Looking at others, looking at suffering

To explain the concept of looking at others, looking at suffering, the video on YouTube ‘Jack Black meets a homeless boy’ is one way in which the portrayal of suffering can become a spectacle. According to Sontag 2003, ‘something being watched (or ignored) by other people’, referring to artworks of classical antiquity, wherein onlookers watch some kind of horror taking place.

Jack Black was overcome by emotion by the story of young boy he had met in Ugandan. It is not because of the plight of the young boy, it is because of the salient message of the film that bring out- for better or for worse.

After watching the videos of celebrities such as Jack Black visiting poverty, the problem that we will concern would be what was the following action and how it could affect the society. Although it is very intentioned, it is also incredibly hard not to fell slightly patronized when a celebrity attempts to help those who suffer from various problems such as poverty and illness, but then return home and continue their life normally. Besides that, the question here is, are we consoled by the indirect way of viewing the suffering when we are watching Jack Black meeting a homeless boy in Ugandan? Are we really caring about this social problem in our daily life? Are we feeling comfortable when watching this video?


When suffering becomes a spectacle, the emphasis of the work is shifted toward the viewer. The work becomes a mirror rather than a looking glass, as we look at the woks and are prompted to position ourselves in relation to ideas of suffering. According to Sontag 2003, it explain that ‘there is satisfaction in looking at the picture without flinching and there is pleasure in the flinching.’


In my opinion, Jack black actually did his works that are so stunningly beautiful and explicitly tragic, that make the viewer is feel informed to react sympathetically and caring. It’s a direct order that we willingly obey, and feel self-congratulatory when we do.



Sontag, S 2003, ‘Regarding the pain of others’, accessed 01/04/2016, http://monoskop.org/images/a/a6/Sontag_Susan_2003_Regarding_the_Pain_of_Others.pdf

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