TV for the Traumatized

Cambodians have had a rough history. Colonial oppression and decades of conflict leading to a nightmarish genocide followed by political upheaval and bizarre terrorist-style guerrilla attacks. Violence has defined the nation’s recent history.

So what do Cambodians like to watch on TV? Well, on several of our bus trips, the conductor has popped in a DVD not of the sappy, boppy teen music so common in Southeast Asia, but rather a montage of bloody, graphically violent scenes, an homage to pointless B-grade crap that left most of the Westerners gasping in disbelief. Scenes of Rambo running through a village as women are raped, a man is beheaded, children are shot, and a villagers’ legs are blown off. Switch to an scene from a Chinese kung fu film with a man repeatedly punching another man in the face as blood squirts and teeth crack. Next, a man is gunning down a crowd of people. An hour of violence with no rhyme, no reason, no plot.

It appears that a traumatized nation likes to watch…well… trauma.

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