The Reality of Reality TV

Reality TV

When we become invested in reality TV shows, it’s almost difficult to remember the long list of criticisms we had. Instead, we embrace our addiction, and for the duration of the show’s run, intently watch its characters that the producers have moulded for the television screen. While the inherent concept behind reality TV is understandable, and its content enjoyable, it is its nomenclature that becomes problematic. In what universe do you find yourself stranded on some island with a couple of dozen strangers who all want to use your talents to build a society and simultaneously scheme to kick you out of their community? How authentic is it to believe that you and a companion could traverse the globe with a backpack full of clothes and a couple of hundred dollars that are given to you at each stopover?

Reality shows are a genre of television shows or programs which feature common people or celebrities or both, in real life or scripted situations, or a mix of both . Reality shows are also referred as ‘reality television’. Reality shows have become quite a rage of late; these were non-existent until the 1940’s. They enjoy a great amount of popularity specifically in India. Indians are high on the emotional quotient and anything that strikes the emotional chord becomes an instant hit. The success of reality shows in India can be attributed to a great extent to this weakness. The relief that these shows provide from the saas-bahu soaps is another reason for their immense popularity. The rising popularity of the reality shows on Indian television channels has added a new dimension to the production of TV programs. These shows give opportunities to the prodigies residing in the interiors of the country to showcase their talent.

There are several positives wrought by reality television. One inarguable positive would be the entertainment value it has. While watching the mundane soap operas and movies is bound to bore the viewers after a point, reality shows score by breaking the monotony other programs tend to possess. They are filled with drama, shock and laughter, along with talented participants and celebrities. Series featuring original acts are applauded because of the portrayal of genuine talent that is given a platform for acknowledgement and appreciation. The audience often witnesses what is unimaginable in real life because of reality shows. Even if the audience is aware of the manipulations these shows contain, it doesn’t mind it as it adds a degree of spice and zing to life, that is otherwise dull and dreary. Additionally, reality shows give people with talent the opportunity to Participate. Talent and game based shows provide the common public with an opportunity to participate in televised competition. If there were no such shows, their talent would have probably remained confined to them . Even those who are rejected draw inspiration from their failures and work hard to return to the shows. The opportunity to participate does justice to the talent of individuals, who might have no other arena to receive recognition. Reality shows also open up avenues for brand promotions. This is generally conducted through product placement, and becomes an indirect strategy of marketing. For example, The Biggest Loser promoted a whopping number of 6,248 brands, while American Idol promoted 4,636.

While keeping the positives in mind, it is essential to examine the negatives that often outweigh the positives. Due to the mercenary attitude of producers and directors, the ‘reality’ in reality shows is often compromised. The majority of so-called reality shows are scripted and everything is closely doctored. Initially, people fell for the bait but now even the audience understands that stories are developed well in advance. Some of the fights on the television are staged to increase the ratings of the show. A graver impact it has on the harmful effect it tends to have on the audience, often teens. The new generation of reality TV celebrity stars do not thrive on talent but use sensationalism to always be in the news. One of the worst effects of their action is on teens who try to emulate their behavior. Stunts that are performed on television under controlled conditions are imitated by the people in real life resulting in death. Some of the shows where contestants participate to win prizes show them in poor light as they use meanness and greed to outdo each other. The negative traits can manifest themselves in the audience and create behavioral problems. Directors test boundaries of decency just to increase ratings. Liberal doses of abuses are hurled on the shows because the directors think that more and more people will watch them. This tends to severely affect the easily influenced minds of children and teenagers.

It is evident that when looked at objectively, the image portrayed by reality shows is largely sugarcoated. Its culture has deeply penetrated our society and our day-to-day routine. The irony is that these reality shows are detached from reality itself. Yet, for the sheer entertainment value these shows have, millions of people sit glued to their television screens, oblivious to the reality.

-Contributed by Suzanne, Ayisha, Divyanshu and Abhishek

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