Reality television is an extremely popular phenomenon despite its exceptionally young age. Reality television shows are popping up every day, increasing viewer counts for the strongest television channels in the market. Their success, unlike their effect on the viewer, is in arguable. Salman Rushdie, in his article, Reality TV: A Dearth of Talent and the Death of Morality argues that reality television is a deterioration of mass entertainment, whereas in James Poniewozik's Television, Why Reality TV is Good for us, reality television is viewed in a more positive light. Although both articles deal with the issue of reality television shows, they take different positions and employ different rhetorical techniques to make their arguments.
Poniewozik argues that reality television is a good way for people to make their own deductions from what they see. He claims that when watching a reality television show, no hidden implications are imposed on the audience whereas that is not the case when it comes to fiction (Poniewozik, 2003). In response to a famous moment on American idol, Poniewozik states, "It didn't nudge us to laugh at her or prod us to cry for her. In about two minutes, it told a quintessentially American story of ambition and desperation and shrinking options, and it left the judgment to us." (Poniewozik, 2003). This is contrary to Salman Rushdie's beliefs on the effect of reality television on the consumer. According to Rushdie, reality television shows are nothing more than uneventful wastes of times. He claims that they are the epitome of mediocrity, caught on tape (Rushdie, 1996). He asserts, "Who needs images of the world's rich otherness, when you can watch these half-familiar avatars of yourself--these half-attractive half-persons--enacting ordinary life under weird conditions? Who needs talent, when the unashamed self display of the talentless is constantly on offer?" Rushdie implies that audiences no longer seek richness, new information or depth on television, rather, they would like to see shallow, mediocre interpretations of reality that reflect run of the mill, every day life. Rushdie fervently argues his one position throughout the article.
Poniewozik uses a different rhetorical approach from Rushdie's. Poniewozik uses a more balanced method of argument, acknowledging the issue on many levels and presenting the other side to his argument. Though the title of Poniewozik's article suggests that reality television is good, Poniewozik does not fail to show how people would think it is bad, "It makes us feel tawdry, dirty, cheap--if it didn't, we probably wouldn't bother tuning in. And in this, for once, the audience and critics agree." (Poniewozik, 2003). This statement, is to a large extent, parallel to the views in Rushdi's article. However, what Rushdie's article lacks is this balanced approach, he never mentions any positive aspects associated with reality television, rather concentrates on criticizing reality television on so many levels, often using strong language to prove his point.
Both articles use casual language and an informal tone to present their arguments. This may hinder the effectiveness of the article by compromising its sense of formality and legitimacy or break the ice with the reader and appeal to him or her on an every-day, logical level. Poniewozik mentions in his article, "A great reality-TV concept takes some commonplace piety of a polite society and gives it a wedgie." (Poniewozik, 2003) This is an obvious display of informal language and a casual tone. Rushdie, however, says, "And what tawdry narcissism is here revealed!" Rushdi uses exclamation marks, begins his sentences with "and", and accuses people of being narcissists. Not only is he being casual, but unlike Poniewozik, is being disrespectful and extremely emotional. This can be an obstacle when attempting to present a balanced and logical argument. In conclusion, both articles deal with the issue of reality television shows; they take different positions and employ different rhetorical techniques to make their arguments. Reality television is a reality in the entertainment industry today, whether a certain person supports it or not. Forming one's own opinion on the mass media that is experienced by the masses on a daily basis is essential for clarity.