Have you wondered what we look like … ? (Halloween version)

It’s not just because of Halloween that we noticed this: a lot of TV shows find great joy in showing us the inside out ourselves. Perhaps I should be more interested what blood flowing through an artery looks like, or what the kidneys really look like, after all, it’s a little bit embarrassing to know so little about one’s own body. I’m rather fond of the books I bought my nephews that show the different layers of our bodies in 3D, and if not that, stick figures are my other go-to 😀 What value does having close-ups of injuries, of what surgeons see during surgery, of blood and gore have to the general audience? These shows are not mainly intended for medical students, after all…

Remember MASH? It’s an old show entirely about a surgical unit during the Korean War; if I remember correctly, other than some rare red splotches on uniforms, close-ups of the eyes of the medical staff, and eloquent speeches by half-drunk characters about the bloody business, the viewers were never subjected to even fuzzy images of the gore, let alone of close-ups of the human innards. Was that show any less entertaining? Did any poorer of a job in getting its points (and laughs, it was a sitcom after all) across? So in the fervor of anticipation of Halloween it seems natural to wonder, why do so many shows today, ones intended for the general audience, insist on showing gratuitous bloody close-ups that would make even a brave first year medical student flinch…

It reminded me of a poem I once read that describes what alien visitors would think of life on earth if they viewed us from above. The poet wonders if the aliens, seeing the many cars and the little soft creatures that cater to them, would ask if those soft creatures “[…] are they their guts or their brains?” (To avoid all confusion, humans are the little soft creatures :D)

And combined, these two thoughts bring up a question: if aliens could only learn about us from the content they see streaming, what conclusions would they draw from it?

I’m thinking that they might see an obsession with physical beauty and perhaps violence and gore? Maybe I’m influenced by one too many episodes with gratuitous gore. Maybe it’s the many inflatable creatures our more festive neighbors have covering the front lawn and even roof. We even have one neighbor who decorates not only his house, but the two houses to his left and the one to his right. Over the years he had to “expand” his show that lasts through New Year!

What do you think? If a stranger judged us by the content we stream/watch on tv, what conclusions would they draw about us?

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31 thoughts on “Have you wondered what we look like … ? (Halloween version)

  1. Love this post, EW. Thank you for linking to your piece on ‘beauty-ism’…good reading. And yes, a million times yes to your wonder about aliens and our blood and guts “entertainment”. I’m with you…and while some might need to rewind to learn about MASH, it’s worth the effort — as you said because it was no less medical because we only saw blood stains. And the humor? Ahhh…
    xo! 😉

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    1. Thank you so much, Vicki! I’m partial to what Hitchcock said about there being way more terror in the anticipation of the bang … Seeing what seems to be part of an anatomy class for a third year medical student in shows seems somewhat unnecessary? Why do you think shows nowadays feel they’re getting a leg up by showing a lot of the gore, in closeups? 🔍

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      1. Such a great question – the why…maybe because, all things considered it’s easier? I’m with you about loving the Hitchcock quote…let the imagination carry some of the load. But he was an artist, and some who make TV and film are nothing close – defaulting to the gore….
        Xo to you! ❤️

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  2. Yours is an interesting question! I agree about the obsession with beauty. I also think there is an obsession with criticizing the past because it doesn’t meet the expectations of the present. I still watch MASH reruns when I find them – but I know there are people who find it offensive because it contains whatever ‘isms’ they see in it.

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    1. Thank you, Marty! It seems like a strange combination for content to be obsessed with, “beauty” and “violence and gore.”

      On MASH, you will never be blinded by fluorescent-white teeth, by DD-breasted/size 00 nurses, faces without a single blemish, skin-tight, fitted clothes, all actors, including those playing generals looking like they’re still in school 😁 Tell me a sitcom in the last 5 years that meets all these standards, I want to watch it!

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      1. I find myself vacillating between hope and despair. My personality default is optimism but I see so much lately that makes me wonder if we can survive all the craziness and inattention to things that matter, like our planet burning up. But, as long as we have our entertainment bubbles and distractions, we are happy.

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        1. I hear you. I feel the same, but I find it harder and harder to maintain optimism. Do you feel that way, too?

          And it’s interesting about the entertainment bubbles: there was a game I used to play years and years ago where you had to keep the citizenry happy. To my surprise, how do you keep them happy? You build entertainment halls: movie theaters, different types of arenas… It doesn’t mean that people’s lives were improved, but they did have those bubbles. It always made me wonder if that was the case outside of the game…

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  3. I think strangers would find it odd that we consume content on TV instead of doing things, any things. Interacting with the world, being creative would, I guess, intrigue strangers more than knowing what we do when we are passive.

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    1. That’s a great way of looking at it, Ally. I saw this (great!!!) movie, years ago, where aliens first “heard” us through our transmissions, radio and tv, and that’s what they knew of us. And just like the observation of the poet, that a partial view might lead to a different perspective, the amount of time the collective we spend in front of screens leaves less time for “other” endeavors. Estimates, even pre-pandemic, range between 7-12 hours a day of time with our noses-to-the-screens. Maybe being passive the majority of our time, including sleep, is telling enough?

