- Bainbridge (2018), Textual Analysis and Media Research, Part 3:Media Analysis, http://lib.oup.com.au/he/media_journalism/bainbridge2e/bainbridge1e_tools03.pdf
- Boltanski, Luc (1999), Distant Suffering: Morality, Media and Politics, Cambrinde University Press, 1999
- Kilborn, Richard (2001), The rise of the docusoap: the case of Vets in Practice, Volume 42, Issue 4, p. 382 – 395, London Screen
- Mills, Brett (2016), ‘If this was a human…’ Pets, vets and medicine, Volume: 11 issue: 2, page(s): 244-256, University of East Anglia, UK.
- Orelebar, Jeremy (2005), The Television Handbook, Routledge, Google Scholar
- Oxford Dictionary (2018), factual genres, http://www.oxfordreference.com/view/10.1093/oi/authority.20110810104856107
- The Conversation (2015), Why it hurts to see others suffer: pain and empathy linked in the brain, https://theconversation.com/why-it-hurts-to-see-others-suffer-pain-and-empathy-linked-in-the-brain-48336
Throughout this blog series I have tried to question and discuss whether factual television programs, including Bondi Vet, are dramatically fictionalised for human entertainment. Based on the secondary findings and analysis of Kilborn (2001) and Mills (2016) and my own primary research I believe that dramatisation techniques and narratives ARE used within this genre. Furthermore, analysis identified that these practices “foreground the humans rather than the animals” where individual emotion provides the greatest form of entertainment for viewers Mills (2016).
The real question is why? Why do we watch this form of media knowing that we are watching the suffering and potential exploitation of animals?
A quote by Madame Ricobanni discussed in BCM312 reads that “one would readily create unfortunates in order to taste the sweetness of feeling sorry for them.” By creating a show that surrounds the misfortune of animals we are able to gain an insight into human emotion and reactions regarding their suffering. Based on my personal reflection of viewing these shows I often feel good about feeling bad. Thus, a human-centrist approach has questionably become entertaining because it allows individuals to justify their humanity and values. The Conversation (2015) claims that “the ability to understand another person’s pain and form levels of empathy” allows one to relate to that person and thus find emotional and positive resonance within themselves. Although we are looking to potentially confirm our humanity by relating to other humans we are possibly missing the bigger picture. If we identify a need to create feelings of human reassurance, when we ignore the effect it has on others for personal gain, can we truly and honestly say that our morals and emotional values have been fulfilled.
Based on the findings of primary and secondary sources it is evident that a narrative structure exists in veterinary programs like Bondi Vet. However, based on the opinions of professional Dr. Darren, this may not necessarily be damaging to the factual categorisation of the show. Yet, does this justify the media’s ability to exploit the animal and their illness so that entertainment vale can be achieved? Is this ethically acceptable?
During the textual analysis, pets were often described by their owners as their baby, best friend or even gorgeous or handsome. Yet despite receiving these anthropomorphic qualities their pain and distress continues to be fully and explicitly shown on screen. Thus, it can be argued that the media cross an ethical boundary where animals are not given the same level of dignity as humans.
Mills (2016) core argument in ‘If this was a human…’ Pets, vets and medicine‘ is that animals continue to be exploited because a dominance relationship exists between humans and animals. Within the human-animal relationship Mills (2016) argues that “humans ability to make the decisions for their animals is evidence of how animals are constructed as objects over which humans have dominion.” Although I disagree that they are objectified, the argument is plausible in the truth that they can not speak for themselves making them an other that can be easily misused and misrepresented by the leading society or race.
Discourse analysis was able to identify components of this power association in Bondi Vet (Bainbridge, 2008). Whenever the camera focused on the animal the frame was taken so that is looked down at them. Alternatively human participants, including Dr. Chris and owners would be framed on a level angle (see below).
Additionally within the episode synopsis, Dr. Chris’s emotions and actions would often be described as “confronting”, “free vet care” and “has Chris saved him in time.” Based on this evidence, a power relationship is evidently emphasised. The viewers of the situations including Dr.Chris and the owners are seen as the central heroes that suffer the most emotional anguish. This results in a narrative like structure that consolidates humans as the most affected and relatable ‘characters’ even though it is at the expense of the real sufferers, the animals. They can simply be classified as another for of other that without a voice can be easily exploited in a social, cultural world run by a prevailing and stereotyped norm.
Dr. Darren is a personal friend and veterinarian that runs his own practice in the Sutherland shire. I sat down for a one on one interview to discuss veterinary television programs and his opinion on their structuring and overall ideals.
- Are you familiar/ or watch shows like Bondi Vet? What do you think of them?
