DEAD FAMOUS – BEN ELTON

One house. Ten contestants. Thirty cameras. Forty microphones. One survivor. One murder.
Nine weeks, No excuses, no escape.

The book is about the lives of 10 ‘ordinary’ people, living in the Peeping Tom House, the English counterpart of ‘Big Brother’. When a murder happens in front of million of viewers, an inspector is given the task to find out who did it and how it was possible with 30 cameras monitoring every movement…

Misleading the public

Television is first and foremost an educational medium. It is an instrument of persuasion, indoctrination, seduction, propaganda, and mind manipulation – all done in an entertaining way.”
-Marlin Maddoux-

We live in times when the media takes a central role in our lives and community, so that actions that take place are often a reflection of what television presents. This form of media has enormous ability to influence and brainwash the general public. The talking box in everyone’s living room plays an overpowering role today as a result of the weakness of society.

The biggest weakness of this society is the importance of money and big business. Research and studies have proved that youngsters spend an average of nearly 30 hours a week watching television; some even spend more time watching television than doing anything else except sleeping. It then comes as no surprise that in a community where money signifies success and influence, producers of television shows and programmes try to make their creations the most prosperous of businesses.
We’re not only pointing a finger to reality programmes (that skip the reality part and make everything fiction) but also to the more entertaining and seemingly ‘innocent’ programmes and even the news. They too manipulate and mislead the public. The news is always shown through the filters of media biases. How can we believe what we see when actors may be used to ‘show’ an action that never was filmed? Or when broadcasters emphasize or cut news items to fit their views.

In ‘Dead Famous’, Ben Elton protests against this form of manipulation and shows how far it can go. In a confession, a contestant says that she loves all her friends in the house, but that she guesses that in the end she’ll end up hating everyone. By broadcasting only the last sentence, her confession is taken out of context and is given a new meaning. Because of this, the character is seen by the public as a mean and person that can’t be trusted. She’s portrayed the way the producers want it, and not the way she really is.

The only problem is that television can’t be attacked. It has stood up to all sorts of challenges and has always survived. It’s up to us to change this. When the public is aware of the power that television has and that images can never fully be trusted, television can be used as a tool for learning, communication and information. We should look for alternatives that, in the long run, will benefit society!

Privacy

Have you ever felt like somebody’s watching your every move? If your answer is yes, you’re completely right! We all are watched 24-seven! We live in a Peeping Tom world, where cameras are watching every move and record every word that is said. Tracking someone down is very easy nowadays. Satellites can follow every move one makes, and tracing mobile phones to the place where it is being used has become a hobby of even the least experienced computer geek. Often we are not aware of this, but even when we walk the streets, and definitely in larger cities, cameras are hanging around, recording your moves, zooming in on places you’d never expect it. If you think about it, you don’t even have privacy in your own house. Ever heard of cameras working on body heat that are able to show what ever you are doing and where-ever you are walking?
However, it’s not only the huge amount of cameras that are hanging everywhere; it’s also the people surrounding you that most of the times disturb your privacy. They go and sneak through your dairies, peep through keyholes, listen in to conversations and as if that’s not enough, they tell everyone they know what they have found out.
That brings us to the press. Whenever they need something, they will do everything to get it. Most of the time the picture / story won’t be about you dropping your kids off at school, but about you getting drunk and stripping naked in one or the other pub. The juicier the story; the better! The same for television. They stop at nothing to attract viewers and to make money.

This is our culture, everywhere you go you are taped. We’ve grown used to being watched.
It wasn’t always like this. The cameras and many other technical devices like satellites, have come along with the industrial development. Techniques improve every minute and keep getting better and better.

Another aspect of privacy is privacy of your personal information. Not a day goes by without you revealing your name, address or birth date to someone else. That makes it easy for others to abuse your private information. Even the internet isn’t free of privacy abuse. Who has never received a UCE e-mail? (Unsolicited Commercial E-mail)
There are many ways in which our privacy gets violated. This is why we need to think twice when we give someone our personal information or fill out a poll on the Net!

Stress: environments can be a source of distress.
Temperature: hostility, performance, fatigue, comfort.
Noise: short-term and long-term effects of unwanted sound.
Ambiance: affective reactions to places + stimulation and overload.
Dangerous settings: teamwork as a means of coping with harsh circumstances.

Geraldine = the bitch and a manipulating person who tries to keep the public a cloud in front of their eyes.
Fogarty = is one of the people who is being manipulated by Geraldine.
David = is the stuck-up guy who thinks he is the best in everything, some kind of a jock.
Geezer = he is the strong bloke, the jock. He likes showing off by doing push-ups all day long.
Jason/Jazz = the sensitive and most sexy guy of them all, the black guy.
Layla = some kind of hippie, beauty.
Moon = a person from the lower class; can be deducted by her language.
Sally = a feminist, she has the role of being the lesbian.
Dervla and Kelly = beauty and brains.
Hamish = the intellectual one, doctor.
Woggle = the anarchist, the one everybody hates in the house but the public loves because he creates hammock.

Today it’s more difficult for youngster to be themselves. Al the things they see on TV influences the way they look at them themselves and at others. They give each other names, put others into a box and seem to be desperate to ‘fit in’.
It is up to yourself not being just ‘one of the guys’, but ‘being me and nobody else but me’.

Sex on television

Nowadays, if you turn on your television, you are overwhelmed by the amount of ‘flesh’ that is thrown towards you. Ben Elton thinks that the current amount of sex, or the amount of naked bodies on television is way too high and that TV shows which are prohibited for children under the age of sixteen are broadcasted too early in the evening. It is on this topic he comments in his novel. He does this in a funny way, but also shows a vivid image of how people sometimes really tend to be a voyeur. As an example, there are a different amount of scenes in which the producers really are tensed and focused to get a shot in which someone gets naked. They even support the contestants to get naked and have sex.

In real life, there is the ‘Big Brother’ show in which the same thing happens. The contestants are manipulated by the producer, but also by the audience. They all know that if they want to be popular and if they want to win, they have to show something of their body, or do something crazy.

There are even some threats from the producer towards the contestants that they have to do a particular, sexual exercise to earn a budget to buy food.

Elton, father of three children himself, wants to accuse these practices and makes us ask the question of what we are doing with our lives. Do we really want to see ten unknown people stripping off and making rows about each others histories? What is the point of all this? The amount of sex shown on British television has more than doubled in the last five years, according to research. ‘There is too much pornography which masquerades as documentaries and the public don’t like it.’
In Belgium, there are also some programs that are, for some people, too explicit to show. As an example: on Sunday, there is this show ‘Prison Break’. Immediately afterwards, there is a program with sexual content. There are also shows such as ‘The girls of the playboy mansion’ and ‘Sexcetera’ with very explicit content. Do we have to prohibit these shows or is it the responsibility of the parents to make sure that their children aren’t exposed to this, sometimes, way too mature content.

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