Hopefully I’m not the only one reading this who is old enough to remember Candid Camera. Once one of my favorite “grownup” shows to watch with my parents, this early “reality TV” show would secretly film people in in ridiculous–and totally staged–situations. Their embarassment would grow, along with the studio laughter, until host Allen Funt appeared to let them in on the joke.
There’s been a couple of times I’ve suspected I was being filmed for a new version of this show, like when I took a “relaxing” Tai Chi class that ended up being taught by a sado-masochist martial arts teacher who showed us all the ways he could hurt us. . . by hurting us. Or, the time I took a Zumba class that was so ridiculously hard, I was certain I could here the studio audience laughing at me.
The show has been on my mind lately as yet another video has gone viral, though this one isn’t funny at all. You’ve probably seen or heard the story of the bus-monitor grandmother who was filmed while a bunch of middle-school boys called her names and poked her as she tried to maintain a stoic demeanor. There have been plenty of others before this, of course. Perhaps you saw the secret video an abused daughter made of her father beating her for “disobedience”. There are audio tapes of autistic children being berated and humiliated by their teachers in school. I remember seeing surveillance video of a mom beating her child into her car seat in a store parking lot. Even a blogger was caught in a lie when the TSA revealed video that seemingly cleared them of her accusations.
Strangely not all of the videos are “gotchas”. The grandmother-on-the-bus video was made, not by some Good Samaritan hoping to “catch” the bad kids, but one of the kids himself who did it because he was in on the “joke”. I’ve heard of several other videos where kids tape themselves beating someone up or stealing and then posting them proudly on YouTube.
I don’t think all this videotaping is making us a kinder society or even a more thoughtful one. But every time I see or hear of a videotape that catches someone doing something wrong or malicious, I get Allen Funt’s voice in my head. Though no one is smiling.