I've always been fascinated with true crime. Thrillers have been my go-to genre when I'm looking for a movie to watch or a series to binge. This morbid fascination with murder and mystery is equal parts disturbing and intriguing and I know I'm not alone. Millions of people love good Whodunnit. But over the years, I've realized that it's not just the suspense that has us audiences hooked but something more deep-rooted, our inherent inclinations to be voyeuristic.
If you ever cross an accident site, there are more bystanders lamenting about the tragic fate of those involved than medics and first responders. They look on, from the periphery, at the damage and death, some scrumptiously taking videos and photos that will, eventually, find their way into WhatsApp groups and social media.
The barrage of videos, debates, discussions, and articles around the tragic demise of actor Sushant Singh Rajput has spiraled into theory after theory. The discourse gets murkier by the day and the audience is invested more than ever not only because of the stature and likeability of Sushant but because it gives us a view of a world that we barely get glimpses of otherwise. It feeds voyeuristic tendencies by allowing us into the home and personal relationships of the deceased with detachment. A world of powerful producers, sex, glamour, money, and business brokered through the destruction of lives.
Every high profile murder case or mysterious death of recent times, Sheena Bora, Arushi Talwar, Jia Khan, Sunanda Pushkar, have been mired with controversy and scandal. So much so, that we no longer know what is true and what is hearsay. Barring Arushi, who could have been one of us, a teenager from an educated, upper middle class family, the other names are from a world of glamor and power. A world that we don't inhabit but would love to witness. The sordid details of their death is more sensational because of the worlds they inhabit. While we raise a storm on social media and news debates, fighting for justice, playing both judge and jury, why is it that some cases rankle us more than others? It is because we get what we didn't even know we want, a sneak peeks into the lives of those who aren't like us. Or those who are exactly like us.
The success of reality shows like Bigg Boss and the recent Indian Matchmaking validates our voyeurism more than ever. Unlike the peeping tom's and sinister stalkers of murder stories, we're the harmless voyeurs who are entertained watching and listening to others, those who have willingly made their lives available for public consumption. And why this rings true is because we can safely put ourselves in the situation that these contestants are in and wonder 'would I have reacted like this,' 'Is this something I would say.' We are an inquisitive, nosy lot of people and always have been. This inherent nature of ours has been tapped into by content creators to give us the drama we desire and the business profitability they need.
That is precisely why talent-based reality shows spend as much air time on the life story of the contestants as their performance. We are made aware of their struggles, financial or familial, their homes are displayed and family members interviewed and by the end of it, we are more aware of their life than of their talent. But this isn't wrong, these shows are giving thousands of talented people a platform, a chance to make it big, to leave behind the rut that was their life and become upwardly mobile. The price of fame, however, is an exploitation of the demons one would otherwise hold private. It is a choice made in cognizance of the outcome that this narrative will sell and it's a win-win situation because we the audience don't just get a talented artist but also the drama that we absorb vicariously