Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Paranormal fluff or harmful exploitation?

Today's Sun and  Mirror both run surprisingly lengthy pieces on paranormal enthusiast Ashley Nicole-Fine of Leeds Alabama and her collection of "haunted dolls" which left a bad taste in my mouth and the nagging question that I've headed this blog with:

"When does a paranormal tabloid piece become harmful exploitative trash?"

Perhaps when the person in focus in the piece has some pretty clear mental health issues?

Ashley, pictured opposite with one of her haunted collectables, Annabelle (original), describes some of her dolls light antics: "Unfortunately two of the dolls HATE men – and have attacked her boyfriend Phillip Baston, 25, in his sleep. She says the 'haunted' dolls which have taken against Phillip are possessed by women who were murdered by their boyfriends. Previously, the dolls were kept in her bedroom but when she started seeing Phillip he asked that they be moved. She agreed to this, concerned they might lash out at night again."

Hmmm... the insinuation that Phillip has been attacked in the night is I found quite disturbing, Ashley goes on to describe him waking up with several injuries, if I take her at her word that he has suffered these injuries, clearly not accepting that they were caused by dolls... well you see the inevitable conclusion. Further more does her concern that they might "lash out again" strike you as faintly threatening as it does me?

The article continues:
"Ashley said she had a word with two dolls - Mirabella and her friend Setha - and said they 'told her' they had been acting out because they detested men and had both been killed by their lovers."
Again this strikes me as someone who may be deeply deluded. In addition to that the attitude of Mirabelle and Setha to men, clearly a projection of their owner, leaves me with the impression of a woman who may have had a difficult history with men, and may need to talk to someone of a non-porcelain nature to address this.

The article just becomes more and more disturbing as Ashley describes listening to the dolls laugh and talk to each other, and paints a picture of a upsettingly isolated individual who has for many years found comfort in assigning personalities and histories to her dolls.
"Going into a meditative state, she said such a reading aims to communicate with the specific spirit within a doll, and is something she always does in her special dolls' room.
She said: "The dolls' room has the most energy, so I'll sit in there cross-legged on the floor with the doll up against me – either holding her like a baby, or with her hand on me – that helps with the older spirits...The younger ones don't mind being held like babies because they're little, but the older ones don't like all that kissy stuff"

The eminently sensible Mark Smith of NGI had this to say about the Mirror article:

Whilst I completely agree with the sentiment Mark expresses here I'm not sure this represents an either/or dilemma. I think its quite possible that Ashley is both attention seeking AND quite disturbed. She at least seems to believe what she is saying.

I'd argue that this makes very little difference. Ashley is unlikely to have received an earth-shatteringly large amount of money for the piece, and I don't think the money offered offsets the potential harm the article could do to Ashley and her partner.

I don't think its to much of a stretch to call these tabloids deeply irresponsible for placing Ashley in the public spotlight in this way. They expose a potentially quite vulnerable woman to ridicule and scorn whilst simultaneously pandering to a delusion which may potentially be leading her to physically harm another person and mask deep seated issues.

Now one could argue that as Ashley has been paid for sharing her story that negates the argument that she has been exploited. I am pretty that Ashley has received money for the story. A good indication of this is that the JPEGs used in the article are headed PAY.

As Mark says "stupid or exploitative"of the story. Again I'd say false dilemma. The article is stupid, exploitative and I'll raise to deeply irresponsible to boot.

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