If you were surfing on a channel earlier this week, you may have landed in a new show on A & E that filled you with horror. titled Bro toe, he follows the career of Dr. Jonathan Tomines, pedicurist and foot specialist who built a network of social media and nearly 400,000 YouTube subscribers, sharing his terrible operations, ranging from sawing onions to treat with foot on foot dancers. It's damn horrible. Here is a video if you do not believe me.
Bro toe follows the wild success of Dr. Pimple Popper, which was created last year on TLC. This show – now in its second season – is focused on Dr. Sandra Lee, a dermatologist who offers patients free or discounted treatment in exchange for sharing their horrible diseases with the world. Boils, huge bites, and more, come under his merciless scalpel.
Why are we so obsessed to see people submit to horrible medical procedures? It's an interesting question, and we wanted to go deeper. So, accompany us on a journey through the televised surgical interventions.
Fictional medical dramas have been one of the pillars of television since 1951. Hospital of the city. Success of 1961 Dr. Kildare and Ben Casey cemented the genre, which has endured over generations, subtly transforming over the years with shows like Scrubs and House. It is likely that there will be at least one live medical drama at any time until the death of the universe.
But real life medical shows are older than this. In 1949, the pharmaceutical company Smith, Kline & French asked CBS if it could use their broadcast facilities as an educational tool, broadcasting live surgeries from the Atlantic City Hospital to auditoriums filled with doctors in New York and in Baltimore.
Nearly ten years later, San Francisco's KPIX station installed a video camera in an operating room at Stanford University Hospital and broadcast live the open-heart surgical operation of two hours on an eight year old boy. The television broadcast was a resounding success – more than a million viewers were viewed and the station received more than 98,000 phone calls over the next week to find out how the patient was doing. Other stations across the country have requested cassettes of the event in order to be able to broadcast them in their markets.
In the late 1990s, TLC emerged as the home of the newly created genre of "medical reality", with shows like Trauma: life in the E.R. capitalizing on the success of fiction programs like ER by following real-world emergency room doctors in their very stressful environment. With cable channels still looking for affordable programs that are worthy of viewers' attention, several networks have begun to make them a cornerstone. Other recent payments include botched, on the repair of disastrous plastic surgery, and Oddball 2009 Mystery diagnosis.
Surgical events are always one thing: in 2011, Chile's twins were separated by a television operation and, in 2015, National Geographic broadcast the first television brain operation as part of a program designed by the reality television production company Leftfield Studios, known for striking like Mob Wives.
Obviously, reality TV is here to stay. Since Survivor created in 2000, it is a pillar of the medium. But medical reality is a unique subgenre that has its own appeal.
One of the biggest attractions of these shows is the feeling of Schadenfreude, this emotion of exclusively German satisfaction resulting from the suffering of others. Seeing the poor sands struggling with huge boils or deformed feet makes us happier with our own relatively minor problems.
They also exploit a very specific emotion called "hedonic disgust", first launched by Yale psychologist Nina Strohminger. In studies, she has found that positive emotions such as laughter or relief are exacerbated by exposure to previous negative stimuli – gore and coarse things. Thus, our brain reacts to both the fear and shame of malpractice and the relief that follows after healing.
Another thing to think about is that Americans, in particular, are far more aware of the world of medicine than ever before. In previous generations, doctors were local pillars of the community, people you could talk to about solving your problems and who could resolve. But at a time of exorbitant costs, confusion of insurance and medical bankruptcy, people are actually scared to get medical help because this could mean the financial ruin of their family.
The dark side
The most modern medical reality patients show waivers to sign, agreeing to be filmed and exploited, often in exchange for a discounted treatment. But this is not always possible, especially in the case of programs presented in an emergency room. These shows challenged the ethics of participating physicians and hospitals, particularly as a result of a 2015 blockbuster New York Times story about a man who saw his death televised without the approval or knowledge of his family.
Mark Chanko was hit by a sanitation truck and taken to the New York Presbyterian Hospital, where he died. A year later, his widow changed channels when she landed in a reality TV series NY Med, who had filmed there that night. Even though his face was scrambled because he had not signed a discharge, she knew immediately that she was watching her husband disappear before his eyes.
This is in violation of the HIPAA Act, the law that protects the privacy of patients at these intense times, and Chanko's son quickly filed a complaint against the hospital and the television network. Although Mark's death was removed from the streaming and DVD versions of the series, ABC denied any responsibility. NY Med is produced by their press service, its content is protected by the First Amendment.
One of the most compelling aspects of these medical shows, however, is their satisfactory resolution. Bro toe and Dr. Pimple Popper patients have problems, but at the end of each episode, they are essentially cured. This type of narrative closure is not common today. It should be noted that both deal with problems that are usually quite simple to solve, even if they are disgusting. These are not long-term diseases such as cancer, where the treatment can not be condensed into an eight-minute segment.
Seeing people who suffer having their problems solved is remarkably satisfying, and in the case of Bro toe and his new medical reality, his compatriots, everyone knows what they are doing. So, if your itching itches you by removing the onion or squeezing your finger, do not worry.
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