How can I discuss "The picture of Dorian Gray" in light of how the process of discovery can challenge our values and view of the world? How is this similar to the SBS TV series "Go Back to Where...

How can I discuss "The picture of Dorian Gray" in light of how the process of discovery can challenge our values and view of the world? How is this similar to the SBS TV series "Go Back to Where You Came From"?

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M.P. Ossa | College Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

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It is rather challenging to establish a correlation between a modern, 21st century show that deals with preconceived notions of refugees and immigrants in a post 9-11 world and a Victorian, decadent novel featuring a young dandy who discovers his innate love for sin.

However, the isolated themes of "discovery", and the aspect of "changing values" can certainly be recognized and identified in both productions.

Let's start with the series "Go Back Where You Came From". This Australian TV show aims to show the viewers the inner reactions, notions, and constructs that people have built up around refugees. To do this, they chose six outspoken and powerful mainstream Australians who have gone public with their approval or disapproval of Australian refugee and immigrant laws. Not only does the show aim to expose their inner conflicts and prejudices, but it also presents racial situations from both sides of the spectrum. For example, on season 3, episode 2, the show participants got to experience first hand the Australian immigration policy of "turn back the boats". The rationale behind this policy is precisely that: to send anyone who tries to reach Australia by shore illegally back to their country of origin. This, and many other policies, are presented in the program making the participant group experience first hand how the people who are being turned back feel at the moment when it happens.

Understandably, the show will focus on the negative aspects of the policy, such as the devastation that families feel when they see their hopes crushing down as they are returned to their countries of origin. The show, however, also focuses on the feelings of the participant group. One by one, each participant will express how they feel before and after the experience. Again, the show tries to focalize on the pain of the event and how it affects and shakes the participant's entire foundation regardless of how they felt in the beginning. There is a lot of shock in their discoveries. There is also shock in that some do not change their views.

All this being said, the show presents discovery under the light of prejudice. Each participant expresses his or her views and how discovering the experience has changed (or reinforced) their original view. One thing is clear: it is necessary for the participants to go through the situation in order to unveil their true emotions.

The Picture of Dorian Gray

Oscar Wilde wrote Dorian around 1888 and it was published for the first time in Lippincott's magazine in 1890. From the offset, the novel angered many readers who said that it was "corrupting" and "indecent".

The premise of the novel is presenting the circumstances and tribulations of a young, rich man who is influenced by an older friend, Lord Henry Wooton. This man's ethos in life is that

The only way to get rid of a temptation is to yield to it. Resist it, and your soul grows sick with longing for the things it has forbidden to itself, with desire for what its monstrous laws have made monstrous and unlawful.

In the case of the novel, the same principle applies where an experience is needed to learn about discovery. The exception with Dorian Gray is that he felt that he had to go through sinful experiences in order to fulfill his natural curiosity for life. Dorian definitely experiences changes. He gets to mingle with the poor peasants of the East End of London, going as far as visiting opium dens and even proposing to Sybil Vane, a third rate actress from a cheap theater. 

Dorian feels that, by experiencing "the underbelly of London" he gets to know it better. He feels that, the more sensations he experiences, the more he will grow within. Dorian's discovery is not one that would make you grow as a person, however. His is merely an exploration of his moral limits while pushing the prudish buttons of the society that he is trying to challenge.

That is another attribute between the show and the novel. They are contending social issues and challenging them from the core of the human heart. In the show, they do it by testing their moral and ethical views of others from the perspective of someone more fortunate than other. In Dorian Gray the same concept also applies but, once again, his discovery is more to challenge himself to see how far (and low) he can go.

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