Tuesday, August 30, 2005
It's horrible to know there is a devastating hurricane about to strike. As Christians we pray for those affected and maybe make preparations for relief efforts after the storm passes. But in the meantime we wait to see what happens. And these days, that means we turn on the television and watch news and weather reporters standing outside in high winds, heavy rain and dodging flying debris. It's on the Weather Channel. It's on CNN. It's on NBC. It's on about a dozen stations on my satellite dish.
The reporter, like Mike Seidel above, cannot simply tells us how heavily the rain is falling; he must give us some visual perspective. Hence, we have what I call The Blowing Reporter, or TBR. A lone figure, silhouetted against a background of rain falling sideways, struggles to keep the wind from knocking him out of the camera frame and keeps himself looking as calm as anyone standing outside in a hurricane can possibly be.
I'll admit it can be very addictive, watching TBR. It's as if your eyes are not able to be diverted until the camera is off. What is it that we're trying to see? Do we truly need to know what a 100 mile per hour wind looks like? Are we simply amused with the sight of a guy trying to keep a jacket hood up or a ball cap on? What is it?
I think there is, submerged somewhere deep within us, a desire to see something happen to the reporter -- not something truly serious, but something we'd later see on America's Funniest Home Videos. True, there are probably a few people who would chuckle at seeing TBR knocked senseless by a flying stop sign, but for the most part we just want to see the unexpected. Most everything on television is scripted. That's why a live broadcast is usually very popular -- we might get to see something go wrong. It was that kind of thrill that made Saturday Night Live such a popular show in the mid 70's. Usually television is so predictable and "safe". Even reality TV isn't so risky as a live Janet Jackson halftime show.
At some level we like seeing things go wrong. We enjoy seeing the mysterious de-mystified. We like seeing the high and mighty brought back down to our level. We salivate at the thought of Martha Stewart going to prison. So when we see a normally blow-dried and perfectly made-up reporter turned into TBR, we enjoy it. We actually root for people to fail. Or at least to look foolish.
Is it jealousy? Is it a need to make ourselves feel better about ourselves? Maybe both. I'm sure it's different with everyone. I know that I like to root for the underdog, but I'm not one to hope for someone to mess up their lives so that I can feel better about myself. However I know of people whose joy is found in the failure of others.
I believe it's much deeper than hoping to see a live blooper. Establishments are prime targets to be brought down. Some people resent the rich and want to see them brought back to earth -- better known as "the way I have to live." Corporations must all be corrupt if they are making money. The powerful don't deserve their power. The rich don't deserve their money. The intelligent don't deserve respect because they aren't as smart as they think. The mindset may be subliminal to a degree, but it's very real in many circles. TBR is often just a scaled-down version of this inborn inferiority complex.
I know people who make it a point to try to disprove everything they learned growing up in Sunday School. Is it a personal reaction to past failings of the Church, an attempt to escape personal responsibility, or a desire to see Christianity toppled and disproven? I can't read minds, but again I would imagine there's a little of everything in many of those folks.
So is watching TBR and hoping for a blooper a sign of our depravity or just an innocent way to while away the time? I'd pose that watching TBR and hoping to see something go wrong is evidence of our desire to be on the same level as those we regard as being above us.
But then again, I could be all wet. Just like the average TBR. ;-)
Postscript: My prayers for all who have been affected by Hurricane Katrina and their families.