Tuesday, 1 December 2015

In which I discover that I have double standards ...

Australian jungle vine thicket - Wiki commons/Ethel Aardvark

I found myself watching I'm A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here the other night. I was, probably in equal measure, appalled and interested.
My husband muttered something about the series originally being a social experiment. I don't think it is now. I think the whole thing is designed for maximum 'entertainment value'. One of the contestants wanted to get 'back to my own life, where I'm in control'. 
And I thought of one word : Manipulation. 
These people are being manipulated, told what to do, at the mercy of others who decide whether or not they eat that day. And I think this is what would get to me if I went out there - not the bugs, not the hunger, but the relinquishment of control, of being manipulated.
But are we all being manipulated by those in charge of TV?
I don’t want to see ordinary people on my telly - I want drama, comedy, fantasy, fiction, proper documentary telling me stuff I don’t already know. When I put the telly on, I want to be taken away from real life.
Just as we are being asked to do our own supermarket checkout, we are now being asked to make our own telly. If I wanted to hear what’s being said down the pub, I’d go down the pub. These people surely don’t have equity cards - I wonder what their payment rates are like. It’s cheap telly and we’re all falling for a massive con.
But then I find myself transfixed by Gogglebox and I understand why the TV companies put on so many programmes like this. We have been persuaded that we enjoy it. We have been manipulated. 
File:Punch and Judy Thornton Hough.jpg
Puppet & crowd manipulation Wiki commons/John Puddephatt
I know that many people love and enjoy using Apple products but sometimes, when I see the new versions of expensive items released so quickly after the latest model, I wonder whether these new updates haven't been deliberately withheld in a cynical ploy to make more money out of the consumer. Aren't we, again, being manipulated?
But, as I said, Apple users love their products. Most of my own family are Mac and i-phone users and they tell me their equipment is the best. So, is manipulation all right if we are acquiescent? 
Hmmm ...
Isn't that what authors do - manipulate their readers' emotions? Now, in this instance, my immediate answer would be: I do hope so! 
There it is. I'm culpable. Or I aspire to be. And I do hope my readers go as willingly into the pages of my book and, further, into the time I'm writing about, just as willingly as those celebrities go into the jungle.
The dictionary definition of manipulation is 'to manage or influence skilfully.' 

I'd like to be guilty of that, please!

Other ramblings and insightful interviewees


  1. As you say, Annie, all writers hope to influence our readers, even if if is only to keep them reading until the end of the page. We struggle to find gripping openings to secure their attention, use 'hooks' to keep them interested - on blog posts, we're supposed to ask questions to get them commenting, use links to our previous posts to get them to read more etc. etc. Where does influencing stop and manipulation begin?

  2. Yes, it's a knotty one, isn't it? It was only after pontificating about the awfulness of the programmes that I began to realise how their tactics applied to the craft of writing, too. I like to think we writers do it for slightly less cynical reasons though :)

  3. I watch little TV and pick my viewing with care. New, Documentaries and some History and Science programmes - that sort of thing. Crime drama too...I have never watched a reality show, a Simon Cowall show (for many reasons, including had to see him when working in music), and I don't do Soaps, so most of what goes on is a mystery to me....praise be. The music biz is all about manipulation as is the movie and television industries, I really don't want my buttons pushed when in my own home. Bah humbug :) Nightmare getting my WordPress page to allow me to post.

    1. Thanks for your comment Jane - and I've just changed the settings on the blog which should make it easier for you to post in future x

  4. Great blog, Annie. And hopefully this comment will get to you. Anonymous was my easiest option.
    Dave Robertson.

  5. Most TV is pretty rubbish - which is a good thing for me as it very rarely distracts me from reading and writing.

    1. I have to agree, Patsy - occasionally there are some gems, but on the whole it is just cheap telly with the general public as the 'cast' - I feel sorry for young actors!