Grace wins the Elizabeth M Butt Public Speaking Award with her speech on the entertainment industry | Fintona Girls' School

Grace wins the Elizabeth M Butt Public Speaking Award with her speech on the entertainment industry

27 August 2018

We have always bought tickets to watch animals perform flips and jump through hoops but would you buy tickets to see those same animals being beaten and chained down by trainers? We pay to see a movie about the so-called Greatest Showman that ever lived but would you have payed to gawk at the corpse of his slave that he put on display because she was black? Some of us even stand around and take selfies with people who are dying rather than saving them. Dignity. Life. Future. Stolen in the name voyeuristic entertainment. Unfortunately, humans have a longstanding tradition for desensitising the value of life through discrimination and sheer ignorance. The damage caused by the masses who support such atrocities outweighs the good done by the minority who lobby for an end to cruel entertainment. An individual can instigate change but a unified front is needed for change to occur. 

Throughout history there has always been ignorance in which people have found entertainment in watching others suffer. It was only in my grandmother’s generation that you could pay a penny to visit an asylum to stare at people with mental illnesses in the name of ostensible harmless fun. You could also visit a freakshow in which disabled persons were objectified as interesting specimens of the human race. Often these individuals joined out of desperation to feed their families or were property of the circus, without any pay. Individuals were dehumanised simply because they were born with atypical characteristics and made subject to constant humiliation. Animals also became a popular form of entertainment over the last couple centuries and were severely mistreated. Many exotic animals died while being shipped across the ocean and those that survived faced a lifetime of abuse. Only from people coming together, calling for change and transparency, have there been improvements. Governments have passed legislation and companies have adapted policies that wouldn’t exist had we not used the power in numbers. However, there are still many changes we need to make. 

Recently, the Ringling Circus was shut down because of thousands of protestors exposing its unethical practices. A whistleblower revealed the unfathomable cruelty animals were subject to and the story quickly spread. Protests were at almost every show the circus held and it was this public pressure led to Ringling’s demise.  However, just 7 months after this progress, the Greatest Showman was released heroizing its founder Phineas Taylor Barnum when in reality, he was notoriously cruel. The movie doesn’t show the baby elephant that drowned in a pool, trying to escape being beaten with a blow hook. It doesn’t show the man with lupus on display callously captioned as the link between the monkey and man or the slave Barnum got drunk so he could rip out her teeth to make her look older and then display her dead body. The movie doesn’t tell you that the circus kidnapped albino African-American brothers to display as cannibalistic freaks. That they were told their mother was dead when she spent her lifetime searching for them. “A million dreams” were stolen. We have celebrated the life of a figure who pioneered modern animal cruelty and profited out of human exploitation. The past is whitewashed and the cycle of suppression continues because we have failed to come together as a whole and hold people accountable turning a dehumanising villain into everyone’s favourite movie hero.

When we are ignorant of the mistakes of the past, history repeats itself and is the reason desensitisation remains common today. It is becoming more prevalent as we globalise through digital platforms and little is being done to curtail the issue. India’s ‘selfie crisis’ took social media to a new low as it has the highest rate of deaths caused by selfies. Only a few months ago a man in Delhi posted a selfie at the site of a car crash with people bleeding to death who could have lived if given medical assistance. Instead, they spent their last minutes wincing in pain as a man snapped away with his camera. On YouTube, the infamous Logan Paul posted a video with a dead body in the aptly named suicide forest in Japan, only to gain subscribers after the video was exposed online. Nobody should be gaining followers from having such disregard for the value of life. We seem to think that online, there is no accountability and the saying any publicity is good publicity is proving to be true when it shouldn’t be. These people need to be held responsible to the public as a collective, not dismissed.

As a whole, we need to redefine the entertainment industry so no more is lost for our five minutes of disturbing enjoyment. Let’s actively support the individuals who are catalysts for progress and embrace the changes we need to make.  When we collectively come together the degree of accountability is much higher than it is when only a few speak out and we can integrate into a more diverse range of communities. We can use the power in numbers to instigate positive change and progress, be activists and prevent suppression. No more Dignity. No more Lives. No more future stolen for our entertainment.

Winning speech by Grace Hordern Year 10

Photo above - L-R: Elizabeth M.Butt Public Speaking winners Isabelle Moss Year 9, Rose O'Brien Year 12, Grace Hordern Year 10 with the winning Cup, and Chloe Hrysikos Year 7