The Deceit of Reality
When it comes to reality TV, "reality" becomes a problem, a story created by producers and editors. The media exploits people who grope for airtime, who will do anything for their five minutes of fame, and are willing to bare their souls, or their bodies, for that matter, on national television. Neal Gabler wrote a piece on "Grieving for the Camera" which discusses the problems with the news today. According to Gabler, when people are in a state of grief, they are vulnerable. They become an easy target to be manipulated into whoever the producers think will make a good story. In "Confessions of a TV Talk Show Shrink," a media psychologist named Stewart Fischoff reveals his relationship with TV talk shows and analyzes the effect that the media has on reality. He believes that the false portraying of reality is an immoral practice. When it comes to "reality" TV shows, Debra Seagal goes behind the scenes and shows the influence that editors have to rearrange "reality" in "Tales From the Cutting-Room Floor." This manipulation becomes a danger to the passive viewers for people become fodder for the recreation of reality. "Reality" TV is no more than a falsity of reality which creates a problem of fraudulence in society. How far will we let this go?
In "Grieving for the Camera," Gabler's main argument is a question. "Why do people who have suffered terrible loss now routinely bare their souls for television? (Gabler, 153)" The whole idea of privacy has changed. When it was proper to keep your grief behind the scenes, we admired people for their self control, their strength and the how they "held up" is such a horrible situation (Gabler, 154). There was a fine line between publicity and privacy. But the world has changed, and so has the way we act in these distressing situations. People don't want to be in such situations themselves but they like to see how others react to events. This public conduct has become completely predictable. We know how people will act in response to things and we expect it. Gabler uses Susan Smith as a perfect example of the grief-stricken who have adapted to conformity. After she murdered her children and deceived viewers into thinking their was an alleged kidnapper, "Smith had watched enough TV news to be able to enact the whole gamut of sorrow: the tears, the screams, the clutched hands, the desperate entreaties. And she was savvy enough to know that the media and the public would attend (Gabler, 155)." Another example of this is when Scott Peterson killed his pregnant wife. Same story: he acted as he had seen others act (from the media) in a state of distress. He was later convicted as the murderer.
"Grieving for the Camera" begins by using examples to evoke painful memories. Gabler strikes our memory of the "abduction and murder of 12-year-old Polly Klaas" and the conspiracy of TWA Flight 800 (153). He provides powerful examples of how the media tries to depict stories to appeal to his readers. Gabler then goes into the change that has occurred in privacy over the years, by using role models such as Jacqueline Kennedy. He ends with questioning if there is anything we can do.
One rhetorical device in "Grieving for the Camera" is the use of powerful examples that the readers can relate to. As he starts his piece he talks about a few events that have taken place over the years. He goes into detail about Jacqueline Kennedy and her etiquette after her husband was assassinated. "We admire her strength and her grace, and one imagines her stature would have shrunk considerably if she had instead granted an interview with Barbara Walters and, sniffling and red-eyed, publicly aired her distress (Gabler, 153)." This reveals that transformation that has occurred since then. It really gives the audience a sense of what happened then, in contradiction to what happens now.
When Stewart Fischoff says "talk shows exist to entertain and exploit the...
Cited: Gabler, Neal. "Grieving for the Camera." Los Angeles Times. 1996: 153-55.
Fischoff, Stewart. "Confessions of a TV Talk Show Shrink." Psychology Today. 1995: 120-131.
Seagal, Debra. "Tales from the Cutting-Room Floor." Harper 's Magazine. 1993: 409-423.
"Reality TV Secrets Revealed." VH1. 2005.
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