TV. Neither reality nor television. Discuss.
we all know and love as reality television is in actuality not realistic
television. In fact, nothing can ever truly be realistic television
unless you are watching the tape of surveillance camera, but even
then- the choice of position, the beginning and
ending of the tape, etc. all create inherent bias. So when it comes
to reality television, with all the cutting, splicing, and special
effects, much more is thrown into the bias basket of editing.
would be one thing if people really believed that these shows were
100% real - no scripts, no stage make-up, no product placements
but many openly acknowledge the fictional elements or atleast the
over dramaticism involved. But they still watch it. Why?
it the staging of raw emotion that captivates us? Author E. Probyn
writes, "It is something about the staging of real emotion.
In the new generation of reality TV there's also the crude but compelling
mixture of team spirit versus rugged individualism. Shows like Survivor
give us a vision of human sociality stripped naked. The big draw
seems to be that we can watch real, if not very likeable, people
do unreal things in order to win. And we get to squeal in outrage
about the fact we're watching it."
the argument of how real these people are comes to surface. The
show might be constructed, we realize people aren't put into situations
like the obstacle courses of Survivor everyday - but we do we still
believe the people participating are authentic?
Gilbert Bouchard thinks not. "Now that they have a sequel to
Survivor, you can see just how much they are trying to recreate
the first one as exactly as possible--what could be less real than
that? But people don't want natural; natural is what we want to
get away from when we watch TV."
Bodroughkozy, professor of Media Studies at the University of Virginia,
further criticizes these shows for mimicking the traditional sitcom
cast-types. She contends that, "The highly contrived form and
typecasting give the viewer a high degree of familiarity, easy enjoyment
and easy communal water-cooler discussion the next day. Just as
soap operas used to do in the past, these shows provide a context
for people to get together and gossip where they won't offend anybody
or step on toes."
more than just water-cooler gossip has to result from the hours
devoted to watching this show, is there not any more compelling
reason for the million dollar commercial spots that air in between
would like to think so: "Survivor, like all successful television,
is polythematic, an open text that allows different readings. People
can use the show as a launching pad to think about and discuss the
workplace, capitalism and relationships in 21st century."
such a discussion would be admirable, the theoretic debate is most
likely reserved for the academic sphere. So where does that lead
the thousands of "average" viewers? Not contemplating
capitalism and gender politics, that's for sure. Most viewers would
respond, "It's entertaining." That answer should suffice,
but it doesn't. Why?
we need to press for a more introspective self-analytical response?
Does even entertainment have a deeper level of denotation and connotations
lurking under the surface? Are we so in awe of the stupidity, idiocy,
pettiness, and falseness of these shows that we conclude there must
be an ulterior reason for people to devote so much time and subsequently
advertisers so much money? Anything to rationalize the apparent
wastefulness of the masses.
Peter Swirksi offers a piece of psychological reason that aids in
this rationalization: The enamoration with reality tv shows reflects
the subconscious anxiety and instability of individual's lives in
today's modern culture. He explains, "There's a tremendous
vacuum in our lives, an existential crisis where so many people
live very boring lives that don't have a touch of reality--that's
why we desperately seek that touch of reality, be it reality TV,
collectibles, or people getting plastic surgery to look like celebrities."
we living vicariously through our TVs? Let's hope not. However,
the not so "real" emotion delievered through these shows
provokes the viewers to a "real" reaction. And in that
reaction comes affirmation of ourselves and our roles in the "reality"
of our own lives.
in the end, does it not matter if what is on the screen isn't real,
only if our emotional reaction to it is?