The Reality of Reality Tv
THE REALITY OF REALITY TV
THE REALITY OF REALITY TV Even though reality television may seem real to some, there are several controversies surrounding the fact that it might actually be scripted. This is just one of the major misconceptions of reality television. Millions of people are addicted to watching reality television every single day. It is even being said that these controversies, addiction, sense of voyeuristic nature, yearning for empowerment, and diversion instance could be the reason why an individual’s viewing habits have changed ever since the creation of reality television. One of the biggest controversies surrounding reality television is if they are real or scripted? When Apple cofounder Steve Wozniak was still competing on the hit television show “Dancing with the Stars”, he stated on the wall of his Facebook page the following words; “The producers play games to get viewers and don’t disclose the (voting) numbers. If they disclosed the numbers, it would be less of a game, but still suspect. If tomorrow they claim I’m in the bottom 2 dance teams, including viewer votes, I believe that’s an outright lie.” The next show, Wozniak did end up in the bottom two, but by then he recanted his post by calling himself a “heel” and a “loudmouth”. He ended up apologizing for ever questioning the show. (Ventre, 2009)
J. Rupert Thompson, a director and producer who includes “Big Brother” and “Fear Factor” listed amongst his many credits states “Certainly reality TV is a very manipulated format where the basis of it is that real people are put into an unreal situation. One could argue that it’s scripted because the situation is created by the producers. What makes it so compelling is that you never know what a real person’s reaction to an unreal situation will be. That’s why you get
REALITY 3. such great stuff on reality TV.” Do viewers care if their supposed reality TV shows are artificially enhanced by producers and writers? According to Thompson, “I think there are both types out there. I think some demand credibility and others just want to be entertained. I think the educated viewer knows what reality TV is and what it has become.”(Ventre, 2009) This is just one point of view from many regarding whether these types of shows are scripted or not scripted. There is a major difference between reality television and fictional television. It is the obsession of original personalities, situations, and problems. The writers and producers promise to depict reality, however the plots of reality based shows are somewhat influenced by the competitor 's awareness of several cameras filming them all at once, the entire time. It is also influenced by the necessity for the producers to edit the original filmed footage to the length of the television show broadcast. Ganz-Blattler (2005, p7) argues that very little is left to chance in the world of reality television. Just like in fictional shows, location and cast members are carefully selected before the shooting of the very first pilot. There are two main differences to the formats. For one, the actors and actresses are not professional, they are merely everyday ordinary people who want to be filmed for television. This is a cheaper way for hiring people to be on a show, but it makes them a whole lot more difficult to be controlled. In most cases, the actors and actresses do not use an actual script. Still a common characteristic of reality television programs will always remain the same. They claim to provide the audience an "unmediated, voyeuristic, and yet often playful look into what might be called entertaining real" (Murray & Ouellette, 2009, p.5). So basically they are beating around the bush and there is no real way to get an answer as to whether it is actually scripted or not.
So, are they scripted or not? That is the question. That actually depends on who you ask and what exactly the word scripted means to that particular individual. It is even being said that Hollywood producers have even come up with a new way to describe reality television shows that are not exactly one hundred percent reality by renaming them “hybrid sitcoms” or “soft- scripted shows.” This is their apparent way to beat around the bush on the truth about scripted or non-scripted reality television shows. The actual term reality television suggests that the program is unscripted, unrehearsed, and in fact real. In reality these programs are more like unscripted dramas, with soap opera dramatic style story lines, and several instances of adding and subtracting scenes through the final editing process.
In competition style reality television shows like Big Brother and Survivor, the producers tend to design the format of the actual show. They also control the day to day activities and the environment to which the television show is filmed in. This creates a completely invented and made up world in which the competition just plays out in front of the cameras. The producers carefully design the scenarios, challenges, settings, and events to encourage the competitors to engage in some sort of power struggle with one another. Mark Burnett, creator of Survivor and other reality television shows, has agreed with this statement. He avoids the word "reality" to describe the television shows he makes. He has said, "I tell good stories. It really is not reality TV. It really is unscripted drama" ("Surviving and Thriving ", 2003). According to this statement, the word reality is there but the actual reality is not.
There is however a pending lawsuit against producer Mark Burnett and network CBS. Ex Survivor contestant, Stacey Stillman states that Burnett coerced other contestants to vote her out of Survivor. This essentially manipulated the actual outcome of the show. The network (CBS)
REALITY 5. and producer Mark Burnett strongly and adamantly deny the charges being made against them. The producer and the actual CBS network are pursuing a counter suit in the amount of five million dollars claiming defamation and breach of a confidentiality agreement against Stillman. Millions of people have become addicted to watching several different types of reality television shows. The question is why are they so addicting to watch? Shows like Honey Boo Boo and Jersey Shore keeps people tuned in to watch every week. When asked why people watch these types of shows the answers were usually the same. They are both fascinated and disgusted at the same time. This is what keeps them watching every week. They want to see what happens next.
Another reason these types of shows have become so addicting is because it makes people feel better about themselves. Watching what seems like a bunch of losers who have a ton of drama and problems tends to make one feel better about themselves and they lives they are currently living does not seem so bad. This is an example of upword social comparison. It provides the gumption to make someone want to improve themselves. Reality television and the media depict things like if you are not as skinny as a supermodel then you are not skinny. This can be very damaging to one’s self esteem. Therefore we watch shows like Honey Boo Boo to make ourselves feel better about the way we look.
