Starsuckers is a disturbing British documentary about the deliberate creation of narcissistic personality by the corporate media as a marketing device. It explores scientific research showing that we (all of us) are hard wired to have an irresistible attraction to celebrity and how the media uses this to manipulate us.
The film particularly emphasizes the rise of reality TV over the last decade and its replacement of drama, comedy, variety and other formats. By endlessly making so-called “ordinary” people into celebrities, the corporate media convinces us (young people especially) that true happiness lies in the entertainment industry – but only if we purchase the right products.
Studies among teenagers show a clear increase in narcissistic traits that directly correlate with the amount of TV they watch. This has led a number of psychologists to call for a total ban on TV advertising to children under 12 and strict limits on advertising directed towards teenagers.
The filmmakers conclude that the best way to improve our mental health – and that of our kids – is to reduce or totally eliminate TV viewing.
Decadence is a 2006 Australian TV series examining the plummeting quality of Australian life, which director and narrator Pria Viswalingam blames on a global economic system based on frenetic consumption, fueled by debt and ridiculously long hours of work. The cinematography choreographs to perfection the self-indulgent moral degradation of a culture that has been subsumed by US political and cultural norms that reward narcissism and the vacuous idolization of celebrity.
The only critique I would have is the absence class perspective. I have a problem with Viswalingam’s blanket assertion that all Australians are working ridiculously long hours because they value the accumulation of luxuries more than family time or friendships. I think this criticism applies chiefly to the shrinking Australian middle class – which I estimate at around 20-30% of the population. From my experience, the majority of Aussies – like their Kiwi and American counterparts – work ridiculously long hours because this is the only way they can put food on the table.
The series consists of six episodes:
Episode 1 Money – describes the MacDonaldization of Australian society, where workers work longer hours than Germany, Japan or even the US and are plagued by debt, depression, drugs and high suicide rates. Viswalingam makes the assertion that greed and ignorance are a far bigger threat to civilization than terrorism. I agree.
Episode 2 Sex – describes how the commodification of sex has led to a situation where more “sex” occurs in the street than in bedroom. Viswalingam especially deplores the sexualization of children for commercial reasons, the alarming increase in culturally driven misogyny and the epidemic of pedophilia in the church.
Episode 3 Democracy – explores America’s zeal in exporting “democracy” to the rest of the world and the undermining of Australia’s parliamentary democracy by wealthy business interests.
Episode 4 Education – explores the decline of Australia’s educational system, which focuses more on fast tracking students into lucrative jobs than on teaching ideas and critical thinking.
Episode 5 Family – explores statistics showing Aussies are marrying less, breaking up more and increasingly opting to remain childless. Viswalingam blames this partly on the absence of good paying jobs (forcing mothers into the work place) and the failure of the feminist movement to win support for women in their struggle to balance work and family responsibilities.
Episode 6 Religion – describes how organized religion sowed the seeds of its own destruction through centuries of justifying wealth accumulation and genocidal western expansion. Here Viswalingam makes some fuzzy, poorly supported assertions about the fundamental importance of spirituality in facilitating human connection.