Tuesday, March 14, 2006

The "Real World" of Reality TV

"We're living in a material world…”

- Madonna

Yesterday, my best friend and I were talking about the ridiculously popular reality show, "Flavor of Love", starring the great-great-great grandfather of Hip Hop, Flavor Flav. In this show, a host of beautiful women (with a couple of bad apples) vie for Flav's love and affection by doing crazy s***.

That's it. I don't know what else there is to say about it.

This show, along with other thousand reality shows out there remind me of how surreal the entertainment world has gotten.

American materialism has never been more evident than it is now; as we’ve seen a proliferation of “reality television” seep its way into our culture. This so-called "reality" TV is one of the newest tools being utilized by the media to hook people into a shallow and vacuous TV-centric society. But is it really "real"? With shows like "Survivor", “The Apprentice” and "Big Brother", it often feels like I’m watching a primetime drama, complete with all the bickering, rather than a contest.

Other shows such as "The Bachelor/Bachelorette", “Joe Millionaire” or "For Love or Money" demean the allegedly "holy" institution of marriage (I threw this one in for people who object to gay marriages, but don’t mind seeing a guy who marries the girl who can ram her tongue the furthest down his throat). Should one of life’s most sacred moments be reduced to a contest?

Then you have shows that are designed to completely destroy a person's psyche. You're either too fat, too unattractive (dare I say "ugly"), or not talented enough. "American Idol", "The Biggest Loser", "The Swan" and "America's Top Model" remind us that only the thin, pretty, and 'talented' people can ever 'make it' in industry (yet, no one has been able to explain Paris Hilton to me...)

As if that's not enough, you have shows dedicated to chronicling the lives of celebrities. As cameras follow the likes of Paris Hilton and Nicole Ritchie (the no-nothings that they are), Jessica/Ashlee “Lip Sync” Simpson, Anna Nicole Smith and...yes...Flavor Flav; the idea is reinforced that we have become mindlessly obsessed with the lives of rich people.

“Fear Factor” is in a world of its own. I’m still trying to find the right words to describe it...

Reality TV represents the ongoing decline in media morality. The pursuit of money/fame has become so dire that these shows thrive off the “Dog Eat Dog” mentality (Marxism at its finest!). Since rewards (money, fame, employment, or mates) are usually involved, the worse sides of humanity are exposed; as people greedily stopping at nothing to achieve their goals. Is this really what society is about? Is reality TV reflective of true human behavior?

I don’t deny that people have their shortfalls and are usually self-centered. But I also believe that everyone has their good side as well. However, the good side often goes unexposed. I mean, it makes perfect sense. The media simply doesn't like to promote niceness, unless they stand to benefit from it (Can you say "Oprah"?!). The media doesn't go for sugar, it goes for spice. We’ve all experienced racy programming at some point but it was originally just in acting. But, now we have real people engaging in real activities.

So what is the solution? Better yet, IS there a solution?

Reality TV, sadly, has become an American phenomenon which creates cult-like followings from millions of viewers. A sizeable portion of these shows’ audiences actually take a sort of guilty pleasure in sneeking a peek at these shows or, in stranger circumstances, vicariously living out their own lives through the contestants. One critic described reality television as “Dumb people who get lots of cash, win mates, or achieve their 15 minutes of fame by having camera follow them around everywhere they go; as they attempt to lead a drama-filled life". When you break it down to that level, you can really start to understand the pathos of this type of programming. It all starts to make sense.

Your thoughts?


3 "Insiders" spoke their mind. Join in...:

cynthia said...

Don't get me wrong: I agree with what you're saying. But, I think you're looking too much into this whole reality show thing. Everybody knows this stuff is fake, but they still choose to indulge in it. Just like pro-wrestling.

Yasser Rahman said...

Well, everything on the television has been crazy for about two years now, I ahvnt even had the mood to put it on after a long hard day, i fear it will stress me out even more looking at the random nonsense that they have on there..

A life without television..its a boon!

Andre said...

@ cynthia: I wouldn't say that I'm looking too much into this. Whenever you have a show were the contestants create "strategies" for success which including defamation, sabotage, deception, and cheating, then it's worth picking on...

@ yasser: Let me assure you, my friend, you haven't missed much.