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    The Age of Six Feet Under

    The title of this blog entry is also the title of a new book that I am developing for the University of Chicago Press. One of their top editors is an old friend and we have been talking about the extraordinary degree to which the contemporary environment in North America is dominated by various forms of hypochondria, paranoia and anxiety. This is more than post 9/11 worries about terrorism, although there is much to be concerned with, including the challenges of confronting the dystopic vision of modern terrorists. Hypochondria, for example, has become a social narrative, a way of talking about the world through the lenses of fear with respect to the human body, nutrition and disease.

    The book will also explore the television series, which in its narrative content and character development is not only superb television, but an exploration of precisely all the issues that surround mortality, love and apprehensions of death. While these may seem to be grand themes, almost clichés, the program manages to move far beyond the rather limited story-telling 'body' of television into a profound examination of the dynamics of family life.

    So, the book will be an in-depth study of the show and an exploration of of how mediascapes build the infrastructure to support anxiety in the digital age.

    My intention is to provide extracts of the book on this blog as I write in order to get feedback and suggestions.

    Reader Comments (1)

    This is an issue that intrigues me.

    My wife is an avid viewer of CNN and various other news networks for the past five years. She now is also a unbridled fan of Nancy Grace and I am given to wonder if this bombardment in human misery is not beginning to negatively affect her in no small measure.

    Everyday she updates me in the latest terrorist bombings, murder in exotic and, not so exotic, places, pedophiles released early to molest, rape and murder children and a litany of other “Jerry Springer��? type issues that play havoc on a human physic.

    While I do not argue the importance of being aware with respect to what is taking place in the world, I often feel that we are so over-exposed to the violence perpetrated by humanity upon itself that we are becoming increasingly, and, in my opinion. dangerously, desensitized to the world’s misery.

    One case in point is the media coverage of the BTK serial killer whose televised confessions can only be described as nothing more than gratuitous, journalistic voyeurism that has to impact the mindset of those who cannot fathom his rational or tolerate his thought process as given reasons for such mindless slaughter of his victims.

    Freedom of the press and the right to speak out on issue of concern is an valued asset in the advancement of civilized thought. The power of the media, particularly in democratic society, in protecting these rights is not arguable. There are times however, when I feel that the power of the media is not used wisely; the media does not hold itself accountable or responsible in terms of how their coverage of worldwide violence has on the physic of their viewers.

    I am not confident, given the importance given to television ratings, that we are likely to see a change in their attitude anytime in the near future.

    Ross Belyea
    August 18, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterRoss Belyea

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