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Performing Trauma: Antoine and Kelly Dodson

We all know too well the easiest way to get on television is to either have something tragic happen or to be tragic.  It is clear in almost every reality show on television from The Real Housewives Series to The Bad Girls Club to Jersey Shore that we as a world are desperate for three things more than most; for people to either fear us, feel sorry for us, or to laugh at us.  And perhaps now that we have the technology available to share our every waking emotion, we’ve lost some of the things that were once cherished, like secrecy.  Unfortunately, it seems all of tv world is suffering from a serious case of Munchausen’s Syndrome.

Recently, there have been numerous posts about Antoine and Kelly Dodson and how they fought off a rapist.  The news story, taking place in Hunstville, Alabama has resulted in numerous viral videos of remixed songs mocking Antoine’s gay patois and featuring his family members stomping about seemingly outraged at the occurrence.  Of course there are many political underpinnings.  How safe is communal housing?  How “typical” is it for poor women to be sexually assaulted?  Do poor black people even expect cops to intervene?  Should certain kinds of people be allowed on television?  I get it.  This video points to so many issues but it also points to the problem we face as a world hyper-exposed to reality tv drama, where trauma and bad behavior are commonplace.  We have become desensitized to suffering.  At the very least, we have developed a more rigid expectation of what “real” pain should look like.Those of us who are able to look beyond the “Bed Intruder Song” and our own internalized homophobia continue to ask the important questions about Kelly and Antoine.  Are they receiving trauma counseling?  Is there increased police patrol?  Has this happened to anyone else in the community?  And while these questions should continue to be asked, I can’t help but wonder if the seriousness of the event may have been lost in the various new posts of Antoine and Kelli Dodson seemingly celebrating their newfound fame.  It appears they are “reliving” the trauma for the cameras, new outfits, new nails, and highlights to boot.

Unfortunately, in many places it is commonplace for women to be raped and assaulted and for even the women themselves to not have any idea they have undergone something terribly inhumane, but I can’t help but think Kelly and Antoine are reaching for 15 minutes on this one.  With all the high reality show ratings, facebook posts, tweets, and random viral videos of people falling and fighting, it is clear the audience has some responsibility but does the victim have any?