When it’s okay to be a Peeping Tom…

Individuals people who spy on the intimate private lives of others are called Peeping Toms. They are usually socially ostracised and are frequently prosecuted, unless…

… unless they do it en masse. Because if lots of others are doing it then it’s OK. As when one in five of the population watches TV series like Big Brother to see who will seduce and get into bed with who!

Then being a Peeping Tom is acceptable because it’s a new national past-time. And because the people you’re watching are exhibitionists.

But it’s still being a Peeping Tom…

(This was the gist of another chat I had over the holiday period, by the way. And, though I’m not sure why, my views weren’t universally accepted 🙂


  1. colinpowell on 25th June 2008 at 11:41 AM

    At source, is ‘peeping’ at the Big Brother household really any different from ‘peeping’ at the families in Coronation Street ? Although the levels of intimacy may be different, they both involve viewers operating as ‘flies on the wall’ to a consenting ‘target’. They both involve having access to the intimate details of someone-else’s private life – albeit one having resulted from a script-writer’s imagination.

    But what I find most unsatisfactory about television is the increasingly trend for human conflict and distress to be offered-up as passive entertainment for the anonymous voyeur.

    From time to time I suspend disbelief and enter what I describe as ‘reality over-dose mode’, in which I place myself in the position of television camera, with the whole entourage of technicians, lighting and make-up surounding me. From that fantasised viewpoint, the sight of fully grown men playing at cowboys and indians takes on a whole new perspective !

  2. Reg on 25th June 2008 at 12:39 PM

    I agree up to a point, Colin. The difference being that the actors in TV soaps are faking it (even more) than the participants in Big Brother-type shows.

    What is really sad is how many people substitute this type of vicarious living for real life experiences. So they get their excitement or kicks or whatever ‘second hand’ by identifying with characters on the small screen.

    It’s safer, of course, and if the on-screen going gets tough they can always make a cup of tea or open a can of beer in the commercial breaks!