From shock to ‘shlock’ value
On TV, “shock value” is deemed to be a “plus” factor, because it jolts viewers into paying rapt attention to whatever it is that producers and directors are dishing out. Sometimes, however, TV people get carried away, and shock turns to shlock and sensationalism.
Recent examples of this excessive enthusiasm for “extreme” visuals were on view last month on “Taboo USA” on the Discovery Channel. In just one telecast, the “in your face” program introduced slack-jawed viewers to a living, breathing vampire, ragtag members of a Satanic cult, and a wacko “teacher” who trains other women to—behave like a racehorse! Huh?!
The “real” vampire was first sinisterly shown to be thirstily cruising around for likely “suppliers” for his addiction. After a creepy while, however, the coverage admitted that there were few sellers to be had, so the vampire resorted to his usual suki supplier—who, unsurprisingly enough, looked really gaunt and depleted!
It was all so dismal and unrewarding that shock quickly turned to boredom and irritation, and the viewer ended up grumpily thinking, “If you’re going to pull my leg, you’ve got to do better than that!”
Ditto for the feature on the Satanic worship cult, whose members similarly came across like kulang sa pansin types. The big to-do was over their version of the crucifix, which they hung upside-down, à la St. Peter’s legendary demise.
What took the cake was the “human racehorse” tutorial. It involved just two people, the teacher and the apprentice, and both were obviously loopy characters who were in it to flaunt it!
For our part, however, we found the equine “tutorial” seedy and sad, especially since both participants were over the hill and ready for the glue factory.
Not being born yesterday, we also smelled a redolent “dominatrix” undercurrent to the smarmy proceedings, with a big to-do being made over the whips, mouth and vision restraints and saddle involved in the exotic “sport.”
The saddle made it possible for the human “horse” to be ridden, to sensual effect—but, the actual outcome was more of a funny-pathetic turn-off, because the participants were both so well along in years—no frisky fillies, they!
Lessons learned: If you’re going to do a “shocking” show about taboos, make sure that you make them look enticing, not sordid aberrations peopled by the sad detritus of life scraped from the rancid underbelly of human society.
In producing a show about dreaded turn-offs, the last thing you want is for viewers to throw up their hands and give up on the show itself.
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