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The appeal of sacrifice

10 October 2009

Last night, the Australian version of The Secret Millionaire premiered on Channel 9. It got me wandering about what makes such a show appealing to viewers and even worthy of production. The show falls into the same line of new programming as Find My Family, Triple Zero Heroes, along with other real life reality programmes Medical Miracles and longtime successful television series RPA. The warm-hearted, inspirational, feel good narratives that are formed around real life stories remind us that there is some goodness in our society – something that is often shrouded by the conflict, drama and politics that we are hit with everyday. I think the answer lies in sacrifice. But not from the view of the person giving of themselves, but we have a sympathetic attraction to those that are receiving the gift. I think we take this on, because in our own eyes, we try to judge the recipient as being “worthy” of generosity.

Last year, the film Seven Pounds, followed this very angle. The film took a character (Will Smith), broken by the trauma of losing his family, through the anguish discovering who was worthy of being donor recipients, of his own organs. The film isn’t one that was easy to swallow, and this was reflected in the mixed reviews. Do we side with Smith’s character as he battles his own demons to make amends for a tragedy? Or really are we attracted to those that he deems to posses the right character – because we too feel connected to them?

I would say that we yearn to give of ourselves for other people. Sometimes we just need to be reminded that when we do there are people that greatfully and humbly accept us – we like that and generosity received well, makes us feel good. Immense sacrifices, like the one in the film, and even ones highlighted (even glorified) in television productions, is not meant to take the shine off our own sacrifices we make. Perhaps it is in the phrase, “Live simply, so others may simply live” that we realise how precious any sacrifice is.

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