Yesterday I came across something that I believe relates to Hobbes and the article we read about dystopias in movies.
My dad and I were watching boxing on ESPN Classic. We were watching some historic fight and I was getting into it. At first I wasn’t really thinking about anything besides who I wanted to win, but about half way through the fight I started to wonder why boxing is a sport and then I wondered why people enjoy watching other people fight. I asked my dad why he thinks we find it entertaining and he replied, “cause that’s what it’s all about,” like the boxers were doing the chicken dance instead of beating each other. I asked him what he meant by that and he didn’t answer. He didn’t even know what to say. So why do we find entertainment in watching people get hurt? Why do we like to watch it? It is quite disgusting if you think about it. The question isn’t even limited to boxing. It can apply to things like gawking at an accident on the expressway or laughing at the people that get hurt on America’s Funniest Home Videos. Is it really in human nature to be entertained by seeing other people get hurt?
Halper and Muzzio agree that pain is entertaining. In their article, Hobbes in the City: Urban Dystopias in American Movies, they say that movies that present utopias are static and that a good movie presents a dystopia (Halper 379). The article argues the idea that movies that are based in either a state of nature or a Leviathan are always the most entertaining (Halper 380). Chaos needs to be present, or an all-powerful sovereign needs to cause conflict. They didn’t list one movie that doesn’t involve people getting hurt. However, I think that most people would agree with their argument.
So why is it that we like these movies? We must really agree with a Hobbesian society or we are terrified of it. Maybe we are comparing these movies to ourselves because we are living in a similar way. We must be (or at least think we are) a Hobbesian society to be able to relate so much. We are terrified of living in a state of nature so we elect a Leviathan (as Hobbes proved). Our actual Leviathan may not be exactly the one Hobbes had in mind, but it is very similar.
Are we entertained by a state of nature because we fear it? Boxing is essentially a state of nature—knock somebody out or be knocked out; every man for himself. Do we like seeing other people get hurt because we like to see how people will react? Maybe we are subconsciously taking notes on how they react so if we ever find ourselves in a similar situation we will know what we want to do. If we do everything out of self interest like Hobbes proposes, then this isn’t too far fetched. Maybe we are in denial if we believe that people do good things out of the goodness of their heart. We get the most entertainment out of people getting hurt, so why would our intentions be out of the goodness of our hearts? Maybe we like to see people hurt because it makes us feel better about ourselves, knowing that there is somebody out there who is feeling worse. It may sound terrible but maybe it is true. What do you think?
Halper, Thomas, and Douglas Muzzio. “Hobbes in the City: Urban Dystopias in American Movies.” The Journal of American Culture 30, no. 4 (2007): 379-390.