesting book by Henry James?

No.

Would I, E, be watching these videos or reading these articles if I was out on a date with this lovely lady?

No (I’d probably just wake up)

Would I, E, be watching these videos or reading these articles if I was having a wonderful meal?

No.

I am not holier than thou but I definitely don’t watch TV (other than Discovery T&L, Discovery, Nat Geo, HBO, *Movies, Sony Pix, UTV WM, NDTV Lumiere and Cartoon Network) and I definitely don’t read the paper (other than to find out whether there are any food festivals happening or book exhibitions or whether what they said about Libra really happened!!). I have friends call in to tell me that something happened in the world around me. I don’t care, because my life has enough meat (no, I don’t refer to my friends thus) to run smoothly without the base entertainment of watching someone’s life lived out on screen.

LSD is the latest movie which talks about this Gen-V but no one is watching it with a meta-understanding of what this Gen-V is all about and what is happening around us without our noticing it. Perhaps LSD is fodder to Gen-V.

Reality shows, 24×7 news, newspapers with their sleaze state that they are catering to the demands of the people. Well, that is what pimps say too. That is what drug dealers say too. It amazes me to observe the double standards of people. No one I know will let their daughter sign up for the Rahul Mahajan drama or let their boy for Rakhi’s Swayamvar. Still, I know enough people who watch these programs. Somehow watching is not considered on par with participating. But in murder and in violence, an onlooker who let the crime happen is considered a participant. Aren’t these a violence done unto our sense of refinement and our standards of conduct and character?

If Dimpy Ganguly is considered cheap for whatever she did after show timings with Rahul M then why do you continue watching that program? Why would you watch a program where people are made to eat beetles or walk through a chamber of earthworms if you find it disgusting? Why would you watch MTV Roadies or the uglier Splitsvilla when you wouldn’t swear like that and consider it vulgar? Emotional Atyachaar is the scum of all reality shows feeding directly on our craving for soft porn. And if you think they are fine and there is nothing wrong in being part of it, then my next question is, do you have nothing worthwhile in your life to spend your time on? Is this all that you can do? If you answer in the affirmative, I wonder what are you doing here!! 🙂 There is nothing nice on this blog. I do not cater to the “Wow” seekers. I have nothing “Wow” on this blog.

Which brings me to Seth Godin’s article (for which I must thank K who shared it on Google Buzz before I did my periodic visit of Seth Godin’s page). I agree with him entirely in his observation that our attention span, our intelligence, our refinement our ability to pause is taking a beating and this is no new phenomenon.

And with this I tie back to the nature of content itself. Content is created with least effort for reality shows. The people presenting news are not putting a lot of thought into what they are doing. It take a lot to be intelligent and insightful. I am yet to hear of one line of insight that the BDs and RSs have produced. The same seems to plague literature and the world of the written word with chic-lit and college capers abounding. The likes of Chetan Bhagat wave their resolve to cater to the LCD with aplomb. Music today is nearly all dhanchuk-dhinchuk. Lyrics get worse with every movie. The urgency to get out there and grab people’s attention albeit for 10 min seems to be the sole motivator. It seems like a wife who cannot create genuine joy in the house and resorts to a quickie and considers her job done! The sheer effort required in producing content that is nearly immortal is what made some channels (BBC, Nat Geo, etc.) famous and fondly remembered. No one will remember UTV Bindass. The sheer lack of talent and worthy content seems to justify content providers to reel out low quality but high attractiveness stuff. So be it with blogs and the like. There are blogs which do nothing more than provide links to interesting content across the world (laziness) and some which are merely a collection of gossip columns and links to gossip columns around the world (high attractiveness). Good content need not always be only serious stuff. I had once pointed to two blogs which are seriously hilarious. Nothing about their posts provides food for thought, but they are simply hilarious and are not lazy or sleazy in the entertainment they provide. Being provocative too becomes a cheap trick if repeated too often.

So how should I conclude this? Hmmm… Generation – V is here to stay. No matter what I say and no matter what people think about the need to be refined, cultivated and educated, there will always be those who prefer the sleaze and cheap thrills of being a voyeur. You and I, definitely have the option of choosing differently. If your life lacks substance, resolve that and do not resort to the easy way out with lame entertainment. There is a huge difference between an occasional thrill and making that the only thing that can interest you.

