Sunday, October 27, 2013

Paranormal Unreality

From the movie Evil Thing.
Paranormal reality shows.

Off and on they've made their way into the mainstream. For years, before cable made it possible to have a legion of shows chasing ghosts and telling ghost stories, we had the one off specials (about ghosts, Noah's Ark, Bigfoot, Nostradamus, faith healers, etc.) on the big 3 channels that would come and go. And then there were the syndicated shows like In Search Of (with Leonard Nimoy).

And for a while, several years ago, we had Most Haunted, a British series, that was creating ripples. I honestly thought that when it faded, and most of the copycat shows on American cable came and went, that would be it. How naive.

No. These series still persist and seem secure for the foreseeable future. They are cheap to make. You send out a small crew, with no celebrities to cater to. Head to small towns (though sometimes a big city) and film with some low cost night vision. Add in some cheap suspense music, and some quickly shot reenactments, and you have the standard fare of Paranormal Reality TV.

We can add to this that the paranormal is a booming lucrative field now. There are courses to teach on chasing ghosts, conventions to front, books to put out,  spirit hunting tech to get orders for, and t-shirts to peddle. And there is NOTHING wrong with consumerism. When you pursue a hobby or field you are passionate about, funding it is fine. But the fact is that this is a profitable field to be in. You can get rich off of it.

And audiences do love their scares,whether they are taking these shows serious, or not. It's just that they are not a good source of learning. I think it was put very well on an episode of the Atheist Experience many months back:
Matt Dillahunty"... You know those shows say, 'Will they find the Loch Ness Monster this week?'. No! Because it was filmed 6 months ago and if there was anything real to it, it would have been news everywhere. We wouldn't have had to wait for the advertisement for this show. And there wouldn't be 93 Ghost Hunter/Medium shows, none of which seem to apply for the million dollar prize. TV is not the source for good information for all sorts of things." 
Martin Wagner"It's TV, an entertainment industry."
And like the old 1-900 numbers for psychics (that say/suggest it's all for entertainment purposes only), people can take these shows too seriously, use them as final proof.

So what can you do? People will watch what they do. Trashy reality shows. Tedious sitcoms. Stuff that is so bad that it's good. It's all a matter of taste.

At a minimum, we can all try and make people more aware and conscious consumers of reality TV and the paranormal. It is worth trying to express just how reality TV works. The tried and true tricks of TV. The assumptions they try and make us make.

So I'll occasionally look at some shows on the paranormal, past or present, and try to draw out the oddities of the worldview/logic/perspective it tries to weave into reality, and the tricks of TV.

It is possible that ghosts, goblins, wendigos, water spirits, mothmen, and Zak Bagans are real (It's just so exceedingly unlikely, that there is no sound reason to act as if they are real. It would be like carefully walking to avoid the chance of stepping on invisible ferrets. Nothing is proven, just assumed to be true.). But if somehow they are real, these shows are usually a horrible way to show it.


More on the money making industry.

It has been interesting to watch the paranormal field interact. If you listen to shows (podcast and radio shows) you hear how much of it connects together. And if you listened for awhile, as the business side started growing, you saw how shiny new tools on the TV shows became the hot new item you could order.

Some people will continue to make their names making K2 meters, or whatever the next generation of must have tool is. Also you have conventions where you can pay and be able to go out with your favorite paranormal investigator to some, possibly, haunted house. It can be rare chance, and a pricey one. Then you have all the sites (alien landing/haunted) open to visits. The people who own them, or run tours of them go on the various radio shows/podcasts and talk about the things seen. And that helps drive interest in visiting. There is a very good reason so many of these shows end up on The Travel Channel. It is about tourism. And that is about money. It all is about money.

Same thing happens with comics and gaming, and the conventions that are put on. Difference is that you are buying comic books and checking out video games, while at paranormal conventions...? (But if you believe, I assume, you probably see the value.)

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