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?
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