Friday, August 20, 2010

Ghost Hunters International: Spreading American Cultural Imperialism to the Dead

Channel surfing has become a dying art, I think. Rarely do I cycle through channels looking for something interesting. I just read the program titles after I press 'guide' on my remote. This is progress, but it comes with a price: it minimizes serendipitous discoveries. I don't really watch something accidentally anymore.

In my living room, anyway.

My bedroom TV doesn't have a cable box. It's just hard-wired to the cable. So the only way to find a show is by surfing through the channels, up and down until I find something interesting.

This is how I recently watched about four minutes of Ghost Hunters International. Apparently this is either a spinoff (like Fraiser) or a new take on the original show (like The Suite Life On Deck), which I think consisted of a group of American ghost hunters hunting ghosts in America. Now they've branched out beyond the borders of the U.S. of A. Who you gonna call? Not somebody without a passport, that's for sure.

The four minutes I caught saw the hunters in a castle in Italy. It was night (because why would a ghost be around during the day?). They had night vision and recording equipment. This is the kind of stuff they would say:

Guy: If there is a presence here, let us know. Make a noise or sound.

Then they would be quiet and listen. After a while, the microphones would pick up some tiny bump or something. And in a 500 year old castle in the middle of the night, what else could that be but a ghost?

This was when I started to suspect the title of the show was misleading. These people were not hunters. They had a bunch of recording stuff and cameras and night vision, but I saw zero traps or weapons of any kind. Hunting? At best they were catch-and-release hunters. And that's generous. They weren't really even trying to catch. They were trying to see or talk. Supernatural bird watchers. Or journalists. (But the interview would make for a pretty boring article. "Are you in here, Mr. Marconi?" asked seventeen times in a row with no response is not exactly a hard-hitting effort from the fourth estate.)

This was almost the end of my time on this channel. But then the show cut to another part of the castle. Two new people were "hunting" the ghost of a girl who had died there. Turns out she had refused to marry a man she did not love, so as punishment her wealthy family encased her in a wall and left her there to die, Cask of Amontillado-style. Intriguing.

So I watched. And this is what they said, almost prayer-like:

Guy: We know you're in here, Louisa.
Girl: We know you died a horrible death. And it wasn't your fault.
Guy: We know your love was so strong that your spirit is still here. Give us a sign, a noise, a sound. Something that tells us you're listening.

No response. It seemed a lost cause.

And then a thought occurred. Maybe these ghost "hunters" are good at their job. Maybe they're experts at finding and communicating with ghosts. Their only sin is stereotypical American ethnocentricity when traveling abroad. Think about it. Why would a ghost girl from 1500s Tuscany UNDERSTAND ENGLISH?!

I pictured her floating in the corner, watching these two imploring in a foreign tongue, longing for some human interaction. And just shaking her head, her arms held aloft. Non capisco! Non capisco! She was probably crying.

Let this be a lesson, non-American ghosts. If you really want to address your unfinished business, sign up for an ESL class.

2 comments:

Susan theiss said...

You raised some excellent points. You have seriously challenged so many of my previously held opinions. Poor Louisa.

Craig . Kate . Xavier said...

Hilarious. We love this show because it's so ridiculous.
Joel McHale calls the guys "Shaggy and Scooby Douche."