Porn show: CSI: Miami

This is the follow up to my post on pornography: it is important to understand Aquinas's definition of pornography to understand what follows. To recap briefly, for Aquinas and Joyce, proper art (art that is filling its own unique function) produces an aesthetic arrest in the audience. Improper art (art being used for ends that are not properly its own) produces movement towards or away from, either by lecturing us (didactic art -- think Ayn Rand or some recent novel instructing us on how to think about race relations), or by producing in us a feeling of longing or disgust. The latter is pornographic art.

Once you have this philosophical definition of pornography in mind, rather than just thinking about explicit sex scenes, it is amazing how much of this one will find in, say, an ordinary TV show. I've watched a few episodes of CSI: Miami recently, and besides the "soft porn" of long shots lingering on women's cleavage*, bikini bottoms, and so on, there are at least two other types of porn that feature constantly in every episode I have seen:

1) Gore porn: Time and again, we get long shots of opened chest cavities, decaying inner organs, burnt faces covered with bubbling flash, pools of blood, deep stab wounds, and so on. These are not just shown briefly, with the goal of giving the viewer an idea of how horrible some crime was. No, the viewer is given long shots of the gore, and often at surprising times, such as in the middle of a conversation, which serves to maximize its impact.

2) Necrophilia porn: The doctor who examines the body handles each of them in a very erotic fashion, stroking them and calling them "sweetie" and other endearments.

I think this introduction of a variety of pornographic elements in a TV series is a deliberate strategy on the part of the producers. Each new pornographic impulse to which they cater garners them another 1 or 2% audience share. For instance, the people doing nature documentaries figured out some time ago that including some scenes of explicit animal sex picks them up a group of "animal porn" viewers, beyond their usual audience.

I note all this only because being aware when one is being manipulated can be valuable.

* It is interesting that while the male detectives all come in to work dressed fairly conservatively, all of the female detectives have their shirts unbuttoned down to their sternum, and look like they are dressed to pick up a guy at a bar.

1 comment:

  1. -- I really want to like Aquinas, but somehow his way of reasoning just doesn't appeal to me.

    -- Nevertheless, I agree with the basic point here. When I was in school, I quit watching TV for an extended period, and when I got out I found it absolutely cringe inducing. That to me is the 'porn' giveaway -- you see that the outrageous, cringe inducing unrealism is a form of titillation for people. They actually like it that way -- the more unrealistic, the better. And they become acclimated to it and eventually don't even notice it.

    -- Maybe the audience-expansion angle is the purpose, but I think there is more an addictive aspect. Whatever the case it isn't healthy.

    -- I think something like this is what Voegelin saw in sci-fi that was so off-putting for him. It is a sort of religious porn. Personally, I like (some) sci-fi, but I can see his point.

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