Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Madness Makes a Damn Good Story

In Chapter 7, Jon Ronson examines the reason why he has become so interested in understanding psychopaths.  He realizes that the most important part of journalism is to investigate in a topic that proves to be interesting, entertaining, and captivating to an audience.  Identifying madness, the extreme aspects of a personality, is what truly enthralls an audience.  After being criticized for his study on psychopaths by Adam Curtis, Ronson begins researching other journalists who have singled out individuals based on their madness.  He meets a woman named Charolette Scott and questions her on why and how she picked individuals to examine for a reality television show.  Her answer was that she picked people based on which medications they were currently prescribed with.  She realized that the best stories were based on those who had the most problems.  The people couldn’t be too emotionally dysfunctional, as in mental disorders, but the perfect amount of dysfunctional; people had to be emotionally unstable, but stable enough to avoid inflicting harm on oneself.  Her responsibility on the reality tv show was to find people who would fit well enough to be interviewed.  She had to repeatedly listen to peoples’ problems.  According to Scott, the only way to be emotionally detached was to demoralize others in order to feel everything but empathy for the people.  Much like the businessman psychopaths, Scott had to emotionally detach herself in order to perform her job to the best of her ability.  Thus, as a journalist, finding the correct interviewee with enough madness to captivate an audience is the most important factor to being successful.  In Ronson’s conversation with Scott, she continues to discuss how too much madness can be bad and turn off viewers; yet the perfect amount was if the interviewee was prescribed with a drug to treat depression, which then leads to the discussion on how the person became depressed.  This chapter shows how journalism and broadcasting is a manipulative way to show off the correct amount of madness that will absorb an audience and create more viewers.
I really enjoy this book.  I like how Ronson continues to seek out and uncover the mysteries of different roles psychopaths play in society and how they manipulate the system to benefit themselves.  I thought story about Deneese was extremely upsetting because ABC family basically ruined Deneese’s life (and her sisters’ life) by having her family who she loved and trusted tell her that they were ashamed by how ugly she was, then telling her that she was cut from the show because her surgery would take too long to heal.  That would be the absolute worst thing to ever hear!! That really puts a damper on ones’ confidence and self esteem levels, definitely to the point of having to be prescribed for depression. Finding out how some producers choose the people to be starred on tv was especially surprising since they are chosen based off how crazy they are. Chapter 7 was interesting to read as well because of Al Dunlap.  It was interesting to find out that most of the checklist items for a psychopath were related to succeeding in boosting his career as a CEO because he was not afraid to manipulate people or fire the ones he thought were really lazy right on the spot.

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