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  4. I think you, and that quote are exactly right. Humans would likely appear violent, narcissistic, egotistical and clearly have no redeeming value other than to be a food source if the aliens were carnivores. All of the gratuitous blood and guts and gore have sort of become the hallmark of our species but I think in general we (adults) are desensitized to much of it- at least the extreme versions one finds in the horror genres, slasher movies and video games…
    On a side note, I will always find the human body and it’s innards fascinating so even though medical shows are dramatized and surgical scenes are far from accurate I would be first in line with a scalpel and retractors if given the opportunity to cut into a fellow human. I would be sincerely happy to be invited to an autopsy as well.

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    1. One of the episodes of The Twilight Zone that stuck with me is about an alien race that came to earth with a book in their language. They invited earthlings to come visit their planet, offering transportation. After a concerted effort, earth scientists were able to decipher the title of the alien book. It was “Serving Humanity.” The earthlings were delighted and started to go visit the “subservient“ aliens by the millions. Eventually the earth scientists were able to decipher the contents of the book… it was a cookbook 🤯😈🤣

      Amongst the art, the music, the stories we’ve been able to create over the centuries, I see a lot of beauty. I hope I didn’t spread (too much) despair, that was not my intent. I truly do wonder why it is we have so much more extreme versions of beauty and gore in our content. Why do you think it is? I agree many of us have been desensitized to it (I still can’t watch it without flinching), but clearly it appeals to enough to continue down this route. Why is it the route that appeals to us?

      And I’m glad one of us is attracted by the innards and can be a medic. Stay close to me 🥰

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  5. I watch cooking and house reality shows, a few sit coms, and masterpiece of pbs…they’d probably think I was too cheap to get anything but basic cable

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  6. You have asked a very complex question! One that will have me thinking about in the coming week. I think that the appeal of graphic scenes is that we enjoy the feeling of visceral shock and excitement. I have read that some psychologists say it can be a healthy escape. For me, my healthy escape is walking in nature. A great post and follow-up discussion.

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  7. I see that you have noticed this tendency for fascination with morbidity, death and violent acts. I was just discussing reently on my blog how Zombies have entered the vernacular. Previous to a spate of Hollywood movies in teh ninetines, zombies were confined to African cultures or Haiti. Now there are so many zombie flesh eating creatures devouring flesh on our screens. This is the power of the media to influence and the visition is more and more revealing Why? I remember walking away from CSI forensic investigation shows where they repeatedly show in slow-mo the knife penetrating the victim’s body. Why is that necessary and they would repeat that scene over and over. My TV viewing is now limited to a few human interest documentaries or foreign films. Most of the Scandi crime fiction – in books and film does not go or see the need to go into gross detail about the violence, mostly it is implied. When Jo Nesbo went a bit far in one of his novels, he scaled it back as he and his audience was uncomfortable with that level of detail.
    As for Halloween, it is getting a bit out of hand, but my attitude is heavily influenced by not having grown up with it.
    Aliens might do well to keep away! Lol.

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    1. I’m with you on so many things! Yes, zombies seem to be a thing: a few years back (well before the pandemic), FEMA had a page on how to survive the zombie apocalypse. I know they were being funny, by way of explaining “any” apocalypse, but if it wasn’t a thing… they wouldn’t have done it!

      I’m also with you on the gratuitous close-ups of gore: why were shows like Poirot able to keep us entertained without a single drop of blood? I’m not looking for anatomy lessons 😛

      And as you see from the quote I used about aliens… 🙂

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  8. Undoubtedly the conclusion would be that we’re crazy and aliens would decide to move on. Maybe that’s the whole point of the entertainment industry: to save our planet through the appearance of insanity. 😉
    That a neighbor now decorates neighbors’ homes too?! Haha. That’s so priceless. It’s nice this person enjoys putting up decorations so much. Does Mark Petruska read this blog? I’m sure he’d be entertained by that too.

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  9. I feel the same way about unnecessary profanity and nudity. Hollywood is churning out unoriginal and copied stories full of that crap.

    As for the gore, MASH is a great example. I watched a Columbo episode recently where a guy got shot – no blood, no gore – he just clutched his chest and fell to the ground. Point made. No need for all the extra gore.

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    1. You and me, too! I sometimes feel that for the cost of one special effect they could hire another 6 writers and actually have a plot… 😛

      And, yes, I love shows like Columbo and Poirot where there is mystery, where it’s a thriller, where it’s funny (anywhere from Columbo’s just one more question to Poirot’s self centered little gray cells…), and there’s no need to peep behind your hand or avert your eyes. What DOES the gore add to the story?

      As Hitchcock said “There is no terror in the bang, only in the anticipation of it.”?

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      1. The Hitchcock quote has always been a favorite. It is so true!

        Hollywood relies too much on special effects today. Actors don’t even have to act any more. It is truly sad. I have blogged before about how disgusted I am with all the remakes of classic films. I hate them!

        I actually blogged about Columbo recently as part of a TV show draft I took part in. Will try to pass along the link ….

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        1. Loved the post on Columbo, and I feel the same way. Looks seem to supersede talent, and special effects are replacing an actual plot… And add a (heavy) sprinkle of blood and gore… just because? 😁

          To my shame, I haven’t included Columbo in my top 10 detective shows, though I must ask you: which one would you have Columbo replace on:

          https://endlessweekend2019.wordpress.com/2022/01/19/10-of-the-best-detective-shows/

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