Reality TV. Neither reality nor television. Discuss.

What 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.

It 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?

Is 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."

But 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?

Author 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."

Aniko 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."

But 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 each episode?

Bodroughkozy 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."

While 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?

Do 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.

Dr. 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."

Are 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.

So in the end, does it not matter if what is on the screen isn't real, only if our emotional reaction to it is?

 

Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, Bravo's surprise prime time hit of five gay guys "making over" a straight guy, is drawing more than a few eyes in today's critical media-be it "queer" or "straight."

Originally intended and marketed to a female audience, Queer Eye seems to combine the best qualities of the male species in the woman's eye-but in attempting to this fantasy a reality, are false claims being made? The show has won acclaim for integrating gay culture into the mainstream, but critics wonder if the stereotypes the show portrays are more harmful than they are helpful.

Get the full story....

My dream is to sign with Def Jux records. Focus on the international a bit. Ninja Tunes, Warp... Interscope, MTA..." sadi Damani, the lyricist and more vocal part of Charlottesville hip-hop trio the Beetnix. "Man, if Rick Rubin [famous for producing the early Beastie Boys albums] walked in here right now, I'd tie him up and wouldn't let him go until I had a record contract. He is the G-d of producers."

Get the full story....

Cheaters in New York, Detroit, Philadelphia, and Atlanta are obviously too busy with Motel 6 and ménage a trois to listen to the radio.

The War of the Roses is America's new favorite homewrecker: radio stations accept applications from listeners who have reason to believe that their significant others are cheating on them; their morning radio show deejays then pose as employees for a new dot-com florist and offer them a free bouquet of a dozen roses in exchange for passing the company name along to friends. Consistently, the cheaters give the name of their less-than-significant others-caught-at which point the radio deejay interrupts and lets the offended parties break up with them on the line.

Get the full story....
 

I always had a crush on Steve, the green-shirted guy who helped a cartoon dog solve a problem by talking to felt salt shakers for clues. But when it came to the real life actor standing in front a green screen, I started to wonder-who is Steve.? (Single? Age? Sign?) And then one day, he was gone. The two year-old in me, with eighteen years of hormones on top of her, wanted to know: where did he go?

"Steve" is Steve Burns, a 29 year-old New York resident and-get ready for this-solo rock musician...

Get the full story....