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The Ethics of Looking And The "Harmless" Peeping Tom

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    It’s often said that cinema,
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    by it's very nature, is voyeuristic,
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    because film offers the audience a window
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    into the hidden lives of others.
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    Watching people’s stories on the big
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    and small screen can indeed be
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    fascinating and exhilarating.
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    But the act of looking can also feel
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    uncomfortable, invasive, even violating.
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    Underpinning these uncomfortable moments
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    we can find some alarming messages
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    about the role of consent.
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    To explain, let’s start here
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    in the normal bedroom of a normal boy
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    doing normal boy stuff.
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    Normal stuff
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    like spying on the girl next door.
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    Popular culture is filled
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    with scenes like this one
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    Scenes in which one character,
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    usually a man
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    spies on another character,
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    usually a woman
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    without that person’s knowledge or consent
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    To be clear, we're talking about secret
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    surveillance of a person
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    while they're alone
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    in various states of undress
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    or engaged in sexual activity.
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    This is invasive looking
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    that violates a person's
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    reasonable expectation of privacy.
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    In a staggering number of movies
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    and tv shows, this type of spying
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    isn't done by the villain.
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    It is instead perpetrated
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    by "nice guy" characters.
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    "Slow down, baby"
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    These are straight men, who are otherwise
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    presented as decent.
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    Or, at the very least,
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    mostly harmless.
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    "Hey! Hey!"
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    This media patern is so prevasive,
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    I thought it needed a name.
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    "He's a peeping Tom!"
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    So I call it "The harmless peeping Tom".
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    "You know, it occurs to me,
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    that you can see right into Donna's house
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    from my driveway."
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    "You don't say"
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    (off-screen laughter)
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    All of the boys on "That 70s Show"
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    for instance, casually participate
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    in spying behavior.
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    "No, Anette! Not the robe!"
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    (off-screen laughter)
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    "Quick, somebody yell
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    'pillow fight' in a girl voice"
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    But the character of Fez
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    is the quintessential example
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    of a harmless peeping Tom.
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    (off-screen laughter)
    - "Oh my god, Fez!"
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    "Nice honkers!"
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    (off-screen laughter)
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    "Get out of here!"
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    "Fez?"
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    There's a years long running gag
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    about how he's always spying on women.
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    Often hiding in their bedroom closets.
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    "Oh my god, did you see anything?"
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    "Not much,
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    you should really think about
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    a nightlight."
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    And yet this pattern of intrusive behavior
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    is just considered a minor
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    nuisance on the show.
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    "Ouch"
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    "You okay?"
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    (camera click)
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    "Fez!"
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    (off-screen laughter)
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    "With this, you can see
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    through a lady's clothes"
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    (off-screen laughter)
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    "Okay, Jackie, prepare to be ogled"
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    Fez even ends up
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    in a romantic relationship
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    with one of the women
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    he's spied on.
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    Over 8 seasons of prime time television.
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    Scenes in which boys secretly spy on girls
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    were a staple of so called
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    "teen sex comedies".
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    In the late 1970s and early 80s.
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    But the media pattern didn't begin or end
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    with Animal House, Porky's
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    or Revenge of the Nerds.
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    "Oh! Yeah!"
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    Alfred Hitchcock was famously obsessed
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    with voyeurism.
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    And included peeping scenes
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    in several of his most notable films.
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    Since then, we've seen
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    Harmless Peeping Toms pop up
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    in practically every genre.
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    From action movies to horror films.
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    From romantic dramas
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    to science fiction adventures.
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    And it's not uncommon for video games
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    to present players with interactive
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    peeping opportunities.
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    "Look at this, come here"
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    "There's a naked woman across the street"
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    "Where?"
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    "Second floor from the top
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    see the window on the left"
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    "Wow"
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    The trope has also been a mainstay
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    on TV sitcoms.
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    "Oh my God, that's Rachel naked!"
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    Usually as a one-off gag
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    in a handful of episodes.
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    "Would you have opened the door
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    if you knew it was me?"
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    "Not since I found out
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    the teddy bear you gave me
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    had a webcam in it!"
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    While we may typically think
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    of peeping Toms as a stranger
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    hiding in the bushes,
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    spying can take many different forms.
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    "Did I miss anything?"
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    "Oh my God"
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    "Oh!"
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    "Oh, thank you, God, for this wonderful,
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    wonderful day"
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    Occasionally, spying is presented
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    as a part of man's job.
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    Like a cop on a stakeout.
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    "Oh, wow, oh yeah"
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    But in many of those scenarios,
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    the Harmless Peeping Tom trope
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    still applies.
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    "To protect and to serve"
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    "Ooh, ooh, ohh, I love my job so much, oh"
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    In espionage themed media,
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    the guy might have access
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    to high-tech spying gadgets.
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    "Nine different enhanced visions modes
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    every little boy's dream:
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    the penetrating mode"
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    "And would you look at that"
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    In superhero stories
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    or supernatural plot lines
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    the guy's powers may be used
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    as a way to gain access
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    to a woman's body.
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    (woman screams)
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    "And He saw, that it was good"
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    Superman, for example
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    is often upheld as a paragon of good
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    decent manhood
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    and yet even he steals a quick peek
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    from time to time.
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    Harmless Peeping Toms
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    aren't always the hero.
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    But, they're not the villain either.
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    "I wind up seeing a lot more of Ava
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    than I bargained for"
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    Even if the protagonist has, let's say
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    questionable morals
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    or is involved
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    in other criminal activities
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    the spying itself isn't framed as a strike
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    against his character.
Title:
The Ethics of Looking And The "Harmless" Peeping Tom
Description:

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Video Language:
English
Duration:
28:00

English subtitles

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