Where is the Reality?

July 12, 2010
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Flip on the television and there are literally hundreds of channels, broadcasting thousands of shows, containing millions of episodes. The living room market has blossomed in recent decades to become a nearly immeasurable force in our lives. Unlike film, books, radio, or newspapers the television has proven to be one of the most diverse forms of media in history (only trumped by the conquest of the internet). News is fed at a constant pace, scripted stories from around the globe are dished out nightly, films from years past are regurgitated for those of us patient enough to sit through them.

There's also an ever growing medium of storytelling that's emerged on the small screen called 'Reality Television' that encompasses a variety of unscripted shows. Yet one has to ask themselves whether 'Reality' TV is an accurate reflection on the reality of society. The goal of almost all these shows is for the contestants to obtain a huge sum of money. Whether they be the poor and in need of cash, hungry for a quick buck, or hoping to give to charity, their desperate attempts to obtain the prize becomes our entertainment. Pulling the strings, all the executives care about is what harvests them the most money, and thus the 'Reality' of Reality TV is lost.

Whether or not the people who appear on Reality TV deserve their place in our living rooms is a process that must be given rigorous thought. The people we see aren't so much 'real people' as they are a carefully selected group of individuals who the producers think will draw in the most ratings. Already, the word 'Reality' loses some credit when one realizes that the people they're watching are performers without a script.

These people are usually presented as Average Joes lucky enough to earn a place on television, Average Joes with a distinct and marketable character, but your Average Joe nonetheless. What this kind of treatment does to someone's ego should be investigated by a psychologist. Should we really expect these performers to act honestly when placed in front of the camera and farmed out to the nation?

Money is the biggest draw to Reality TV. The allure of a cash prize is likely what makes shows like 'Cash Cab', 'Who Wants to be a Millionaire', and 'The Price is Right' so popular. We all have a desire for riches and we can all imagine ourselves in the position of fighting for millions. Presenting a situation that's too good to be true is yet another strike against Reality TV's name. Truckloads of money doesn't just fall upon you if you complete a task whilst being followed by a cameraman. Isn't that kind of situation just a dream?

Reality Television has a broad selection though. While contest shows like 'Survivor', 'The Amazing Race', and 'America's Next Top Model' show us a completely skewed version of reality, there are still a number of honest shows out there. These range more on the educational side of the table and don't evoke as much suspense as the heavily-edited slop. 'Mythbusters' and 'Deadliest Catch' are famous examples of this kind of Reality TV, and although their hosts are still chosen with the ratings in mind there's much more honesty to them. Maybe it's because they're walking through the paces of their daily job, only with a cameraman following. Perhaps it's because there's no ridiculous prize money awaiting them at the end of the show. Although the jobs and tasks we see are far from average, at least they feel real. They aren't devised to make it look like a rags-to-riches story, and they aren't edited to look like some slick hollywood movie. So the question is, aren't these the only shows that should be called 'Reality Television'?

Although the purging of processed 'Reality TV' is unnecessary, there should be an established barrier between what is a reflection of society and what is not. This isn't a damaging misstep that the studios have made, and there are many more crucial things to rally about in the television industry (violence, sex, racism, etc). This is just another example of the media lying to its audience in the name of ratings and money. The only difference: they've told us it's real.

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This article has 3 comments. Post your own now!

emergingtalent said...
Jul. 21, 2010 at 3:33 pm
That's the problem with us. We lap it up like obient pets. Sometimes I am so ashamed in the human race I want to hide under my bed and wait for the apocalypse.
PhoenixLord replied...
Jul. 21, 2010 at 8:59 pm
The fact that we are having this discussion, that there is still a group of people who don't lap it up, is a good sign.
emergingtalent replied...
Jul. 22, 2010 at 11:22 am
True, but if we have to have this disscussion also means that there are a lot of people who do. sadly.
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