Dallas, TX –
I watched someone interviewed on CNN who averted being buried in a massive avalanche that engulfed her neighborhood. Describing this, she pronounced, "It was like being in a movie." I knew what she meant, but weren't movies created to emulate life, not vice versa? Somewhere in the 20th century, art imitating life became interchangeable, and seemingly undistinguishable, from cinematic simulation. If none of this raises eyebrows, can it at least raise some questions?
I frequently see my next door neighbor Billie's pre-schooler viewing crime shows like C.S.I., Law & Order. Nonstop. A blood-soaked body here, a strangled rape victim there, dismembered body parts. Shocked, I asked how Billie feels comfortable letting a five year old see this, to which she replied, "It's okay. It isn't real." In other words, if it's merely some hideous reenactment of gruesome gore, why bother and shield it from our children.
Which brings me to a disturbing email I just opened from a well-meaning friend showing a grotesque car wreck. Allegedly the driver had been texting on his cell phone before rear-ending a stalled truck. The photos showed the man cut in half - literally. Although I appreciate this friend's intent, I wondered; had she seen so many mutilated bodies on small and large screens that she was no longer affected while I remain haunted to my core?
Ironically, I've seen bloody bodies firsthand; a murder at 19, the young suicide victim I discovered hanging in the woods. I've written about both. Despite or because of this, I find no dissociative escape from revulsion when witnessing violent death. Fake or real. Including hearing 911 tapes commonly re-played on news casts; a mother screaming as her boyfriend kills her daughters. What public and whose prurient interests are being served hearing those personal audio replay nightmares?
Reading news and opinion blogs, witness their blas disconnect. One local online journalist wrote about a young father, murdered as he ate a box of fast-food chicken in his car. To wit readers, using anonymous monikers, posted cracks about fried chicken franchises. So called 'snarky' snippets that other online subscribers, including friends and relatives of this slaughtered man, could freely read. But those joking behind the curtain of cyberspace mean no harm. They've come to see news stories as I might a TV Guide synopsis. And blog comment posting? Simply veg-out escapism; where life becomes abstract; a real-is-unreal video game mutation. The lines so blurred by tech-laced sensory overload abuse that actually being there becomes "like being in a dream".
Rawlins Gilliland is a writer from Dallas.
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