Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of April 12, 2004
Public humiliation wins fame, bucks
While at a dinner recently, I noticed one of the invited guests apologized for leaving early because she had another party to attend. I could not help but chuckle when I heard that it was a Survivor party.
Nope. This was not a party for survivors of some sort. It was a party to watch the season's premiere of the reality television show, Survivor.
Even if you rarely watch television or you just watch the news, you cannot but notice reality shows have infiltrated the boob tube.
The most familiar ones: Survivor, Big Brother, The Bachelor/The Bachelorette, The Apprentice, Amazing Race, Fear Factor, Queer Eye, Joe Millionaire, Blind Date, and the list goes on. There is even a reality television show on the golf channel.
Art imitating life has become reversed when this type of shows flourishes.
What makes this attractive to people? One common element of these shows is they are competition-based. They all highlight and celebrate who is the best. They all zero in on who's got the strongest character and in some cases who has the most charm to lure people to vote for them or not to vote for them.
Although Pierre Ducharme does not regularly watch reality television, for him it "appeals to the senses in a way that fiction doesn't." He admits sometimes he wants to be part of it because it is so real and one can relate easily.
Kate O'Gorman said, "It is interesting to see human behaviour." She admits sometimes she can relate to some people's experiences in the show but at other times she thinks they are out to lunch.
Let's admit it. These shows entertain people. They wouldn't be aired otherwise. I highly doubt if educating people is top priority for the producers because that does not always bring high ratings. In the highly competitive world of television it's all about ratings.
What I observed from most of these shows is how producers sell their shows by portraying not only sex but also pain.
Why is it that most people would rather watch a television show that has women line up and try to please a pseudo-millionaire, only to have their dreams shattered when they realize it's a sham? Why do the ratings go up when someone gets their heart broken or when someone is forced to recall a difficult story?
Pain sells almost as much as sex does. Combine the two, plus a bit of ingenuity, you have a recipe for success.
It's all about economics. Wherever there is an innovation, there is a company willing to exploit it. Package it, put it in a box and sell it. Perhaps it is the downside to living in a free enterprise country, but the fact remains that if something can be sold it will be sold.
Over time television networks have learned what gets our attention the best. Integrity? Honesty? Caring about real human issues? Try again. It seems to me that in the eyes of the world those values were thrown out the window a long time ago.
Executives realized that while having brutal murders and vivid sex scenes portrayed in movies and on television was good, there needed to be a change. So they thought, and thought, and thought some more, and reality television was born.
It's not only a question of privacy, but also a question of dignity. Is it right to exploit other people for the entertainment of millions? The sad truth is many willingly put themselves up for sale just for a chance at fame.
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