Realism isn’t real?

We had the privilege of having Dr. Sharla Sava come in and present “I Shot Myself: Surveillance as Empowerment” in which she talked about the rising popularity of posting self portraits online as a “creative and strategic response to the experience of living in a surveillance society” as described by Aurelea. Surveillance was once mainly used for a close observation of a person or a group, especially if under suspicion. Now it is simply a source of entertainment with the increasing interest of reality television. Which begs the question of why are we all so obsessed with being “real”? A dictionary definition of realism is: the tendency to view or represent things as they really are. But aren’t most “reality” television shows sometimes scripted and stunted? Take the show The Hills for example. This show is a documentation of the life of Lauren Conrad and her friends after moving to L.A from Laguna Beach, California. The cameras follow these, I guess you can call them, characters day in and day out. As the audience, you have the opportunity to live their dramas alongside with them. This show easily became the show to watch as it raked in an average of about 4.7 million viewers with the demographic aged 12 – 34. What made this show so popular is that the lives of these people always seemed so complicated and dramatic … so “real”.

In my opinion, if this show was really that “real”, it wouldn’t be as popular as it is. Real life, or at least my life, has some days, weeks, or even months that go by uneventful with a blink of a lazy eye.

Inevitably, accusations of staging certain scenes start flying when photographers caught two of their characters, Spencer Pratt and Heidi Montag going to the airport as Pratt was dropping his girlfriend off early in the afternoon only to pick her up later on that same afternoon. Their way of showing that time has passed since the last two saw each other? A quick change of shirts but leaving on the same pair of jeans and shoes.

So how real is this reality show? Better yet, how real are all the other reality television shows like The Simple Life, Blind Date, and The Amazing Race. A producer of a popular reality show claims that his show’s story is “enhanced but genuine”. The enhancing process for a lot of the shows include of cutting of scenes, putting them out of order, and dubbing the audio.

Just like the millions of reality television viewers out there, I am sucked into the guilty pleasure of watching more beautiful than average people have their lives go awry and have them cry hysterically only to have a very fortunate pick-me-up (win the lottery perhaps?) a couple minutes after. Maybe it isn’t the realism in reality television that attract us, but the faux reality that we can escape to when we’re bored of our own.


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