Fear: True phobia or false bribery?
September 13, 2004
by Ashley Noel Hennefer
Everyone is afraid of something. My best friend is terrified of spiders. Another friend of mine is afraid of drowning. My little brother is afraid of diving boards. Et moi? I’m petrified of large amusement park rides.
As I sit with my family and watch “Fear Factor,” I wonder how is it that we live in a world where people overcome their fears by going on reality fear shows. Do they do it for fame? For money? For pride? I can’t help but think it’s a combination of all three. Seeing as how reality television is taking over everyday life, these reasons aren’t surprising; but they are kind of pathetic.
I’ve read stories of people “overcoming my fear of water by saving a drowning baby” or “getting over my terror of heights by jumping out of an airplane”. Reasonable (if not heroic) justifications for shedding cowardice: self-satisfaction and benefit. However, when I viewed an episode of a certain show that was testing peoples’ fear of pain by piercing their arms with different size needles, I felt that reality fear shows had gone too far.
I won’t lie; I do enjoy watching these shows. It’s human nature to enjoy competition, to enjoy watching people win or lose based on their abilities. But when my dad asks me, “If you were to go on ‘Fear Factor’ would you go on a rollercoaster?” I felt the pressure to discard my phobia as to not be considered a coward in today’s society. A.K.A, I don’t want to appear weak.
Ah, weakness. It gives a whole other reason for the souls who choose to submit themselves to the woes of reality TV. On so many competition shows (Dog Eat Dog, Scream Play) there is always one person labeled as “the big talker” or “the show-off”. Karma kicks in and those people often lose, but not without making excuses for why they lost; rather than just admitting “I’m too afraid!”. Hubris? Uh, yeah. These people get a strong sense of pride, proving themselves on television and receiving large sums of money because of it. But hey, who wouldn’t?
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Between pride, pennies, and the power of the media, fear has been twisted to be something to be ashamed of, something to be gambled on television.
In Webster’s Dictionary, fear is defined as “the anticipation of danger.” Are these shows promoting danger – or risk, or failing – as the only way to overcome our phobias? Not only that, but using bribery as a way to push one’s pride and greed to the limit? I hope not. But as for me, I’d prefer to overcome my fear of rollercoasters the old-fashioned way: blindfolded.
Ashley Noel Hennefer is a senior at Douglas High School and Gardnerville resident.