More Reading (Will add more as and when I find them):

  1. http://livemint.com/2009/01/13212700/Can-edginess-and-voyeurism-con.html
  2. http://socialmediarockstar.com/voyeurism-social-media
  3. http://www.freireproject.org/blogs/media-voyeurism-–-when-reality-becomes-spectacle
  4. http://www.digitaljournalist.org/issue0705/heaton0705.html

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7 thoughts on “Generation V – The Age of Voyeurism

  1. I have read a couple of your posts – you indeed write very well.

    I have even used a little part of your blog in my post on Tom Alter's Maulana Azad play 🙂

    Cheers

  2. Henry James's writings are not interesting :-D…

    And DD had/has a lot of in depth analyses on all things literature, language, drama, dance – the arts – besideds of course the inevitable agriculture and cookery programs, in whatever regional language or dialect it may be.

    As I never tire of repeating, DD offers the best choice of programs, extremely interesting, sensible and more often than not, highly educating, day and night. Even now, most importantly now, than ever before.

    # Your post is comprehensive and quite brilliant revealing your mind's way of working.

    # One post a day should be the discipline. Be it short or long, the quality never suffers in your writings.

    Just sit and write.

  3. There is almost only one thing that I watch on TV – SRT creaming the ball through the covers and then raising his bat and helmet to the skies! 🙂

    But then, there is the other problem as well – Internet. It's as bad as TV. I keep switching tabs, following links, spending a few seconds on each and end up somewhere with no idea of how I turned up there. The consciousness invariably shuts down while browsing randomly.

    Perhaps that is the problem. Lack of consciousness – that is in fact the only problem. 🙂

  4. As a kid, I would often cry when something sad came up on TV. My father would tell me, ” Why do you cry? Would your tears change anything? You say ” how sad” and forget all about it. If you can do something, just do it. Do not waste time feeling sorry..” And that's why I read no news/watch any TV today. Because I can do nothing for flood/earthquake victims, stuck in my selfish life.. and soaps/reality shows are just plain irritating.
    And yes, this constant craving for action/excitement is ruining us. I see students who cannot sit through an hour of class without checking their cell phones atleast twice-on a weekend! Like Bertrand Russell says, ” a life too full of excitement is an exhausting life, in which continually stronger stimuli are needed to give the thrill that has come to be thought an essential pleasure ( no wonder the reality shows keep getting worse!). A person accustomed to too much excitement is like a person with a morbid craving for pepper, who comes at last to be unable even to taste a quantity of pepper which would cause anyone else to choke”

    We do not know to be silent.. so the clamour within transforms into noise without…

    Nice post dans l' ensemble.. 🙂

  5. Dear N,
    Welcome to this blog. glad you found something to your taste… 🙂

    Dear P,
    Gosh! It really must have been a long time since I wrote!! Look at you! You have become a school headmistress!! 😉 Henry James is ok. Mr. Woods thinks he is good. I will write, ma'am.

    Dear A,
    I agree…

    Dear P,
    Long time! Perhaps they check their phone because it is a weekend!! You raise a valid point about silence and noise.

  6. WOW 🙂 On the Point! I dont have anything to say about the mentioned programs because I've chosen NOT to watch any TV!! Seriously. I grew up 'Playing' with the children in the colony. Yes, the family was forever competing against the neighbors! Woe to me whenever the report card comes. Never got the First Rank! While the neighbor's daughter got it!!! Oh but I did make up for it with the Excellent in Studies Award! LOL

    High School and College – TV – From Buffy to Ally Mc Beal to Practice to Xena to Friends to CSI … pan it to Supernatural and Dr House MD and MASH 4077!!! Yea, chronological order is wrong. That's because I cut the cable and became selective of what I watched.

    OK, E tell me what happens when a child is born? The incessant crying, the lingering pain, the visitors … then, the TV !!! I've lived with families who have new-borns – Its the same everywhere. TV provides the lullaby. TV is the Baby-sitter, the nourisher.

    I'm not gonna quote some science or scientific journal but I do believe that this generation is the way it is because it has lost that 'bonding' with the mothers. Everything is a SHOW. Marriage, babies, children … If you have a talented child – PUT him on TV if you dont you are NOT a good parent, you are NOT nourishing the talent of the child!!! WAH WAH WAH Kya logic hai! *yea, being sarcastic*

    Its no more, thank God Alhamdollillah I have such a good child / husband / wife … OH NO One HAS to show off just how good their 'Things' are to the outer world and get praised – then they know that what they have is indeed the Best!

    *One of the reasons I made my blog Private – I did not want the praises ! And now the reason I did end up making a Public Blog along with the Private one … I blew a fuse in my head when I saw that even the BEST amongst the youngsters can be pressurized and I thought – I've got to make a stand!

    Will man ever understand the pure happiness of beholding a Gift from God which is meant for him and only him and not derive a perverse pleasure from showing it off!?

    PS: Good to see you back 🙂

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