Pop Culture, Theory & Essay

How Far Is Too Far?

“How far is too far?”

It’s a question I conveniently forget to ask myself whenever I find myself watching a viral clip of a fight on YouTube, tuning in to an episode of some reality show because of a confrontation alluded to in the previous week’s episode, or allowing an intentionally provocative news teaser make me practically salivate in anticipation for the cringe-worthy clip they’re going to show “after the break.” Sure, I know what I’m doing—I know I am actively taking part in a process that slowly and steadily desensitizes and dehumanizes—but I don’t ask myself that question unless I personally feel that a line is being crossed.

For me, that too far line is death. I refuse to watch any footage of an actual person actually dying, and I’m disgusted by those who seek to capture and/or witness the last moments of a person life with a glee, curiosity, and anticipation usually associated with people watching basketball highlight videos. TMZ obviously doesn’t agree, as they’ve provided footage of 19 year old Andre Lowe getting shot to death outside of a Hollywood nightclub, and have refused to remove the footage despite pleads from Lowe’s family and a Change.org petition in his honor.

Read more at Ebony.com

Filed Under:
Damon Young

Damon Young is the editor-in-chief of VSB. He is also a columnist for GQ.com and EBONY Magazine. And a founding editor for 1839. And he's working on a book of essays to be published by Ecco (HarperCollins). Damon is busy. He lives in Pittsburgh, and he really likes pancakes. Reach him at damon@verysmartbrothas.com. Or don't. Whatever.

  • 2HourLunchBreak

    Sensationalism gets views, and thats what drives the producers and editors behind this content. I’m, upsettingly, not surprised.


  • chameleonic

    yeah, wow. i watch fights on youtube as well because honestly i like the competitive element. i wanna see if dudes can scrap. but when videos are bloody or people are getting injured or when people are getting viciously beat, i dont watch. it horrifies me. and i especially wouldnt watch someone die. that is entirely too snuff filmish. a persons death is not entertaining. and thats horrible tmz is refusing to take it down despite the familys feelings. entertainment is not that serious.

  • AfroPetite

    Such a sad story :-( It’s hard for me to comprehend someone taking away another’s life with such ease and such bravado. Dude was in the middle of a large crowd with multiple witnesses though.

    TMZ is petty for refusing to remove this video. The fact that people relish in these impromtu street brawls is digusting. I hate WSHH for giving people a platform for foolishness. All I heard was folks running to the group of women scrapping chanting “WorldStar! WorldStar!” I wish folks would join a gym and learn how to fight and at least gain some discipline and master the art of boxing, martial arts, etc.

  • cancergirl08

    This is the downside to social media and video on the web. It’s great that we have mobile technology that allows us to communicate our experiences no matter where we are. But as human beings, we misuse things(video, guns, food, etc) and use people. We have a fascination for seeing people at their most vulnerable and private moments. Nothing is sacred. Taking photographs of people w/o their knowledge and posting it on the Web, publicizing private texts, and now publicizing someone’s death. Welcome to the new normal.

  • iama{GAY}tekeeper

    that’s TOO far

  • Negro Libre

    I don’t own guns, yet I support 2nd Ammendment rights much more than most people do. Simply because I know that if you support the rights of others being taken away or messed with, eventually when the same thing happens to you, you’re not going to have any defenders. TMZ came to prominence because they showed absolutely no regards for the privacy of celebrities. Nobody cares about this, because these people are rich. But just like I said, if you don’t support/ respect people’s freedoms just because they’re rich and famous, you shouldn’t be shocked when the same thing happens to you.

    It’s sad what’s happening with the kid, but if we didn’t allow it to happen to celebrities, TMZ wouldn’t be in a position to do this in the first place.

    • chameleonic

      [*is secretely thinking up pick up lines*]

    • Royale W. Cheese

      My views might antagonize yours. I support gun regulation. I believe that nincompoops should be denied gun ownership. If one believes that guns provide a magical bubble that keep you from being shot, a la Die Hard Bruce Willis, or believe that “the only thing that can stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun,” you are a danger to society who should be denied gun ownership.

      • Negro Libre

        But how would you legally define a nincompoop? And then who decides if you’re a nincompoop or not? And when does nincompoop evolve into something more personal, as in someone who has said something silly or threatening on a youtube video or a blog? When you advocate a law, you also have to take into consideration the multiple ways it will be interpreted and argued over. Also who gets to keep the guns; a government that can’t seem to stop “assisting” in wars in Africa and whose lawgivers have the lowest rating of trust and competence in American history?

        • Royale W. Cheese

          That’s hard and probably impossible to implement, but the problem still remains, unskilled overconfident nincompoops with guns. If I hear one more slack jawed yokel claim that they could have stopped the Aurora shooter if they were there with a gun, I’m going to tell him to his face how stupid he is. Gun culture is the underlying problem. Laws can’t get rid of stupid. I do know one thing, the NRA lobby needs to be politically neutered. They’re not doing America any good.

          • kid video

            slack jawed yokel

            Around here(in Alabama), he’s called Cletus and/or Bubba …and they need their guns to make up for the one thats lacking where it counts.

    • Ocia

      Good points.

  • Yoles

    This is the kind of thing that kills a bit of my spirit every time. I don’t watch street fights, bum fights, the uppercut seen across the nation etc… But just hearing about them disappoints me so much. Nothing is sacred, not life, love or even death. It’s a sad time indeed. I shudder to think where we as a ppl will end up in the near future. I weep & I pray…. RIP to young Andre…

  • J. Delancy

    It’s a slippery slope towards casual human degradation. Televising the worst behaviour possible as the norm, on shows like Love and Hip-Hop, Bad Girls Club, etc have gotten those who view even more use to cursing, fighting and general assiness, particularly among their intended audience; negroes.
    From the snuff flicks “Faces of Death” series to murder on TMZ, has taken less than 20 years, I predict we’ll see more of it (without anyone petitioning) in the not so distant future.


  • Royale W. Cheese

    Champ, your comparison of watching fights/ drama with watching death is over-thinking things. Sometimes you have to say “to h3ll” with any accusations of hypocrisy hat might fly your way. Using death as a spectacle is disgusting, period, now matter how much grey area is created by fight videos and the like.

  • Tippydoowop

    When I watch some of the fights i see on youtube and worldstar, I cringe at the moment I see a person on his/her way to being slammed. That is the worst way to be taken out. But noone stops it, all we do is pull out our phones hoping to catch the moment. And that aint no better than what these clowns do here. This is all the way messed up-there is no justification on the behalf of TMZ. But if you think about it, when you take out the big bad bully, there is always a bigger badder one ready to take his place. So this is only a sign of the times and where our society in general is headed for.

More Like This