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since 1997 | by maryann johanson

question of the day: Is chimp-attack victim Charla Nash being exploited by Oprah and other news organizations?

Charla Nash, the woman who earlier this year was mauled by a chimp and lost most of her face in the attack appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show yesterday to talk with Oprah — as much as her devastated face will allow her to talk — and to reveal the extent of her injuries.

Perhaps needless to say, every other news and entertainment organization is now all over this. ABC News was somewhat circumspect about it, offering an edited clip that includes images of Nash only while she’s wearing a veil over her face. But E! Online posted clips that included Nash’s unveiled face.
Everywhere, there are solemn warnings about “disturbing images” and “graphic content,” which only serve — as far as I can see — to ramp up the exploitative nature of the footage, as if the warnings are dares to the viewer: it smacks of “Hey, wanna see the freak?” Yes, Nash’s face is terribly disfigured, but she’s a real person and this really did happen to her; to label her image “disturbing” seems like a cruel and even counterproductive thing to do — she wears a veil in public precisely because of thoughtless, unsympathetic attitudes toward disfigurement that are only pandered to by such warnings as ABC News and E! Online give us.

Is it just me? Is Charla Nash being exploited by Oprah and other news organizations for the purposes of sideshow entertainment? Or is there something important enough in her story — something inspirational about survival, or something cautionary about keeping wild animals as pets — to merit taking a chance on it being exploitive?

(If you have a suggestion for a QOTD, feel free to email me. Responses to this QOTD sent by email will be ignored; please post your responses here.)



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  • i only heard about this at breakfast this morning and haven’t seen any of the images… but i have to wonder: why is this woman going on these shows? and believe me, i feel horrible for her — just thinking about the horrific injuries is upsetting. but why is she doing this? is she desperate for money == which wouldn’t surprise me, considering she’s probably an insurance company nightmare and her medical bills are probably in the range of the GNP of a medium sized european nation.

  • AvengersEmma

    Of course Oprah and the rest of the entertainment industry are exploiting Ms. Nash because that is the nature of their business…to get high Nielsen TV Ratings. Let us not forget that fact. On the other hand, Ms. Nash did not have to consent to any TV interview and could certainly proceed with her legal suit in a discreet manner. If Ms. Nash wants to be interviewed years later, perhaps after numerous surgeries to help restore some of her facial features and give her more time to heal, that would be her choice as well. It was her choice to be seen now and that is her right.
    She certainly is an amazingly courageous woman and I wish her all the best.

  • Monique

    so basically of she didnt want people to see her then she wouldnt have came on the show in the first place. And she wouldnt have taken off her thing that was covering her face in the first place if she didnt want anyone to see her. So stop complaining about them sayig disturbing images..if she didnt want to be seen then she wouldnt be see. She made the choice to reveal her self.

  • Pollas

    Oprah was nothing but sympathetic and respectful toward Ms Nash. The woman chose to go on Oprah and show her face because she knew the tabloids were all drooling at the thought of being the first to show pictures of her disfigurement and get the “scoop”. Ms Nash revealed her face on her own terms, as Oprah put it, and to beat the tabloids and ‘razi to the punch. Now pictures of her face are nowhere near as desirable as they were before she revealed her face and won’t be worth the money they may have before the reveal.

    The other news organizations are the ones being exploitive and inhumane of this strong woman. Ms Nash should be applauded for her strength in surviving her dreadful attack, not ridiculed or pointed at like a freak.

  • MaryAnn

    Now pictures of her face are nowhere near as desirable as they were before she revealed her face and won’t be worth the money they may have before the reveal.

    That’s a very interesting point. But it does sort of negate the idea that “if she didn’t want to be seen, she wouldn’t have gone on Oprah.” That is, it’s not a choice she might have made if she didn’t feel as if she didn’t have much other choice.

  • Accounting Ninja

    If she even had insurance…

    But why NOT go on tv? I agree with MAJ, to say those things like ABC and E! does are backhanded insults. I guess I’d want to go on to show that I’m still human and alive. Her face is nothing to recoil from. I feel a visceral empathy for the pain she must have endured, but the face itself doesn’t make me cringe. Does that make sense?

    The reason these images fascinate so many is that in the attempt to “protect” viewers from “disturbing imagery”, we make the images seem more mysteriously grotesque than they need to be. If the victim wants privacy, well, people should respect that, but if she wants to put her face out there, well we should respect that too!

  • poster

    I think the reasons why Charla was on Oprah, which by the way, WAS her choice was;
    1. To show the public what a chimp can do.
    2.To try to get the laws changed so that people can’t own these wild, dangerous animals.
    3. To stop the media from hanging around the hospital. She already has a guard posted at her door.
    This is an awareness situation, not exploitation on anyone’s part. Charla wants people to know and see what happened to her, to TRY to prevent this from happening again.
    I hope Oprah paid her allot of money, so that money can help with her medical expenses. Think about this, wouldn’t you want people to know what you have been through because some old lady needed a companion of a wild animal? Perhaps you could help prevent this fromhappening to someone else?

  • For heaven sake people, here we go again. Of course Charla has no isurance or money, and as we all saw no face. Now you want to attack Oprah for what Charla wanted to do on her own, hearing there was a bounty on whoever could get her face! She wanted to do it, so that would be pretty null.
    Oprah did not subject her to a live audeunce and Oprah is extremely charitable, I am certain however much some of we “Friends of Charla” have donated or gift boxes, Oprah will see she needs nothing! Because I have seen Oprah do it before for less people with smaller issues at hand.
    Charla will not allow herself to be exploited!
    Both of these women are kind, gentle and sincere.
    I’ll tell you now who is the ugly one in the story…her name is Sandra Herold!

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