Friday, October 09, 2009

On Morbid Curiosity

What is it inside of us that is attracted to the morbid side of life? Is it that we’re all destined to die one day, and so we like to look Death in the eyes while we live and tell him we’re not scared? Or is it there some sort of gene within us that wants to observe the grotesque and macabre?

For example, I’ve never been one of those people who like to watch those sick videos of people’s tragic death’s caught on tape. I don’t visit those websites to look at automobile accident victims, or gunshot wounds. I don’t really even like to look at blood. Heck, I’d get a little squeamish watching ER from time to time. Anyway, for reasons far beyond me, I watched a two minute video the other day that I wish I’d passed on. A Facebook friend shared it, with the title along the lines of “I Can’t Believe He’s Still Alive!” or something like that. Self-conflicted, I decided that if the person was still alive, then it would be safe enough to watch. I ignored the gory warning.

At one point I actually paused the video (after the first onset of a bleeding head) and debated whether or not I wanted to continue. It was almost over, so why not? That was a terrible mistake, and I can’t get the images out of my mind.

But there’s some sort of attraction for this stuff that I don’t understand. How can people be calloused enough to want to watch things like that? And then make stupid and obnoxious comments (“well, the dummy should’ve died!” or “Darwin scores again!”) that are filled with disrespect. Friends, the world baffles me.

Even though I don’t like the morbid stuff, I myself am not above this plague. Walking down the sidewalks at college, when a bus would drive by I’d find myself wondering what it would feel like to be hit by the monstrous vehicle. Would it immediately nock me unconscious or would I be dragged painfully for several yards? And when I make left-turns at an intersection I think about how it would feel to be T-Boned. It’s not that I want these things to happen, in fact it’s far from that, but it’s the experience I’m curious about.

How can a writer write about these sorts of things if they have no experience? It’s all speculation, I suppose. Everything but non-fiction is mostly an author’s speculation, I suppose. Speculation is directly linked to imagination, which is strongly correlated to reading enjoyment, and again I’m baffled.

Don’t worry, folks, I’m a happy, optimistic life-loving individual with an overactive mind. I’d wager, though, that you’ve probably had similar queries. How would a lighting bolt feel? Would a zombie bite through my leg be as painful as a Doberman’s? (There’ll be a review of Zombieland up tomorrow, by the way.)

I guess the day I stop being curious will be the day I die.

(This was posted using the Windows Live Writer, recommended by Shellie. Hopefully everything turns out, cause it looks like a promising tool.)


Melissa (My World) said...

I have thought on this same thought as well. Also depending on the books I read the thought is more or less.

Currently I am reading Catching Fire and finished Hunger Games a few weeks ago. I love the writing styles but until others talked me into reading the books I steered far clear of them because they were of killing games. I didn't like that idea and wonder why people are so attracted to it, or even the harm happening to others (as you mentioned in you video). These books are very good and I an enjoying them, as I think there is a deeper meaning to them (though I can't put my finger on what it is yet). But with the shows on tv and movies coming out, all the danger and blood and harm to each other, I just don't know what it is. At times I wonder if really I don't want to know what the attraction is.

Great thinking question.

logankstewart said...

Thanks for stopping by, Melissa. Indeed, these are questions I find myself asking. Apparently, I'm not alone.

And, aye, I want to read those Suzanne Collins books. One day I'll get to them.

Melissa (My World) said...

No, I don't think you are alone. There are many things I wonder from time to time and wonder if others think of them as well. So I am glad to hear there are many of us ponderers out there.

I hope someday you get to Suzanne Collins books. They are really good. The pacing is wonderful, everytime I get ready to set the book down to go to bed or back to work from lunch something happens, something big, and I just can't stop. These books have been fast reads for me because of that reason, I just can't stop. But without a lot of extra words I have become very attached to the characters, and feel I understand them. They are very good so far.

David Wagner said...

I'm the same way, for the most part. I can watch movie violence without issue (except I cannot watch horror/slasher films), but real life violence *always* makes my stomach twinge. I wonder if that's a good or bad thing. Should we be tougher than that? The history of the world has been written in blood and death, in a way... should we be able to look it in the face without flinching, or is the flinching a sign that we are doing something right?

Good questions, as usual. Thanks for the post.

Better check out Windows Live Writer and see what's what.

Shellie (Layers of Thought) said...

I enjoy horror - the fictional kind because it lets me feel scared and disgusted and then I can go back to my nice clean and organized life....
as for the real life stuff... I try and stay away from the news papers.
Go figure?

