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?
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 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?
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.
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.