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The Sumner Scene - Target For Voyeurs: Shame On Us

The Sumner Scene - Target For Voyeurs: Shame On Us

by Barb Sumner

Earlier in the year TV3 screened a heavily promoted episode of its high rating show, Target. The show contained a segment that revealed a plumber doing something inappropriate into a pair of womans panties.

Caught out on camera, the man immediately resigned from his job, apologised to Target and admitted the inexcusablility of his actions, he didn't even try to justify his actions.

His family, friends, and employers begged the producers to delete him from their show. But the producers and the Broadcaster knew they had a 30-minute slice of ‘appointment television’ and they weren’t going to let that slip for anything.

Not surprisingly the show rated extremely well. How could it not? After a solid week of promos we were well primed to watch this man being thrown to the lions.

In the crusading role as protector of innocent consumers, Target producer Vincent Burke is adamant that the show is not about entertainment, but about the rights of consumers.

Who’s he kidding, show me one show on television, the News included, that believes it's not about entertainment.

If Target consisted entirely of electricians miss-wiring hairdryers the ratings would plummet immediately, even if we are arguably more at risk from faulty repairs than masturbating plumbers.

Ratings don’t go up because people are being informed; they go up because they’re being entertained.

We don’t watch Target because we’re aggrieved. Consumers watch it because we’re voyeurs, because we want to be shocked, because we enjoy it. And if nothing else Target knows its target audience and delivered just what that audience wanted. And along with giving the audience what it wants is the concomitant act of hand washing. Ours and there’s.



The producers accept no responsibility for any out-comes from the show. And neither do we, after all someone this despicable deserves it, right? That the punishment far outweighs the crime, that this man is judged guilty outside of any justice system, does not seem to worry any of us. After all the producers and broadcasters are just protecting us, the naïve and unsuspecting consumer.

But what if the show had suddenly been canned and that particular segment never shown on prime time nation-wide TV? Would the producers still have worked so hard to save us from this monster of a man?

The true victim isn’t the homeowner whose panties got dirtied, but the man himself. Caught out behaving in a grubby and creepy manner his life has been destroyed by one moment of thoughtless garden-variety male behaviour.

But let’s try and remember that this guy is not a rapist (even if a panel psychologist tried to tell us he was almost one). And saying his behaviour was ‘very sexually aggressive’, as the producer has is like saying eating meat is cruel to animals.

He’s not even a home invader.

He was invited in (or set up some might say) and left alone as if the world consisted only of boy scouts.

The show was looking for a victim, a sacrificial lamb, and a ratings booster. And they got it.

Lets admit it, as humans we love it when one amongst us falls.

What we want is for this guy to be the rapist. Not a rapist but the rapist. To be the scapegoat for all that we perceive is wrong in our world. We don’t want to fix things we want to blame someone. And for a little while this guy is it. Because he’s an easy target, because he was served up to us on a plate, because the TV presenter said so.

Of course once we’ve extracted his marrow, condemned him to suicide or worse we’ll move on. Fascism is like that; it always needs new blood. It’s like ancient rituals of sacrifice to appease the gods.

In some deep part of ourselves we understand the need of the community to sacrifice a few individuals for the good of the whole. Because when the spotlight’s on the masturbating plumber it’s not on the rest of us and our secrets.

Who amongst has not performed some small act of indecency in an inappropriate time or place; who’s reputation is a tablecloth with no soup spilled, what teenage babysitter hasn’t snooped, who hasn’t stolen something from the corner dairy, or peeped at a neighbour, or viewed material some might call indecent.

There are even Internet sites doing a roaring trade in used womans panties. But Target would have us believe the plumber is a scourge on society, worthy of being demonised. A man who deserves all the heartache he’s received.

But do any of us really believe the world will be a better place when all the inappropriate masturbaters have been exposed, vilified, and hounded into early graves?

As a philosopher once said: let him who is without sin cast the first stone.

© Barb Sumner 1999.

Email To: Barb Sumner

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