On the other hand, downward social comparison allows individuals to take a look at someone else’s life who is worse than ours. Therefore it makes an individual feel better about the life they are living and how they look or act. It is a pep talk for people. It gives the feeling that we are better than someone else. What makes reality television shows more appealing, more addicting than sitcoms or soap operas? The reality aspect of the show makes individuals feel that they can
REALITY 6. relate to the ordinary people on the show. They can identify with the challenges they face in their everyday lives.
Even if reality television is not your kind of show to watch, it is becoming virtually impossible to avoid. Shows like Big Brother, The Bachelor, and Survivor are bringing out the voyeuristic side in all of us. Reality television has always had a type of voyeuristic appeal. A survey was given to television viewers and a content analysis of reality shows support the hypothesis that these programs contribute to an individual’s voyeuristic nature. These kind of voyeuristic tendencies can range from the actual involvement of the audience to participate in television content such as talk shows to the more not so involved observation of watching the interactions of everyday ordinary people.
America is hooked on reality television. Individuals love to watch ordinary everyday people compete 24 hours a day seven days a week. It allows them to dream about gaining a popularity status through what seems to them as impulsive and fast fame. We dream about having those five minutes of fame throughout our lifetime. More than 200,000 people requested try out applications for the famous Donald Trump reality television show "The Apprentice". The ones that are chosen are typically a mix of a plethora for maximum drama. There are individuals with MBA 's from both recognized higher learning institutions such as Yale and Harvard as well as high school graduates who have just started their very own businesses. "It 's basically blue-collar verses white-collar, male verses female, educated verses uneducated, a mix of that, and it 's a very interesting series," says Burnett, doing a very convincing job of boosting up ratings for one of his very own productions ("Striving and Thriving ", 2003). In regards to reality television, it gives us the chance to actually live that dream through other ordinary people just like us. If
REALITY 7. they were nothing before this show, and now they are everything because of this show, it could happen for them as well. According to Katy McFadden, TV critic for the Seattle Times; “In some ways, reality programming fulfilled one of televisions democratic ideals, which is: Anybody could be on TV. Anybody could be famous on TV.”(Rooney, 2013) This is another reason why people are so intrigued to watch.
Individual viewers have become a major part of the countless shows appearing on network and cable television. As of May 2012, 13 seasons of Big Brother and 24 seasons of Survivor have aired in the U.S., and CBS is preparing the next seasons of both shows ("Cancelled & Renewed CBS TV Shows For 2011-12", 2012). Each week millions of viewers make reality television part of their lives by tuning into watch who got kicked off of the island, who gets cut from The Bachelor, and who gets voted off of American Idol. Viewers make these types of shows part of their daily routine by inviting them into our living rooms and gathering their closest family and friends to watch with them. The excitement of playing a huge part in someone else’s demise or success simply entices viewers to watch and keep watching each week.
There was a study done by McQuail et al., (1972) using the ideas of Maslow (1987) where McQuail examined the idea of diversion from three separate angles. They were escape from constraints or routine, escape from burdens and problems, and emotional release. Smith and Wood (2003 p.1) stated “ As we rounded the twenty first century, it seemed that every producer was searching for the new wave of reality television and that every viewer was transfixed by each new version of the same basic plot: introduce a diverse group of people, put them into situations bound to induce conflict, and watch them squirm.” That is one way to put it.
REALITY 8. Did the craze of reality television change the way we view programming? Absolutely! There are four categories in relationship to reality television. They are diversion, personal relationships, personal identity, and surveillance. I would like to discuss diversion. Diversion is the idea that an individual may turn to a reality show to escape their everyday life. Individuals may use reality television as their own artificial version of reality. This is one of the major reasons that people enjoy watching these styles of shows. It is almost like a sickness of some sort. One could argue that a psychotic style role may be to blame. It is almost as if reality television takes viewers to a completely different place. It gives them the chance to leave their problems behind for an entire hour while focusing on someone else’s life for a change. In conclusion, whether reality television shows are real or scripted is a matter of personal opinion. In the end, it does not really matter to most individuals. It is all about the actual entertainment value of each particular show. These style of shows are highly addicting due to several different reasons, but mainly because they make individuals feel better about themselves and the lives they are currently living. The controversies and misconceptions surrounding reality television entices the viewer to watch even more. There is a voyeuristic style nature in every human being. Reality television plays right into these tendencies. There are millions of viewers watching these shows every single week as part of their daily rituals. All of the aspects listed in this paper have the ability to make reality television more and more appealing to individual viewers. In fact these programs can be downright addicting to some viewers. Yes, our viewing habits have changed ever since the creation of reality television. It appeals to an individuals’ sense of curiosity, empowerment, and voyeuristic nature. People love the idea of deciding another persons’ fate. We have the ability to pick our favorites and vote for them. The
REALITY 9. anticipation of seeing who makes it the following week has viewers wanting to watch it more and more. It may be the result of diversion taking place in order to help the viewer leave their own problems behind for an hour or so. They have a better time focusing on someone else’s life for the time being.
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