I do not regularly watch Bondi Vet, but I have seen a couple episodes. I have watched a vet show that is based in Berry, Dr Harry, and some on foxtel. There is a big variation in the technical vet quality of what is presented. However, I like the fact they are popular. It is good for our profession and promotes us mostly in a positive light.
- Do you believe these sorts of programs are a true representation of your profession and what happens on a day to day basis?
In my limited exposure I think mostly they are accurate. I have sometimes thought “that is out of date, or that is incorrect.” But I think most of the time they do ok.
- Do you think these types of shows are dramatized for entertainment and to increase viewership?
Yes, there is some theatre that creeps into how they present life death situations. On the other hand when we have had visitors to our clinic they are often blown away with the pressures and emotions that both veterinary staff and pet owners experience. I don’t think it harms anyone. If these shows encourage owners to go to vets, demystify what we do, make us more approachable, its good for us and ultimately the animals who live healthier.
- Do you think a hidden part of your job that isn’t normally recognized is how much you need to console and comfort owners?
Very much so, this is an extremely hot topic at the moment in our profession. Many vet staff suffer with compassion fatigue, and suicide rates are very high. We are not trained counsellors and dealing with owners distress and grief is very difficult sometimes. This part of our job is definitely not recognised by either our training centres or community.
Analysis– I think one of the highlights of Darren’s interview was just how much he emphasised the emotional aspect of the veterinary profession, particularly in regards to himself and pet owners. Darren states that consoling and comforting owners is “very much” a part of his profession and that dealing with “owners distress and grief is very difficult sometimes.” Although Dr. Darren still maintains that their are elements of dramatisation that permeates these shows, it offers an alternative argument against Kilborn (2001) in Post 2. The dramatisation of human emotion at the expense of the animal, could be identified as factual because it is still considered “a part of the job (veterinarian).” Darren additionally supports that despite their theatrics, factual programs maintain a positive ideal around “the profession, makes us (vets) more approachable, and ultimately is good for the animal.”
However, can we question when the exploitation and representation of animals suffering for our entertainment may go to far? Click here.
Factual television is defined as a “genre of non-fiction television that documents actual events and people” (Orlebar, 2005). The genre falls under several terms including fly on the wall and observational documentary, implying an ideal of naturality. However, it is believed that despite this realness, popular media finds it difficult for these programs to fully interest audiences. Accordingly, they are often reconstructed to entertain as well as inform (Oxford Dictionary, 2018). Kilborn (2001) in his paper The rise of the docusoap: the case of Vets in Practice, suggests that a dramatic narrative like structure based on emotion is used to achieve this.
I conducted a textual analysis studying four Bondi Vet episodes which I accessed via FoxtelNow. The key study types included image text, framing and discourse analysis (Bainbridge, 2008).
Framing analysis allowed me to identify theatrical elements within each episode. Three animals are always filmed in a clear narrative structure. They are initially seen in pain or distress, followed by their admission to the Bondi clinic. For the remainder of the episode Dr. Chris treats and resolves the animals issue. Life returns to normal, post procedure, for the patient and owner.
Each animal is given around eight minutes of screen time. Six of which is dedicated to showing the animal during hardship. This is accompanied dramatic music, extreme close-up shots and an intense voice over describing the severity of the animals condition. These effects consistently had me sitting on the edge of my seat, and reinforced the dramatic narrative structure that Kilborn (2001) describes in his research.
An element of the show that surprised me was the amount of human involvement in the show. Even though the animal is undergoing medical treatment, the frame would naturally pan to the emotional grief of the owner. This creates a human-animal narrative that Mills (2016) claims renders the human aspect narratively interesting. Textual analysis supports Mills (2016) claim. The human owners are the ones making the medical decisions on behalf of their pets and are emotionally engaged in their well being. When interviewed they often describe their sentiment as devastated or heartbreaking.
Season 6, episode 14 is a perfect example of this. This segment followed the story of Grace and her paralysed sausage dog Freddy. Based on personal reflection I back Mills (2016) study because I was emotionally drawn to the sadness of Grace rather than Freddy. Kilborn (2001) claims that this attitude is not uncommon amongst viewers, it is simply “another dramatic element and ploy where human owners are more relatable and engaging.”
Does this make the television program no longer factual? Check out my next blog to find out.
One afternoon, while watching television I came across the pilot episode of the veterinary program, Bondi Vet. Bondi Vet is an Australian factual television series that follows the life of Dr. Chris Brown at the Bondi Junction veterinary hospital. During this particular episode I found myself watching the struggle of Zena, a rottweiler who had been deliberately poisoned with snail bait. Zena became very ill and was seen in constant distress and discomfort. On a personal level I found this extremely confronting and could not believe that something so distressing could be broadcasted on national television.
