The word ‘reality’ when used prior to ‘television’ suggests that what you are watching is pure, unaltered and unplanned real life. You are looking into the life of another person, almost as if they themselves are unaware that they are being watched – you are simply a spectator. But we watch these television programmes being shown a false representation of what ‘real life’ actually entails.
Being able to see what others lives look like behind closed doors is a privilege we have never had before – the ability to be a fly on the wall, to watch the scandal unfold before our very eyes. Ratings show that we love this kind of entertainment, maybe it adds a bit of spice to our lives? We know for the most part that it isn’t real, but this somehow doesn’t make any difference. But, when do we stop watching the game and begin to play it ourselves?
We see a lot of highs and a few lows, we see arguing, affairs, betrayal. We laugh at these programmes, thinking “oh this is so fake, they are so obviously doing this for ratings”, yet we still watch, it is still the subject of countless conversations with our friends, we all have an opinion. Eventually, we copy it, use the same language, and recognise that ‘funny look she just gave me’. It develops social problems or at least makes us very aware of what the people around us are thinking, we read into what they say before we decide whether or not it is meant as an insult or to damage us. We are on our guard.
Society is shaped through our ability to observe relationships and situations, how to deal with them and what we consider ‘normal’ behaviour. These programmes encourage us to aim for celebrity status, an easy ride to fame and fortune, discouraging hard work and incentive to build a career for ourselves. There are so many reality shows because they draw in the ratings – we just love to watch them – so consequently there are more of them, designed to shock and cause scandal. We’ve become accustomed to vulgar language, promiscuity, bullying and racism, among other things. They become the norm, we expect to see it and hear it and it no longer shocks us – a dangerous concept.
No one can deny that these programmes dictate to us what to wear, how to look, act, even what to aspire to. We judge ourselves based on what we see on these programmes: slim, athletic, attractive women who never have a hair out of place and look like they’ve just walked off the catwalk. The men are just as primed: super toned, successful entrepreneurs with so much money they couldn’t spend it in this life time or the next. They portray a perfect lifestyle, it all comes so naturally. It’s telling us, don’t worry if you fail your exams or quit your job to become a ‘star’ – I’m sure you’ll make it. After all you don’t need good grades or money to get there, just a good body and that charming wit.
The point is, these people that we see are not ‘normal’, or at least not in the conventional sense of the word. They are products of a multi-billion pound industry, people chasing a dream of getting their 15 minutes of fame, and I’m sure like us, they are paying for it too.