Given the pervasiveness of digital cable television and, particularly, the internet, it seems that it is more difficult than ever to inspire awe among the general American population. This is a much discussed symptom of media saturation that is most commonly referred to as “desensitization.” Naturally, when the average citizen is pummeled with media images of violence and sensationalism on a daily basis, it will get to the point that they have seen it all.
This often means that an event that was considered inexplicably tragic two decades ago, might be viewed today as just another violent event. Sure, it was tragic, but so were the events that occurred last week, last month, and last year. Another excellent example of desensitization can be found in the analogy of an Iraqi War veteran who has seen weeks and months of live warfare. Obviously, after witnessing exploding bombs, missiles, and small arms fire almost daily, he or she will certainly not be in awe of a Fourth of July fireworks celebration. To the contrary, it may only serve to bring back unpleasant memories.
Although desensitization appears to be a real, post modern phenomenon, that does not mean that it cannot be thrilling to witness, say, extreme skiing videos. In fact, so called media literacy “experts” may be making too much of desensitization. If they were not, why would extreme skiing videos so popular? The only possible explanations would be the novelty of extreme ski videos, or simply the fact that people find it thrilling to watch world class athletes speeding down and 80 degree incline on a pair of skis.
In actuality, the popularity of extreme skiing videos can probably be attributed to the fact that it is simply fun to watch. In fact, it has a lot in common with watching bullfighters, Indy car races, or any other type of extreme sport. It is the element of anticipation and danger that attracts people to extreme skiing videos. The bottom line is that desensitization to violence and spectacle may be a reality, but that does not mean that people no longer have an appetite for truly thrilling entertainment.