Monday, March 28, 2011

Pop Culture: Artificial Reality TV

We talked in class about that certain reality shows exist to show the lives of interesting people. I still don’t believe this. Those shows remain incredibly artificial for a number of reasons. Once a camera is placed in a room, everybody will act differently. People change when they are being watched/observed but even more so when they are being recorded for a larger audience. A lot of the scripted elements of the reality shows come from the contrived storylines of an episode, but also the characters themselves playing up to their expectations. Would the people on Jersey Shore really fight so much if they didn’t know the fan reactions to those moments, which is labeled “good TV?”

I’m not saying that it’s impossible to capture the life of people using the medium of television or film. What is necessary is a sense of journalism. Too many of these shows have intervening producers determining plotlines or what characters should be introduced—an odd concept. A journalist should find an area and create an environment where they can observe their subject in what is close to their national setting and report accurately. That is how you are able to learn something and become emotionally invested. The Up Series ranks amongst the best documentaries I’ve ever seen because they are always showing the subjects are they truly are, flaws and all.

Showing people blissfully transforming themselves into vile caricatures is not the television I want to watch. Yes, Snookie is actually named Snookie so I suppose by definition she is a “real person.” Yet I’ve learned more about the human condition through people like Don Draper, Walter White, and even The Doctor. The best uses of fiction are the ones that are able to tap into the themes and reality of the world around them and convey it into a story that is compelling. Doing that in a reality show setting seems disingenuous when it’s actual people living their lives—or pretending to live their lives.

What remains in these shows is just exploitive sensationalism. The worse they behave, the more screen time they’ll get. Watching their shows and talking about their shows is only supporting this madness. Rising above it and laughing at their scandals is no longer a relevant excuse because it’s reached the point when they are self-aware as well.

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