Why I Hate Reality TV (And A
Brief History of Manipulation)

I’m a pretty laid back guy. Live and let live, I buy that. But I actually hate reality TV, and every time it comes on, I need to leave the room. Why is this?

Firstly, hate (especially when italicized) is a very strong word. I don’t use it, or italics, lightly. I don’t really hate anything or anyone.

Except that I hate reality TV shows. (With the exception of Dragon’s Den and Gladiators, I am tarring all reality TV with the same brush; I hate them all equally.)

Every now and then, during those “nothing is on” channel surfing moments, Claire might randomly plonk on any form of reality TV. And I always react the same: I suddenly jump up to wash the dishes or get the urge to fix something in the house.

Although Claire calls these shows “moving wallpaper” or “garbage to unwind the brain,” I can’t stand them. And I’ve never really analysed why.

Cue some psycho-analysis; Is it some childhood fear? Is there envy and do I wish I had my own show? Deep rooted trauma?

Reality TV is hoodwinking on a global scale.

Upon deeper reflection, I think I now know why I hate reality TV; because I feel – actually, I know – that it’s a scam being perpetrated right in front of me, and the victims are both the participants and the viewers.

It’s hoodwinking on a global scale.

reality tv

Reality TV is not real; everything is heavily pre-determined. Before any participant appears in their first frame, whole crews have been briefed to type-cast so they can shoot and later edit these poor saps into a train-wreck television scenario.

(Even Alan Sugar from the UK Apprentice threatened to walk away from the show because of the way he was being portrayed in edit, and he’s the star!)

If it isn’t already, it should be public knowledge that across all his franchises Simon Cowell’s team has every contestant sign a thick-as-a-phone-book contract which effectively makes their soul his (or SyCo’s) property for at least a decade.

And I hope that you, dear reader, employ your incredulity to the max when you hear Simon tell a gushing performer “I genuinely believe you are going to be a star [wink]”.  (Surely Simon’s “genuine” winks are the equivalent of the mafia’s kiss of death?)

And who cannot now see the avarice and greed prevalent in candidates chosen to be on the Apprentice? “I taste success in my spit everyday”. These are the types of people that cause economic crashes and get bonuses.

And what the heck is a Kardashian?

Surely Simon Cowell’s “genuine” winks are the equivalent of the mafia’s kiss of death?

From a business point of view, it’s genius. Why pay talented writers and actors heaps of money to create amazing, watchable storylines and content, when there is a never-ending sea of gullible people who will do it for free, blindly sign contracts and think that hard work can be circumvented and overnight success really does happen… overnight?

Stack ‘em high, sell ‘em cheap. It makes perfect business sense.

Indeed once in awhile there is a golden nugget in all the silt; an amazing performance, a great backstory of struggle and redemption, but my Facebook friends and YouTube are good at bubbling up the stuff worth watching, so why sit through the rest of it on TV?

I realise there might be deep seated historical reasons for all of this.

The history of scape-goating

Reality TV is, at heart, only the latest iteration of the oldest trick in the book: scape goating.

In its original form, a tribe would take a goat, cast all their sins and problems onto it and drive it into the desert to its certain doom to symbolically take all those sins with it, washing the senders clean.

In a related vein, the Romans did have their coliseums filled with audiences screaming at the gladiators – willing some to be eaten alive by lions or get hacked to pieces by an opponent. Ever present was judging; except emperors used a thumb gesture instead of a buzzer to decide fate.

Reality TV is an iteration of the oldest trick in the book: scape goating.

The northern Europeans (and especially England) had their public stonings, gallows hangings and witch trials. Again, the theme of judging in public prevails (buzzers were still a few centuries off).

See a theme emerging?

In those époques, all of these public displays of gore and judgement-ship were considered healthy for society; a way to purge, a way to let people vent, a way to prevent crime and a way to unite people around a common enemy, a way to show that judges had authority and wisdom.