Post looks great Logan - I think you will find less html errors with the writer :)

logankstewart said...

@David: Yeah, I refuse to watch slasher and brutal films, too. I like to share my musings, and it pleases me that it causes others to ask questions. And definitely check out the Writer. I really like it.

@Shellie: Thank you very much for recommending the Writer. It's awesome so far, and I think once I learn the kinks it'll be e'en better.

Krista said...

I love watching scary movies, however, I'm a big chicken while watching them and I cover my eyes half the time...LOL! Some things are much too gory for me...

Violence is always starring us straight in the face, there's just no way around it and there never will be...

Me personally, I love a good fight scene whether in a book or on the screen. What catches my attention isn't the violence behind a "good" fight, it's the skills it takes one to perform such heinous action. Authors and their fight scenes always take you into their depth, makes you the fighter, and that in it self is always fun. Heck, I'm no fighter, but when I'm reading a fight scene, or even a hunting scene, for that matter, it's hard not to get excited. To be able to fight or hunt without actually having to fight or hunt is amazing (lol)! - Imagine yourself holding the bow in your hands, taking aim, and eyeing your target, then Bam! You take the shot and it's over, you got'em. That's what draws me in-- experiencing things I may never have the chance to experience for myself.

Authors and even actors must do their research, or maybe even take a karate class or some kind of self defense class to have first hand experience. They will never know what it feels like to die(until their day comes, of course), but we all have our guesses and, at times, maybe have even heard the cries, or seen the look on someone’s face as they passed away.

You could also say the same thing for watching a movie or reading a book about someone dying of Cancer or by other means... Why watch or read something so sad? What attracts us to others suffering? I think it all has to do with our curious minds that will never rest until we know everything there is to know, which, of course, will never happen. We will always be curious souls whether it's good or bad... That, my friend, is why we keep watching or reading...

Great post, Logan! Sorry for the over long comment, but you had my mind a rolling.

P.S. Melissa is my good friend and discussion buddy! Yep, she's read most of the same books as me and has tons of great thoughts, as well. She's the coolest!

Hi Melhay! Logan has seen first hand what our speculations can look like...LOL!

logankstewart said...

Well said. I have no problems with long comments. Curiosity is something to live with, and while it may be both good and bad at times, it's definitely human. Glad I had your mind rolling.

Melissa (My World) said...

Hey Krista. I am glad you passed this site on to me. I really like reading the posts.

Okie said...

Great post. Very thought provoking.

I generally don't consider myself to be a gore-monger, but at the same time I do have a morbid curiosity into the darker side of humanity. I enjoy "scary" movies, not the bloodfest flicks out there but those that are suspenseful and just plain creepy. I have a (hopefully) healthy interest in Jack the Ripper and other serial killers. I love wandering through the various spook alleys that are open at this time of year with the main intent of trying to scare patrons out of their wits.

By the same degree, I never found any interest in the Faces of Death movies that were popular when I was a kid/teenager (and probably still have a following). I've turned off movies and set down books that were gratuitously violent or bloody. Gore for the sake of gore just doesn't do it for me. I didn't seek out the videos of the last few years depicting suicides or tragic deaths. If traffic is slow enough, I'll glance at the car accident on the side of the road but in that case, it's honestly to see if I recognize the vehicles/people rather than seeking out tragedy.

As you mention, books/movies/etc need to have some sort of tension in order to make them interesting. I appreciate the realism of book that ends without resolving a tragedy, but at the same time, it disheartens me and leaves me wishing for something more uplifting.

Some people constantly return to tragic stories/movies because they provide an escape from their own personal reality and help them realize that things could always be worse. Still, if things turn out bad, that can be even more depressing than having a bad situation turn around and come out alright.

A few years ago, my wife tried to read some Danielle Steel to figure out what all the hype was about. We had a big discussion about the depressive template she seems to use that involves some big tragedy and usually the sad/depressive deaths of one or more main characters. For us, this sort of story wasn't appealing, but to others, it obviously is since the public just eats up her books.

It's an intricate balance and one that I don't believe has an overarching answer. Just as every person is unique, so is each person's balance between seeking out and "enjoying" tragedy.

logankstewart said...

Okie: I'm glad my curious mind has been thought-provoking. The balance you wrote of is indeed a very thin line, and maybe we tend to sway to one side or the other depending on our current mood. You've given a thought-provoking comment. Thanks.