The Tragedy of Video Cameras
Wisps of hair playfully chased each other across my face as waves of hot, humid air gently blew across the park. Paper cups, chased by the wind, bounced merrily across the ground, pursued by laughing children. The children seemed unaffected by the heat and humidity, while the adults sat in abject misery, wishing the day were over.
Dipping a napkin into a cup of ice water, I began wiping my face and neck, seeking relief from the heat. I was hot and perspiring heavily, causing my mascara to make black circles beneath my eyes. This was our annual Fourth of July family picnic, and all I wanted to do was leave. As I continued wiping my face and neck with the cool napkin, I became aware of a soft whirring sound. I turned toward the noise and came nose-to-lens with a video camera. This was my first encounter with this camera on a personal level. My first response was to hide my face with my hands while making dire predictions concerning the user's future. Thus began my love-hate relationship with this machine.
Over the last several years, the nationalization of video cameras has changed the way that Americans view America. The affordable price of these cameras has made it possible for the "common" man to become the historian for his family, allowing him to preserve for posterity the antics and lifestyles of previous generations. He faithfully transports this annoying little piece of technology to each party, reunion, graduation, birth, and other celebrations. He forces each person present to smile and pose while he tells them to "act naturally." Acting naturally while looking into the lens of a video camera is certainly a paradox in thought, if not in action. At this point, the camera has become a toy to the operator. Nothing is sacred any longer: you are filmed while you sleep just to prove you snore; you are filmed coming out of the bathroom with your hair in curlers and your face smeared with Noxema; and worst of all, you are filmed while you exercise with Richard Simmons. After being taped in every conceivable position and condition, you are coerced to sit and watch the film. This can be an incomparable form of mental harassment. Finally, you realize that to preserved peace and harmony in the family, certain rules must be followed. After much cajoling, arguing, and unveiled threats, an agreement is reached; but, agreements are made to be broken, and you find yourself subjected to the same behavior. Your last hope is that the novelty will gradually disappear and life will become ordinary again.
Recently, while visiting the zoo in Columbia, South Carolina, I realized how pervasive the video camera had become. Everywhere you looked people were filming the animals. As we toured he zoo, I noticed very few 35mm or instamatic cameras. The children, whose parents has video cameras, danced around in front of the cages, waving and pointing to the animals, while they were being...