Most of us feel we are adequately educated, wise about the workings of the world and simply put- intelligent specimens of the human race. We generally pride ourselves on being above manipulation and very aware of the manipulators. Yet we have found ourselves time and again sitting in front of the tv drawn to one of the hundreds of “reality shows” like an intoxicating cocktail. Hooked by the drama, play out of personalities and relationships and the lifestyles so different from our own. But is it reality?… really?? Of course not we say. We know better yet we belly up to the bar nightly for more.
For some reason, we have long found voyeurism enticing. From the enjoyment of people watching at the mall to cranking our neck around at a crash scene. We want to know how other people live…and die. Reality t.v. seems to satisfy this little fetish of ours as we watch Honey Boo Boo’s family, laugh at their backward style and ignorance and feel relief that we are not them. Maybe you are more into Snookie as you snicker waiting for the next cat fight or backstabbing which does not involve you. Or is your thing Duck Dynasty as you are enticed by the long beards and mountain men masquerades of these savvy businessmen.
We eagerly await culture shock as we peer into the lives of Amish youths in New York City. We anticipate a major gold strike for the Alaskan miners who are at the brink of losing it all or so we are told. We choose the best mate for the bachelor or bachelorette as they attempt to find that happily ever after love on t.v. We live vicariously through it all and discuss with co- workers at the water cooler the next day. Oh but we know it is not real. Right?
While we watch, the producers demand more drama for the ratings. While we watch, the participants barter for more money per episode. While we watch, we are played and they are all the players. Reality t.v. does not give us insight into another’s world. No more than the cage at a public zoo. By simply interjecting the cameras and production staff…their lives have already been altered and the true voyeuristic view has been severely tainted. The corporations are happy as ratings come in and advertising profits go up. The actors (well they are really) are paid for their services and continue to portray a life unaffected by the mighty $$. And we are satisfied that we have watched with permission, the private lives of others play out in prime time. We are Truman and this is the show.
I have written about this because I am bothered by where we are headed out here in the real world. It is now acceptable to be conned by these “reality” shows. We know they are staged, but we don’t admit it. You may ask so where is the harm? But where is the reality…it is so fogged and skewed that we no longer seem to even care what is real or not. That is the danger. When we accept this for hours on end as our eyes are glued to the screen it becomes easier to accept this manipulation elsewhere. And eventually reality is no longer expected, demanded or even important. Then we become a mush of manipulated non thinkers fed by the hand of others. Our world needs us to demand truth and reality. We have important decisions to make and heavy tasks ahead of us… This indifference towards truth is seeping into our media as political pundits and spin become the norm and unbiased reporting becomes extinct. Hard science is questioned and facts turned into theories without hesitation. Our real world is a blur of subjective data and little facts. We are headed down a slippery slope of unmindfulness. Unfortunately we just don’t buy it.
“We accept the reality of the world we are presented.” (Christof- The Truman Show)
4 Replies to “Facing Reality”
Very well thought out and spot on. I can only hope that there are more citizens out there that can and will take the time to think about this subject. Something tells me, though, that my hopes shouldn’t get too high. The corporate world knows exactly what it is doing.
Thanks for sharing this.
you’re right…they know
“Reality” shows are, to me, no more “real” than the movies, sitcoms, or soap operas that came before them. As I read, I strained to think of any reality show I’ve watched. I confess, “Dancing With The Stars” the season Emmitt Smith was a contestant, because the reviews were that his grace equalled that of Gene Kelly. I ask myself, Why do I find “reality TV” so annoying, never even checking in to see what the “cool kids” are talking about at that proverbial water cooler? The answer comes to me, thanks to your provocative words: reality television is so un-real, so annoyingly un-real, because it portrays itself as non-fiction, and I’d much rather watch a rerun of fiction than a farce. (I’m just not cool. I never recognize the names or faces of today’s entertainers. But I’m okay with that. I just don’t have much to offer at the Water Cooler of Life. But as this lengthy tome of a reply shows, that certainly doesn’t mean I have nothing to say…)
Important words, Charlesy Jane. Thank you. We all need to be aware of the fact that corporate entities are — legally — using these shows, just as they are using sports coverage and every other form on the media, save PBS. That’s not a reason to hate them, it’s just an important part of what we choose to watch… and so perhaps, we DO need to watch a bit, to realize the power that lies within the advertising industry.
As it’s back-to-school time, it occurs to me that an interesting course could be developed in middle and high schools on the power and influence of the media and its corporate sponsors. Actually, there are college courses on “Media, Power and Culture.” Perhaps, like so many topics, we’re waiting a bit late before offering that message.
Wouldn’t it be an amazing world if that power could be harnessed to teach kindness, gentleness, understanding, acceptance and unconditional love? Ah, but I am naive. I once commented to a friend that I disliked violence and needless drama in movies and on TV. She responded, “But who wants to watch a show about every day boring life where everyone is happy?” Sigh. Me.
Great post, Charlesy Jane. Great post!
Thanks Emma….I find watching true happiness a rarity that I would enjoy as well.