The Reality Paradox
by The Plain Simple Tailor
I’ve always hated reality television. This is mainly because, being a writer of a sort, I feel like the entire phenomenon exists to kill scripted television. I assume this is because ridiculous reality TV is much cheaper to produce than scripted shows where you have to hire actors, set design, writers, directors and all kinds of other folks.
I contend, though, that reality TV should be called something else, because most of these shows have nothing realistic about them. “Reality TV” would imply that people are followed around by cameras in their everyday lives. Some shows do this, like many of the reality shows on the Discovery Channel or The Learning Channel. But tell me exactly what is “realistic” about Survivor or Big Brother or any of that shit. Who, in the course of their regular lives is placed on a desert island in a “tribe” of some sort, with “immunity challenges” or something, and the last person standing on the island is awarded some disgusting amount of money. There’s no reality in this, folks.
I’d like to see one of these shows about a coal miner or a factory worker. The end of every episode could be the guy saying “Another day without an accident, and I still have a job.” Then, you could see the guy’s family life, as he tries to figure out how he’s going to pay bills on his low wage, and whether or not he can feed his wife and kids while trying to put money away for thr kids to go to college, since college tuitions will be billions by the time they are of eligible age.
Or, follow a jobless person like me around, as you go through the process of applying for things, and then have daily self-esteem destroying moments as you wonder whether you’re ever going to be able to work again, and what you’re doing wrong to make the unemployment go on this long. That’s a hell of a lot more realistic than a bunch of pretty people selected to live in isolated environments and generate fake drama due to being fed alcohol. (I’m looking at you, Real World.)
Why don’t we use reality television to follow a new teacher in an inner city school district around? Maybe if people outside of the teaching business saw how hard that job is, they would stop bitching about how easy teachers have it.
I was watching last week’s Amazing Race with my fiance when something caught my interest. The teams were in South Korea and one of the challenges called for them to go to the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea, Several of the groups were interviewed and expressed discomfort with being in such a politically charged area. I couldn’t help but laugh, considering how coddled and protected the participants are. I would have considered it far more realistic if one of the groups was shot at for straying to close to the border. That’s good television.