**WARNING SOME VIEWERS MAY FIND THIS FOOTAGE UPSETTING**
Did you feel overwhelmed watching Zena? Sad? Distressed? Did you get a sense that the filming went to far and exploited her suffering? Or did you not?
Within BCM312, concerns were raised regarding the exploitation of individuals who are economically and educationally disadvantaged on television programs like struggle street. Their media portrayal was established as the other. In addition, the representation of the animal in wildlife documentaries was discussed. Particularly, it was argued that voice overs within these shows depict a narrative that constructs animal activities in an entertaining way. This notion was linked to anthropomorphism, a theory based on the premise that we give human like qualities to animals. Both topics engaged my curiosity concerning the ethics behind this misinterpretation. More importantly it reminded me of the portrayal of Zena. Based on anthropomorphism if we give human like personalities to animals, can they be exploited under similar circumstances to poverty porn. As a result, my research question is …
Why is the suffering of the everyday animal/ pet dramatically fictionalised for human entertainment?
I would like to explore this question by focusing on the human-animal relationship represented in Bondi Vet to “explore the space that the animal occupies in human social and cultural worlds and interaction” (Mills, 2016).
Please check out my BCM241 Final Project here.
The average human’s attention span is … Oh! $5 beer specials tonight at the Uni bar!
Sounding familiar to anyone…
According to Consumer Insights, Microsoft Canada smartphones and media devices have left humans with such a short attention span that even a goldfish can hold a thought for longer (9 seconds).
Jesus … No wonder I had so many toilet bowl funerals growing up.
Attention is commonly defined Horowitz as “an intentional, unapologetic discriminator. It asks what is relevant right now, and gears us up to notice only that.”
In the digital age, where our news can now be as short as 140 characters and some of our conversations take place in the form of emojis, our attention spans have no doubt shortened. Our lives have become increasingly more digital making it harder and harder for us to focus for extended periods of time.
According to the Microsoft report, “Heavy multi-screeners find it difficult to filter out irrelevant stimuli — they’re more easily distracted by multiple streams of media”. I can freely admit, that as a young millennial, I do resonate with this statement. When nothing is occupying my attention, the first thing I do is reach for my portable device, and apparently, another 77% of research respondents are exactly the same.
As a result, I decided to conduct a short experiment whilst watching the movie Wonder Women that neither myself or my mum had watched. With our mobile phones in the room with us, we decided to test our distraction levels, with this generational comparison in mind, to test this multi-screen and tasking use using the app Checky.
Thee results indicated that overall I checked my phone 33 times whilst my mum checked hers 4. My mum and I discussed and pinpointed this down to the fact that my mum has been brought up with a greater sense of commitment and hope for a movie whereas I have grown up in a time where digital technology can demand my attention if I am not immediately interested. This coincides with the Google Multi screen report that claims that “TV no longer commands our full attention as it has become one of the most common devices that are used simultaneously with other screens.”
Resources and Further Readings
- Consumer insights Microsoft Canada (2015), Attention Spans, https://ssl.gstatic.com/think/docs/the-new-multi-screen-world-study_research-studies.pdf
- Horowitz, Alexandra (2016), The Art of Looking: Eleven Ways of Viewing the Multiple Realities of Our Everyday Wonderland, https://www.brainpickings.org/index.php/2013/08/12/on-looking-eleven-walks-with-expert-eyes/
- Google (2012), The New Multi-Screen World: Understanding cross-cultural consumer behavior.
- Watson, Leon (2015), Humans have shorter attention span than goldfish, thanks to smartphones, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/2016/03/12/humans-have-shorter-attention-span-than-goldfish-thanks-to-smart/
- Borroli Lizette (2015), Human Attention Span Shortens To 8 Seconds Due To Digital Technology: 3 Ways To Stay Focused, http://www.medicaldaily.com/human-attention-span-shortens-8-seconds-due-digital-technology-3-ways-stay-focused-333474
When you go to take a photo, whether it is of yourself, another person or even a shot of a landmark or building the ethical issues regarding this practice are normally disregarded.
With 4.77 billion of the world’s population owning a mobile phone, this device has played a significant role in the way technologies highlight our new found portability and communication with each other. The moveable nature of this medium allows mobile devices to be easily used in the public space, thus creating a new found phenomena.
One of these occurrences is the new relationship between mobile usage and individuals understanding of public photography. The Centre for Media and Social Impact (2017) suggests that “vibrant public media is an extension of the right to freedom of speech”. Around the world, these devices have allowed us to photograph and film personally and publically, where we create and share experiences of ourselves and others at events like nights out, festivals and beach days because we are easily free to do so.
