Monsters all around me?
Growing up, I never had an extreme fear of parasites. I did have a bizarre respectful fascination with them and would spend hours reading up on them, what illnesses they caused, etc. Then somewhere in the vicinity of young adulthood, I developed a paranoid aversion to these organisms. After a major surgery at age 21, I awoke in recovery to a traumatic experience thanks to less-than-competent recovery room staff, made worse by unbearable physical pain. I made it through that only to return to the hospital a week later for several days to treat a very painful bout of pneumonia and pleurisy. I think my fear of parasites and infections came about after this experience. The thought of anything making me ill enough to land in the hospital for an indeterminable stay was frightening and HAD to be avoided at all costs.
I confessed recently to my husband that I didn’t used to be this way and wanted to live carefree as I used to. Which is why I don’t know what on Earth possessed me to watch this Animal Planet series Monsters Inside Me, a show about parasites that wreak havoc inside people’s bodies. The format of the series mixes interviews with re-enactments and jarring stop-start filming, zooming in on people’s eyes, just like Mystery Diagnosis, a show on sister channel Discovery Health. There’s fast-paced thriller music playing in the background while the narrator talks up the creepy crawlies. Sprinkled throughout are photographs of rashes, welts, lumps and generally oozing things, along with ultrasound footage of worms whenever applicable. Then after emphasizing the horrific effects of being infected by these organisms for several consecutive minutes, a biologist speaks one or two sentences telling viewers how they can avoid getting sick. Um, ok.
As you may be able to tell, I have mixed feelings about this show, or at least about its format. It does have some interesting information about the parasites themselves and how they operate. One interesting segment showed a scientist cooking parasite-ridden fish in 4 different ways and showing which methods killed the worms, and which didn’t. *If you’re curious, the parasites in the fully-cooked fish and the frozen fish died, but the parasites in the ceviche and in the seared rare fish stayed alive. I like the people’s stories. I just can’t stand the delivery of the material. I don’t know what the show sets out to accomplish besides fear-mongering. It’s incredibly sensationalistic and hyper, from the fast-paced CSI-ish shots to the narrator’s annoying haunted-house-greeter manner of speaking. The show plays out like a horror movie. The problem is that it’s not a movie; we’re supposed to be watching something about real life. Do people need to compare their lives to horror movies? Isn’t there enough paranoia out there? Fortunately, I’m fairly well traveled and pretty adventurous, but what does programming like this do to people who are not? If I were an unadventurous and/or slightly irrational person watching this show, I’d come away concluding that I shouldn’t travel to Florida for fear of parasitic infection, nor should I visit water parks for fear of parasitic infection. Are these really the kinds of messages that we want to communicate to an overly sanitized American public?
Jeez, I’m sick of all this shock programming on TV! Producers, please for everybody’s sake, tone it down!