The Harsh Reality of Unreal Reality Television

September 6, 2010
By jayjayjee SILVER, Winnetka, Illinois
jayjayjee SILVER, Winnetka, Illinois
8 articles 0 photos 0 comments

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We all have our own guilty pleasures. Whether it is a food indulgence (Oreos and peanut butter, anyone?), a book (Vampires…need I say more?), or even an alternate reality escape (constructive way to categorize Assassins Creed, Legend of Zelda, World of Warcraft). The truth is that as humans we do indulge in things we crave, despite their possible negative effects of doing so. What it is that makes us reach for he Oreos is the taste, for the book is the idea of romance, for the XBOX360 controller is the thrill of competition. Their effect can change our appearance, can alter our thoughts or expectations, or simply put our time to waste. In society today, there is one increasingly popular indulgence that impacts ourselves in a different aspect: our behavior. In the US today, the growing interest in reality television is transforming the ideals of our society.

So, what is really fueling our desire for reality television? In an interview, USC Annenberg School of Communications media teacher Martin Kaplan states: “"I think a lot of the appeal of these shows is that the producers and casting directors have figured out that we have reptile brains, and that there is stuff that we can't resist because of the species we are." Therefore, every time we fulfill that guilty pleasure, it is only so because there is concepts within these show that spark our craving and give us satisfaction. However, what is it in these shows that we rave? What are these shows composed of that making us come back? General Manager of the Bravo TV network that hosts such reality TV shows as The Real Housewives Top Chef, and Kathy Griffin, believes that reality television is made successful through “drama, suspense, great characters, an emotional resolution." These are the concepts that spark our interest and draw us into watching consistently. In the real world, it is true that we are drawn to gossip and general drama to keep things dynamic. Alfred Hitchcock once said, “"What is drama but life with the dull bits cut out”, which is the perfect way of expressing the large part drama does play in each of our lives. Therefore, if we as humans are attracted to the drama of our own lives, we watch the “real lives” of others on television to indulge in their drama. In addition, if viewers tune in religiously to a show to satisfy our drama cravings, they will never be able to get enough, creating a sort of “dramaholic”. This may seem comical now, however, this could have a potentially negative effect in the long run.

The dirty secret of reality television is not the graphic, mature (or rather, immature), and generally offensive behaviors displayed on TV. The dirty secret is really how unreal these behaviors and shows actually are. Freelance reality-show editor Jeff Bartsch, who has had experience with many different shows including Blind Date, talks about how even alter the footage can flip the reality ass backwards: "You can really take something black and make it white.” In the incredibly popular MTV reality series Laguna Beach, the editors were able to create the drama of a love triangle, form simply footage and no reality. “The first season of Laguna Beach, centered on a love triangle among two girls (LC and Kristin) and a boy (Stephen). The problem, says a story editor who asked not to be named, was that the triangle didn't exist. LC and Stephen, he says, were platonic friends, so the producers played Cupid through montage. LC ‘would say things about [Stephen] as a friend,’ says the editor. "[LC] said, 'I just love this guy.' All you have to do is cut to a shot of the girl, and suddenly she's jealous and grimacing.’" The whole situation was completely factitious. To the audience, however, this is real. This is the drama they had tuned in for, and if reality doesn’t supply it, the editors will. What the audience is starting to believe is that there is that there can be much drama in the average life, and they are learning to love it.
The amount of reality TV shows is quickly skyrocketing. “Today, reality shows constitute 13% of broadcast programming, up from 4% in 1999, according to a recent analysis by media negotiator Magna Global” (Rankin). With the first season of “The Real World”. Since then, its popularity has been booming by every network. There are two sides to reality television: supply and demand. For a network to supply a show for their viewers with a show, it is not a problem. In juxtaposition to a drama or a sitcom, reality television is incredibly cheap to produce due to the budget cuts of high paying actors or writers. According to CBS, “an hour of reality can cost a few hundred thousand dollars, compared to the one to three million for a scripted drama.” It is cheap to produce, and the viewers respond positively towards it. According to an article in the Philadelphia Inquirer, “The History Channel used series about quirky Las Vegas pawnbrokers and quirkier junkyard scavengers to have its best month ever in April.” The prestige, creativity, and potential of television is inverse the relationship of reality television’s popularity.
In the movie “Gamer”, the ”future” of video game entertainment is exposed. It had evolved from pixels on a screen, to the control of people’s lives in the world. One is able to sit at home, controller in hand, and enter the world of “Society”, a place where you are controlling the actual actions of a paid participant, in an enclosed area with mind control technology. Being in control gives you all power to force the humans to do cruel, grotesque, absurd, demeaning, and generally offensive actions. This shows the development from controlling pixilated; structure lives much like the Sims, to a profane and real situation. As humans, we search for progression in entertainment. The better the graphics of the video game, the more real it looks, and the more we are drawn to it.

As humans we reach for progression in our entertainment. With modern technology, that progression is almost directly related to how real it can get. Whether it is special effects, pixels, or drama. However, as one sees more of these, their standards get higher, and their tolerance becomes thicker. No longer will the audience look to television for their drama, when it can no longer provide what they want, and they will search the world around them, creating and immersing themselves with it. However, this will not be the drama of real life. What will be created will be the recreation of what had been exposed through the unreality of reality television.

The author's comments:
I see the crude behavior portrayed on reality television mirror in my daily relationships. It has sculpted the susceptible minds of youth into a belief that reality is as dramatic as what they watch.

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This article has 1 comment.

on Sep. 13 2010 at 1:20 pm
Wow, this girl is really insightful! Anyone who was able to meet her at the New York Film Academy was extremely lucky! Especially anyone with the name of Bobby....he's hot!

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