Please give a warm welcome to Samantha...
How Reality TV Inspired Stitch
There’s something about reality TV that just makes my skin crawl. The logical part of me knows that stars of the show have signed up for this, that they know they’re being exploited and somehow it’s worth it to them anyway, and that obviously this is something viewers want, otherwise these shows wouldn’t be so successful. But there’s something about it that just seems wrong, that makes me feel like a creep-oid peeping tom peering in on something I shouldn’t be seeing.
I’ll admit that I have my weaknesses. The Bachelor/Bachelorette series is (embarrassingly) often one of the highlights of my week. That show has somehow weaseled its way into my heart with its interesting cast of wide-eyed hopefuls that I can’t help but root for. But even despite my attachment to the many sympathetic characters on that show, I still can’t bring myself to take the plunge into the trash-fest that is Bachelor Pad. At some point the “ick” factor just gets to be too much, and I have to draw the line. (Though America’s Next Top Model apparently does not cross that line for me…)
Even though I am myself part of the problem, our generation’s obsession with reality TV certainly gives me pause. What is it about these shows that has gotten us so hooked? Is it the old train wreck concept, just too gruesome to tear our eyes away from? Is it that watching people in worse situations than our own makes us feel somehow better about ourselves? Do we enjoy living vicariously through these characters, feeling the extreme highs and lows of their struggles and triumphs and – perhaps most essentially – their transgressions, in a way that societal mores will prevent us from ever likely experiencing in our own lives? I suspect it’s probably a combination of all the above, plus a healthy dose of pure entertainment factor. And this, I think, is where the peril lies.
At what point does the entertainment factor of these shows stop outweighing the personal cost of the individuals who are exploited by them? Yes, reality shows today are generally an opt-in-only phenomenon, where the so-called “stars” voluntarily auction their dignity to the highest bidder. But what happens when we get bored with the fame-and-attention-seeking stereotype who dominates many of these shows? Wouldn’t it be more interesting to see “regular” (or dare I say “real”) people thrust into the ridiculous situations that reality shows often create?
After all, we all love a good hidden camera show. Where’s the harm in temporarily thrusting an unsuspecting person into a comically frustrating setting? But how long is it okay to keep the subject in the dark? Most shows of this type generally only maintain the charade long enough to get a reaction and a good laugh. But what happens when one day a show decides to go a bit further? A few minutes turns into a few hours, hours into days, days into months… Could make for some pretty interesting TV.
Sure, in a society that values freedom above all, it certainly seems unreasonable to trap a free person in a fake world just for our viewing pleasure. But things change. Even in my lifetime, the skill of entertainment has evolved from a commodity possessed by the few (comedians, actors, performer, etc.) to a necessity that’s almost required for basic function. How successful would Facebook be, for example, if only a handful of people made jokes or shared thought-provoking ideas or quipped about the latest celebrity faux-pas? For the vast majority of us, it would be quite boring. And as a result, everyone has become a comedian, an actor, a performer, albeit on the stage of our lives, with our friends and families and acquaintances as the audience.
For the sake of eschewing spoilers, I can’t get into too much detail about how this line of thinking ties directly into Stitch. But suffice it to say, as much as I enjoy reality TV (despite the skin crawl), under the right circumstances I definitely think the reality show concept has the potential to become dangerous. I’m just hoping I never find myself on the other side of the TV screen…
Wow, thanks Samantha! I have to say I've got the same feel about the reality tv shows as well, the skin crawling feeling as well. And some great questions raised to think on! Makes me wonder if we would ever cross that line, or even if maybe we have started already.
Now I know now this ties into her book, and you can learn as well. Curious?