Reality television does reflect reality. The reality that in today’s society, one only gets what one is willing to pay for in all aspects of consumerism.
If television networks can churn out low budget, uncreative programming and continue to attract advertising sponsors and high numbers of viewing audiences, why would they be motivated to do differently? It would simply not be good business practice to cut into profits to provide upgraded and creative fare when the public appears satisfied with the status quo.
Many years ago, Allen Funt and his Candid Camera introduced the concept of catching people unaware and watching their reaction to being surprised and perhaps embarrassed in compromising situations. That was the viewers’ initial introduction to reality television. The comedic side of human nature was explored and revealed in contrived, but somewhat ethical situations for amusement sake. Viewers identified with the unwary victims on Candid Camera and the show was a hit.
Today, the programming continues to be contrived and not necessarily ethical. The idea of putting people in situations that are humiliating and embarrassing seems to be considered cutting edge programming and there is no outcry of protest from the viewing public to refute this premise.
The reality is that today’s society is rampant with individuals willing to sell their pride and priorities for money and attention. There appears to be an abundance of those childish enough to “take a dare” without weighing the consequences. Narcissism, blatant greed and exhibitionism are no longer taboos. For some, they are a ticket to 15 minutes of pseudo fame.
It is also a reality that the viewers are curious enough to look. Ratings and sponsor success attest to the fact that many are watching with fascinated interest and morbid amusement. Media has always reflected the reality of what is going on in the world. Apparently there are enough who want to see others fail or look ridiculous to keep the entertainment industry busy inventing new and more daring challenges for viewing curiosity.
Television networks and corporate sponsors are cashing in on human nature and mob mentality. Just as a crowd will gather and yell “jump” to an unfortunate suicidal person out on a ledge, or traffic will jam as curiosity seekers rush to watch a burning building, viewers will collectively sit in front of televisions in denial and say, “Isn’t that crazy?” but have no impetus to look away. The reality is that one cannot resist the urge to witness the pushing of the envelope, the raising of the bar, the stretching the limits of the negative human condition.
Unless the viewing audience is willing to take affirmative action in regards to decreasing the production of reality shows and encouraging the media to branch out and exercise creativity, and by doing so, increase the entertainment factor, the public will continue to be dissatisfied channel surfers settling for inferior programming.
By refusing to buy sponsor-related products and by writing letters of protest to media and advertisers, viewers can send the message loud and clear that they want to escape reality and be truly entertained. When ratings plummet and displeasure is reflected in the financial bottom line of these television and corporate entities, then viewers will begin to see increased effort toward producing variety and creative writing and acting in the future viewing seasons.
Reality television will continue to monopolize the airwaves as long as it is profitable to do so. Until viewers are willing to turn off the television and boycott the products of the advertisers of this type of “entertainment,” reality shows will continue to be a reality.