This evening I watched ABC-TV’s program Vet School. This program follows the lives of a number of veterinary science students at a Western Australian university. The fundamental idea seemed to be to create an animal version of the hospital reality program RPA.
As TV, I tend to think it fails. It takes the same approach to showing emotional upset of vets and pet owners as hospital programs do to showing the anguish of doctors, parents and patients. This means that viewers have to sit there trying to feel the emotions involved, which is almost impossible when you don’t have an actual bond to the animal in question. In a slightly awful way, you find yourself watching pretend-humans and feeling pretend emotions.
I have to say, though, that I prefer to think of this as somewhat manipulative TV than the alternative. If a program like Vet School isn’t trying to manipulate our emotions, it must be trying to elicit a genuine emotional reaction. This seems like a bad loss of priorities. In an age when a great many people are unable to afford healthcare in a timely manner or at all, should our hearts bleed for mere animals? And with so much medical suffering in the world, training young minds to work on pets (and not even on livestock) seems like a profligate waste of talent.
I guess I’m over thinking it; but in a world where many people cannot tell ersatz from genuine emotions, anything pulling on the heart strings begs to be looked at cyclically.