So when you see someone one on reality TV balling their eyes out because they think this appearance is their only shot, because their gran is ill and their dying wish was to see the contestant become a star, because they have to win at the expense of everyone else, because they need to get judges’ approval, we see scape-goating in modern form, with a lot less gore (have to be PG now).

And the crowds watching in the studio audience and at home are parting with money to participate in voting, do they feel connected to the process? Are the advertisers getting the engagement they pay dearly for? Are they purging at these displays like our ancestors did? Is it healthy?

On second thought, I’m undecided. Maybe reality TV is a good thing after all, and maybe I just don’t get “moving wallpaper”.

Come to think of it, Claire probably wants the dishes to get done and the house fixed and she knows how to trigger me into action.

Damn, women are smart.

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7 Comments

  • Mysterion says:

    Oh don’t get me started on Reality TV. I cringe at the sight of every single one. From TOWIE, Geordie Shore, Big Brother, X Factor, the list is almost endless, I hate them all. I just can’t understand how this crap gets made, how the f***ing idiots who go these shows can act the way they do, really degrading themselves to get “famous”, to be somehow known as a “celebrity. I know nothing I say will ever make a difference, sadly Reality TV is here to stay, but it feels got to have a good rant about it 😀

  • Ryan says:

    I also HATE reality television. I typically consider myself an open understanding individual, but when it comes to reality t.v. there is actually a physical response that goes on inside my body. I get angry with it and I don’t fully understand why. I think, I am embarrassed. Embarrassed to be of the same species of these people. Embarrassed for them and by them. I pity their ignorance and gain no joy from seeing how my life is better than theirs. I cannot be in the same room when one of these shows is on, and don’t know how anyone in good conscious can actually enjoy them. I cant help but think less of the people involved in the shows as well as the people that watch them.

    • David says:

      I agree, which is why I am going to do you a favour and correct your grammar. 🙂

      I also HATE reality television. I typically consider myself an open COMMA understanding individual, but when it comes to reality t.v. there is actually a physical response that goes on inside my body. I get angry with it and I don’t fully understand why. I think, I am embarrassed. Embarrassed to be of the same species (of) AS these people. Embarrassed for them and by them. I pity their ignorance and gain no joy from seeing how my life is better than theirs. I cannot be in the same room when one of these shows is on, and don’t know how anyone in good (conscious) CONSCIENCE can actually enjoy them. I canAPOSTROPHEt help but think less of the people involved in the shows as well as the people that watch them.

  • Allan Wills says:

    Wow, some vitriolic opinions here! I guess some of us have intellectual allergies 🙂

  • Kevilinsky James says:

    I hastily abscond to quieter environs of my abode when I detect one of my fellow occupants watching a show with the “formula” of reality TV. Surely you know the formula of which I speak, which is the same one used for EVERY one of these shows. Imagine if the dupes on these programs stopped cutthroating for once and started working together to achieve a goal. Exponentially greater things would happen.

    This reality TV garbage just teaches further separation in society and that it’s every man for himself, every one else is competition and you must be the BEST (in the eyes of authority) to be accepted and make a difference, there are no second chances, etc.. I’m puking in my brain just thinking about how many people eat this stuff up with no regards to what it does to them.

    Healthy competition is a great thing and drives us ever forward, but this RTV stuff isn’t healthy. Hopefully people will wake up soon to what’s happening here and these type shows will rightfully end up in the great graveyard of airwave history.

  • John Davison says:

    Alan you mean “cue” not “queue”. And surely Gladiators is the worst TV programme ever created?

    • Allan Wills says:

      Hi John – noted and corrected! (And it’s Allan” not “Alan” 🙂 Thanks for the sharp eyes!

      As for Gladiators, I look at it like WWE wrestling; we know it’s fake, but the challenges are fun and the physicality is fun to watch sometimes. And, even if you miss a lot of episodes, you never have to play catch up on plot lines.

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