However, is ethical issues breached when situations below begin to occur …
Through the use of mobile phones, individuals can now easily take photos of unsuspecting people without their knowledge or consent. So when do we reach a limit? I too, have found myself in similar situations, yet have no idea how to approach the issue regardless whether I am comfortable with the situation or not.
It is evident that we now find ourselves in a situation where everyone is a photographer. So how does our country ensure that it remains ethical when everyone is relentlessly Snapchatting, Facebooking and sharing pictures from their iPhones whether individual consent is given or not.
According to the Arts Law Center of Australia – Street Photographer’s Rights despite these developments in technology apparently there is not a lot of jurisdiction to stop this practice
- It is generally possible to take photographs in a public place without asking permission.
- There are no publicity or personality rights in Australia, and there is no right to privacy that protects a person’s image.
- There is also currently no tort of invasion of privacy in Australia.
- Australian law also has limited recognition of harassment or stalking regarding public photography.
It is clear that despite these fundamental technological changes, Australia has not developed to the point of recognising an action for breach of privacy, which makes me increasing nervous yet eager to see what happens in the future.
Sources and further readings:
- McLuhan, Marshall, Understanding Media: The extensions of man, http://robynbacken.com/text/nw_research.pdf
- Arts Law Center of Australia – Street Photographer’s Rights, https://www.artslaw.com.au/info-sheets/info-sheet/street-photographers-rights/
- Statista (2017), Number of mobile phone users worldwide from 2013 to 2019 (in billions)
- The Centre of Media and Social Impact (2017), The Future of Public Media, http://cmsimpact.org/resource/1924/
Sadly, I do not visit the cinemas as often as I used to. Not only is full-time university and work full on but the introduction of video streaming services including Netflix and Stan have ultimately limited my desire to go to the movies.
However, last night was the first time I went to the cinemas in little over 3 months, and although it was a successful experience, it was bloody terrifying. Organised for my best friends birthday, four of us decided to go and see Stephen King’s modern adaptation of ”IT‘.
Now, I’ll be real. The idea of this movie absolutely petrified me and I was not planning on seeing it. However, purely based on the social obligation I had to my best friend I manned up and decided to use it as my opportunity to observe the experience with consideration to Hagerstrand’s (2001) three constraints around time and space that is associated with the cinematic occurrence.
- Capability Constraints: Can I get to the cinema? Human movement due to physical or biological factors
- Coupling Constraints: Am I able to get there at an appropriate time? “your space-time path” must temporarily link up with those of a certain other people to accomplish a task
- Authority Constraints: Am I ‘allowed’ to be in attendance? Area or domain that is controlled by certain people or institutions the set limits on its access to individuals and groups
Based on the core decision of the birthday girl it was decided that everyone was able to attend the 10:30 pm session at Event Cinemas Campbelltown. It was agreed, on the night, that I would be the one that would drive us there because I was the only one who had not been drinking (sadly). As a result, this was the only way that we would have been able to get to the cinema on time. The venue itself is also 20 minutes away which means that travel time also needed to be considered. This demonstrated some of the constraints associated with capability and coupling.
In terms of authority, IT was classified as MA15+. However, to put a spanner in the works, the 10:30 screening at Event Cinemas was the ‘fright night’ session so it was advised that no one under 16 should attend. This was not an issue for a group of 19-20-year-olds.
This pretty much entailed the staff dressing up in creepy clown masks and outfits, whilst jump scaring the moviegoers before and during the movie.
So this was pretty much me before the movie …
Despite my initial concerns, the experience itself was actually quite good, and the employees trying to scare everyone actually brought a crowded cinema full of people together. The constant neck tickles, balloon popping and running down the isles, although creepy was actually quite funny and definitely a positive experience to remember. This was something that clearly spiked cinema attendance and provides a potential new angle for the industry to adapt in the future.
Sources and further readings
- Corbett, John (2015), Torsten Hägerstrand: Time, Center for Spatially Integrated Social Science
- Witheridge, Giverny (2015), HAGERSTRAND NOT THE IRRATIONAL MAN: AN ANALYSIS OF WHY TUMBLEWEEDS HAVE REPLACED JAFFAS ROLLING DOWN CINEMA AISLES, https://givernywitheridge.wordpress.com/2015/08/30/hagerstrand-not-the-irrational-man-an-analysis-of-why-tumbleweeds-have-replaced-jaffas-rolling-down-cinema-aisles/
- Wittermore, Jessica, Time Geography: Torsten Hagerstrand’s Work, Study.com, http://study.com/academy/lesson/time-geography-torsten-hagerstrands-works.html