Friday, April 08, 2011

Realities, television

A lot is made of the fact that reality television isn't sufficiently real: The circumstances people are put in are contrived to produce particular effects; and how facts are presented is left to the discretion of unseen professionals who manipulate things further. What is true about relations and circumstances as experienced is not honored so much as appearances. But this is why I think of reality television as an excellent metaphor for life in consumer societies, where appearances register a higher value than truth; and where our daily experiences revolve mechanically, often in line with somebody else's script. Reality TV is perhaps the most transparent example of what is done to us all the time -- maybe that's why it bugs us!

7 comments:

respjrat said...

what bugs me more about it (not that i watch enough television to be particularly distressed) is the tendency to highlight c-list celebrities in situations that are beyond contrived, they're simply imaginary, substance-free and hardly stand on their own legs much less contrast favorably with anyone's experience of reality.

on the other side, people off the street who get past callbacks are vaulted recyclably onto an f or perhaps g-list of pseudo-celebrities who echo through followup/mashup shows and appearances elsewhere in the media as they try to shore up their speck of spectacle.

the latter type contribute to the illusion held by the majority that they too, one day, will join the upper strata of society, and therefore best not to help the poor too much because i'm only here till i'm there! the former, through the often monotonous, pedestrian depictions of their lives do much the same. they don't seem to be doing anything exceptional, but they're on tv, anyone can make it!

Peter Ward said...

I recommend you get a job on a reality show if you think it's merely the circumstances in which the "talent" are thrust that are contrived! Shows are virtually scripted -- but have "story producers" rather than "writers" to avoid getting to sued too often by the Writers Guild -- with retakes and everything.

John said...

I think I would enjoy watching this kind of show: a story producer for "Suck On This", a popular competitive polyamory program, has his advice routinely ignored by the people in his life, who try instead to tell him what to do with his own disastrous love life. Episodes of "Suck" begin reflecting his mounting frustrations. It takes the whole first season for anyone to notice the doubling.

Jack Crow said...

Truth, Peter.

Anyone who is interested can read journalistic production accounts of "American Idol." Often enough, the shots of the audience cheering will be for an original rendition, but the broadcast recording will be of a second or third take, because the producers called for better camera angles, etc.

fwoan said...

If I have to watch Ronnie and Sammi fight for another episode of Jersey Shore, I swear to god I'm never watching it again.

I think reality television saved me from military recruiters. When I turned 18 I was getting calls from various factions of the armed services to gauge my interest in becoming a paid murderer, as I'm sure most of us did. The last call I ever got was during the season finale of Joe Millionaire and I remember yelling at the recruiter to never call during Joe Millionaire.

Never called again.

captainmandrake said...

Did you just say reality television is an excellent metaphor for reality? Interesting. . .

Also, who's 'bugged' by reality television? Looks to me to be wildly popular.

It's a hard thing to discuss without defining terms. I don't understand why things like American Idol and Top Chef, which are contests, are lumped with things like 'Real Housewives' and 'Jersey Shore'. It has always seemed to me that shows like American Idol and Top Chef are about work, really: pleasing your managers (the judges) and the game theory of getting ahead of your colleagues/competition.

Things like Real Housewives, in addition to fortifying sexism and indulging voyeurism, aim at morphing class rage into feelings of superiority.

Hattie said...

Television is a tsunami of crap.