What is wrong with reality shows? We know they are not “real” and that they are fake, scripted. Unlike art, they pretend it is a ‘behind the scenes’ look that is as real as it gets. They have the quality of cheap gossip being shared behind someone’s back. Reality TV on a whole reduces our emtions to base instincts — jealousy, backstabbing and thereby us to our petty and silly selves. Here, drama is accentuated by improper communication, entitled expectations, shocking ways of settling disagreements. It is designed to achieve one purpose and one alone – to catch the eyeballs of the audience. Not their hearts. Like a drug, it gives an instant hit of dramatic impact but which doesn’t last beyond a couple of minutes. All of the interactions between participants are over-dramatized to the point of cringe. This is because, their interactions are amplified to elicit shock and awe from audience. These are the emotional equivalents of what potato chips are for the body, may be even cocaine.
Reality TV reduces people to their immediate impressions, their mannerisms and body language, nothing deep. Everything is shallow. It will make us forget the power of deep emotional bonding with a fellow human being. It makes bickering fools of us, distracted robots out to either have “fun” or involve in a fist fight. The “fun” is based on someone else’s revenge or a comeuppance etc that is trivial to the point of insignificance. All human potential is reduced to a punchline, a witty retort and thoughtless sobbing before the camera. Together, as a species, it makes our emotional quotient lower, we become consumers of commodified boiler plate sensation that then becomes our sole point of attention, glued to TVs, laptops, mobiles instead of forging a deep emotional bonding with people in your life. It makes catharsis impossible. It reduces the quality of life, of life spent, of interaction with fellow humans and of introspection.
Mine is not an elitist view of “new art forms”. In fact, the format of Reality TV can’t be called art at all. It is a manufactured product. A product in which the raw material is made of “intense” personalities, by which they mean those that are prone to periodic external display of emotion, like anger, sadness etc, which can then be recorded on camera. The camera is not interested in the person’s inner conflicts, their upbringing that brought them into the position they are today and how they deal with a situation. The camera’s gaze is not that of empathy, but of a hungry beast out for a “viral video moment” before the “boring stuff” happens.
The camera’s gaze is important because, it ultimately decides the gaze of the audience as well. On the other hand, a lingering gaze, one that lets the person speak out, share their inner thought and perspective will inevitably lend a depth to that person and will emotionally enrich a viewer who is patient enough not to click away and look for an “emotional hit” elsewhere.
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