On Paranormal TV
I’ve been watching The Dead Files, a paranormal reality TV show where a retired NYC homicide cop and an empath investigate haunted houses. The cop interviews the family and looks into the property history while the empath walks through the house alone (with two cameramen and a crew) interacting with whatever spirits inhabit the place. They get together at the end and present their findings to the family.
As the show Dateline (which mostly features men who would rather commit murder than go through a divorce) may present a vicarious entertainment for homicidal thoughts about one’s family and friends, Dead Files can be the fulfillment of a wish going back to childhood, having someone who could explain why the house feels so unsafe. Maybe it’s a common fantasy that trusted experts could enter a home, find the evil thing, and then, via salt, smudge, or exorcism, rid us all of the bad feelings.
The cop and the empath investigate the seen and unseen worlds and it’s all edited down to the regularity and predictability of Law and Order or CSI episodes. It’s a sort of reality TV metaphysics--an attempt to observe the unobservable to make some sense of being. Like all desires (no matter if they’re concrete or abstract), it’s ultimately unsatisfying, which is why we watch again and again.
There’s a similar show on another platform where it’s Chicago cops performing paranormal investigations. It’s pretty much what you’d expect – when the spirits don’t materialize, these guys start yelling, challenging the manhood of the dead and daring them to come back from the bardo. I stopped watching before someone got killed.