One of the reasons shockumentaries keep our interest is because of its focus on utopia.
Sometimes this is intentional, sometimes it isn't.
But this utopian aspect is central to the enjoyment of all shockumentaries / mondo movies / exotic exploitation pictures.
There's two dimensions to this:
- Wouldn't it be amazing to live like that?
- I'm so glad we don't live like that.
In the first realm, we see images of "lazy" natives lounging around, surrounded by plentiful resources - plenty of food, relaxation, and willing mating partners.
We extend our envy to these images because they have plenty of that which we lack.
In the second realm, we see shocking images of grotesque and inhumane rituals: cannibalism, bizarre sexual practices, incredible violence, backward medicine, and general ignorance.
These images create a fear and repulsion, reaffirming our belief in Western capitalism.
The exotic exploitation pictures first arrived during the Great Depression.
The mondo movies arrived during the social-upheaval of the 1960's.
The VHS-trade shockumentaries were popular during the highly conservative 1980's, when income inequality began to widen between the richest citizens and the poorest.
Interestingly, shockumentaries arrive during America's most fragile moments.
When America lacks belief in itself,
it births a shockumentary.
These movies provide a balm for society at large.
They present images of the world that they wish they had, and at the same time, reassure audiences that the world they're currently inhabiting is on the right path.
After all, who wants to eat the brain of their sibling after having their foreskin cut off with a blunt rock after chasing a rabid gorilla seeking revenge on all the women of the village?