Macchars don’t wear sweaters

Voyeurism and Us

Posted on: January 7, 2009

I write not from the elevated vantage point of someone who has been there, done that, moved on, and can look back and pontificate. I write as a person who has been there and is there still. There’s no denying that humans at large do have a propensity for voyeurism. You might not be, but people on the whole are. There’s always this compelling need to find out what goes on behind closed doors in neighbors’ houses, catch our fellow humans with their proverbial pants around their ankles, to know what doesn’t concern us.

This need is manifest in the tremendous success of soaps (especially the saas bahu version) which depict elaborate family politics, reality shows which grow increasingly invasive, the thriving paparazzi brigade and even “serious” media reporting on personal and frivolous subjects, celebrity magazines/shows which seek to capture and broadcast the tiniest aspect of stars’ lives, the proliferation of scandalous mms clips which spread like wildfire, or even curious crowds gathering around a fight/accident. This emerges perhaps from a deep seated need to relate our private selves to the outer world and find parallels in the environment, parallels which are hard to come across in public and social life. Or it is a primal need which cannot be deconstructed, a dark side of human curiosity.

Nowhere does the temptation to peek inside the keyhole become more overpowering, than when there is no threat of social sanction or reprisal. An assurance that “noone will know”. God knows what humanity would be like if we were all “invisible men”. And with the advent of the internet, the ability to digitally travel through the vast network of wires in the world, enter peoples homes and lives through their computers, this impulse for voyeurism has found new expression. How many of us bolt ourselves in our rooms during twilight hours, plant ourselves in front of the flickering screen, the dim glow almost hypnotic, and watch and do things which we would rather not have the world know.

Some voyeurism, I guess, is of the “consensual” brand. The desire of the voyeur to see, overlaps the desire of the subject to be seen. This would hold true in the case of most varieties of porn (minimum age of consent applies) where the players perform their acts for the very benefit of the drooling onlooker. Or social networking sites and blogs, where our profiles and pages are a self managed PR campaign. We put up details of our lives (only good things please) for everybody to see (crushes preferably), and have private conversations in public forums (orkut) (almost like a group of girls talking in loud tones for the benefit of a group of guys standing by, who are only too pleased to listen in). Us wimps, who would rather type out our profession of love than say it, have never had it better. Also reality shows, where participants seek to show the world how adorable they are in pajamas in a bedroom setting, and the world is interested. This calls for an article on “Exhibitionism and Us”, which I shall undertake if I am able to escape the barrage of chappals that shall fly in my direction for being nosy and judgmental.

The other darker, sinister brand of voyeurism, is what raises questions for us humans. Here the subject is truly unaware of being observed, and is hence completely defenseless.

I would not say the inherent tendency for voyeurism is greater or more emergent than in past times. But the conditions are certainly more conducive than in previous eras. What was seen only by one pair of eyes, can be recorded easily and be put up for a million eyes to see on the internet.

Advertisements

4 Responses to "Voyeurism and Us"

Fluent rounded flow of words with no sharp corners. I wish you had the aggression to do something with what you have.

“This is not strange, Ulysses.
The beauty that is borne here in the face
The bearer knows not, but commends itself
To others’ eyes; nor doth the eye itself,
That most pure spirit of sense, behold itself,
Not going from itself; but eye to eye opposed
Salutes each other with each other’s form;
For speculation turns not to itself,
Till it hath travell’d and is mirror’d there
Where it may see itself. This is not strange at all.”

I would reply that, by looking at one thing, you can surmise ten thousand. This is what is meant by the statement that you can come to know all under heaven without ever going out of your garden gate. But a fool will have doubts, saying, “I have seen the sky in the south, but I have not seen the sky in the east or west or north. Perhaps the sky in those other three directions has a different sun in it from the one I know.” Or he will see a column of smoke rising up beyond the hills, and although the smoke is in plain sight, because he cannot see the fire itself, he will conclude that the fire may not really exist. Such a person is my questioner….. or person of incorrigible disbelief, no different from a man with sightless eyes!”

Nichiren Daishonin(1222-1281)

there is a voyeur in each one of us. whether we admit to it or not. curiosity always gets the better of an inquisitive mind. of course one wants to know whats happening in the neighbours house. one needs to know how the neighbour behaves when no one watches? does he do what i do in the privacy of my own home?

the reason for this obsession is that we civilized people live two lives. one is for the world to see, appreciate, like, adore. the other is, well, for ourselves. we need the latter, to bear the former.

I myself have always wondered about people who gather to watch the scene of an accident. Not help, no..never help..just watch.

And I think our sense of double-think and double-live extends to the point that, at one point, all social interaction becomes little more than a permanently kept-up act.

Maybe people are so voyeuristic becoz they want to be reassured that other people, behind their facades are the same as them. Maybe.

Y’know while on the subject of voyeurism, I really liked this movie called ‘A short film about love’ that dealt with a young boy’s obsession with an older woman, an artist who lived across the road from him. Altho’ this suggests the obvious, the movie evolves into an incredibly poignant treatise on the nature of love and asks a lot of questions.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: