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Winning through a screen

By , Everson, WA
Winning is a passion that many American’s adore. Winning to some comes from bank accounts and beauty. Reality television portrays winning as something acquired through possessions and status with-in a tight nit rich community, also known as the ever wished for, American dream. Jennifer Posner a well-known cultural critic discusses the false messages and flaws of today’s reality television, she believes reality television has a negative effect on the people of America. Posner states in her essay This is not my Beautiful House, “In the face of these stark realities, the magnification and misrepresentation of affluence in reality television plays a dangerous game with our expectations, our desires and spending patterns…(Posner 135).” But not only are our spending patterns and desires changed through reality television. Our need for winning and the truth behind what winning means is altered and forever changed. An area in American culture that has stayed true to what winning and the horrors of winning are is in literature. More specifically one of the most famous books of 2010 and 2011, The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins shows the deepest most horrific side of winning and the need to be on top. The consequence of reality television’s spin on winning in the 21st century is the death of inglorious victory and the rise of shutting out opponents through constant prevail. The consequences of this winning is the fear of losing is eliminated due to the low cost of losing in reality game shows and the thirst for winning a useless game increases the need to win in life; but this winning has no good affect on the world or personal lives.
Inglorious victory is dead. Winning in reality television is glamorized and glorious. Reality televisions spin and alternation of winning is bloodless and alive. The prizes of victory in reality game shows such as Survivor, NBC’s most famous cut throat game show, are money. A million dollars is granted to this season’s “survivor”. The consequences’ of not winning are purely nothing. There is nothing life threatening about being the loser in game shows such as survivor.
In the novel The Hunger Games the main character is thrown into a televised game show called the hunger games. The game goes as this, there are children sent from each village within the nation Panem, to play in the games. The winner gets food for an entire year and the honor of being that year’s winner of the hunger games. The only catch; in order to win you simply have to be the last one alive. The games are a way for the government to remind its people that it is in charge with an attitude that says, “we aren’t here to be friends, we are here to be in control”. Winning the hunger games is inglorious. It means that the main character has to kill and sit around and wait for people to be killed. There is no glamorous prize waiting for her when she wins, simply just the guilt she will bear after literally destroying opponents’.
There is no guilt in the winning of a reality television game show. Victory in reality television is desired to gain power and self-worth. In Mahily Csikszentimihalyi’s essay about “the self” titled, What is the Self? Csikszentimihalyi goes into detail about all components of the self and the ideal self. He states that “After the self develops, its primary goal becomes that of every other organism: to defend itself, to aggrandize itself. If we don’t control it, it soon takes over all our energy for its own purposes, and we end up being ruled by a figment of our imagination (Csikszentimihalyi 251).” When winning and “aggrandizing” the self becomes our purpose for success and life the results are destructive, not just to the self but to others. The attitude that winning is the only way to gain economic growth and power takes over the minds of many. When this happens the demeanor behind actions propels the self into a mindset that seeks out useless violence in order to “win”.
The cost of winning or losing in a reality television competition show is ultimately minimal. The winner of a show wins some sort of prize such as money, or fame. Many gamers seek the fame that comes from winning. Such as someone on the show “American Idol”, the winning singer wins a singing contract and attention. The essay, Attack of the Superzeroes by Thomas de Zengotita writes about our world’s lack of heroes due to reality television and celebrities. In his essay he says, “Celebrities held a monopoly on the most scarce and precious resource in a mediated society: attention.” If someone can win a televised competition they become a celebrity which then in result helps them gain attention. Attention is beyond vital in today’s society. People often times base their worth on how much attention the people around them put towards them. If all that is gained from winning is money and attention than the cost of losing must be low.
The cost of losing a reality television show competition such as Survivor is so minimal that all it means is the losing opponent goes home. Reality television does not have true depiction of what losing in the real world is like. Losing a job is scary. With the economy plundering down every day, the job field is minimizing drastically. Reality television is so scared to show this side of the “losing” world that it lies about it. In Posner’s essay This is Not My Beautiful House Ponser goes on to speak about the effect that reality television has on the middle class. When talking about a reality television show called, Meet My Folks the show is shot in a giant, beautiful house that doesn’t actually belong to the folks that are on the show, Posner says, “”the folks” on Satin’s shows, and on so many others, are relocated from their own homes (or-horrors!-apartments) to erase anything so banal as an average, middle class existence. (Posner 134). Reality television is taking the fear of losing a job, or losing a house and making it disappear and making the fear seem non-existent. The true fear in “losing” in real life, not reality television is often times death. All around the world there is a constant “game” going on and it’s called war. Darfur has been in a genocide fight for years and if the people in Darfur don’t “win” that day the loss isn’t their reputation or a flight home, its death.
Reality television and reality game shows have a skewed view of death. Death and mortality are referenced in phrases such as “you look like death today”, “your shoes are to die for” and “this is so hard I’m going to die”. These phrases almost go the point where they are mocking the true meaning of death. Death in The Hunger Games is a cost to losing a televised game show the hunger games. Death is never mocked or glamorized which then in result makes losing seem like the ultimate cost.
de Zengotita the author of Attack of the Superzeroes examines reality shows, he says, “we are inundated with stories of ordinary folk as protagonists in extreme circumstances-shattered by drugs, stricken by disease, stranded in the wild, captured by the mullahs, spending Tuesdays with Morrie, giving kidneys to their sisters, awakened from comas. But starring also mundane situations –being dumped by clueless boyfriends, worried about the size of their thighs, and on and on.” He then on goes on to say that the purpose for this is “aimed at eliciting responses that go, “I’m exactly like that” or “imagine how I would feel if…” (de Zengotita 42)” I would suggest that I rarely feel that way as I am watching mundane or dramatic reality television. De Zengotita following his earlier statements says, “There is a huge fan base out there for trauma stories…why? Well partly it’s morbid curiosity, a ghoulish investment in gazing upon the misfortunes of others (de Zengotita 42).” If there is such a fan base for trauma in reality television then how come the very famous reality television competition shows do not have any real life trauma? Allow me to suggest that while Americans love the “real” world trauma they do not want to accept that it can happen in reality, so they would rather live through it versus experience it in a cut throat game show. So viewers will cling to the mundane shows that are far from reality.





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