Sunday, March 15, 2009

The Fall of Western Civilization

I, for one, despise so-called "Reality TV." There are several reasons for this. First, as a writer myself, I hate that it puts creative TV writers out of work. Second, it is probably the most misnamed TV genre, ever. There is nothing real about "Reality TV." Producers manipulate the participants and edit footage for the sake of ratings. No matter that an actually nice person may be made into a villain or a horrible person is depicted as good. As long as the ratings are there; as long as the vultures are watching to pick over the remains; as long as the audience gets to scream "Yay!" or "Nay!" We may as well be feeding Christians to the lions. Third and finally, it allows shallow (and often exceptionally stupid people) a shot at fame - or infamy. Does anyone really remember who won on the first season of "The Apprentice?" I don't. All I remember is the vile Amorosa; a petty, shallow and all-around repulsive woman who stooped to the lowest common denominator so she would be remembered. She then went on to appear on several other "Reality" shows, further cementing her hold on infamy. I ask you, do you really want to be remembered for being a villain? Personally, I'd much rather be remembered for the things I did to further the human race.
All of this because of the clip below (via). It shows what recently happened in NYC, as people lined up for their shot at being a contestant on "America's Next Top Model," the shallowest of these types of shows. Apparently, a car overheated outside the building where auditions were being held, and some one yelled "Bomb!" Needless to say, pandemonium broke lose:
Even worse, are the fights that break out among contestants on the shows. The stakes are apparently so high (usually only 5 minutes of fame - far less than Andy Warhol predicted), people will turn on each other over the pettiest of reasons:
I blame MTV for the trend. As innovative as they were in the early 80's, MTV decided that showing music videos wasn't enough to keep their ratings afloat and less than 10 years later created a show called "The Real World." And while old-time shows like "Queen for a Day;" "Truth or Consequences" and "Candid Camera" made seminal stars out of real people, "The Real World" took the concept and exploited it beyond anything we'd ever seen before.
My sister, whom I love dearly, is addicted to "Survivor." My friends Janet and Dale watch "Project Runway," while my friend Kathy and her family watch the insufferable "American Idol." To me, it all seems to boil down to what the Germans call "Schadenfreude:" taking secret pleasure in another person's pain. And it all hearkens back to the Romans watching wild animals kill innocents in the Coliseum or the Elizabethans betting on bear-baiting. And I have to ask myself (and fans of the genre), why have we not progressed beyond such disgusting behavior in the last 1800 years?
I honestly cannot wait for the day when this trend dies the undignified death it deserves, though I hope that it doesn't take an on-camera murder to do so (though I fear that may be what it takes). Until such a time, I'll do my best to rail against it, and refuse to watch it. And I urge you to do so, as well.
More, anon.


Stephen R. said...

I'm also not a fan of reality tv. I do enjoy PROJECT RUNWAY, because those contestants (for the most part) have talent and skills that they have worked on. I can't stand AMERICAN IDOL. I just don't get what all the fuss is about that show.

But I did enjoy the first season of THE REAL WORLD. Only the first season. Because it was like nothing I had ever seen before, I fell in love with Julie (the Southern girl), it featured a gay man in a positive light, and I honestly don't believe those 7 people signed up for a project that they hoped they could parlay into further work as a tv personality. They were just relating to each other. Well, they were relating to each other as naturally as they could with cameramen living among them.

It will be a great day when reality tv goes the way of the variety show. Because then, hopefully, the variety show will make a comeback!!!!

Anonymous said...

I think there are two types of reality shows - contest and drama. Survivor, Top Chef, Project Runway, ANTM, American Idol, Biggest Looser and a few others are contest based with a real possibility for career advancement (Survivors work for their money).

Drama shows are usually everything we hate about reality shows and offer little but a few minutes of fame for the contestants and guilty indulgence for the watcher. Occasionally they might have some redeeming goals like Ruby or Small People, Big World.

Prospero said...

A few years ago, while house-sitting for a friend over a rainy holiday weekend, I got sucked into a marathon of Bravo's "Boy Meets Boy," simply because there was nothing else on. Not only was the show terrible, but I felt dirty afterwards (and not the good kind of dirty - the "I need to scrub my soul" kind of dirty). I promised myself to never watch a reality show again.