Beyond the obvious… the ‘unreality’ of it, etcetera… there are a couple of things I dislike about ‘reality TV’ shows like Big Brother and Survivor, and they both have to do with the disturbing trend in media.
1 – Trust Is For Suckers – The lesson of the day, kiddies, on ‘reality TV’, is don’t trust anyone because every other person is only out for themselves. How sad. However… maybe that’s a good way to live your life in one sense. You’ll never be suckered, at least. And I’m an advocate of being careful what you believe, and in whom. Whenever I get one of those warnings of doom in my e-mail box – you know the ones… some product is lethal and you’re gonna die if you eat it – I immediately check it out with reliable urban legend busting sites. I want to know the truth, not what a ‘friend of a friend’ said, or a ‘neighbor’, or a ‘reliable’ source.
But what I’m talking about is, on ‘reality’ television it seems every person who trusts another’s word is a sucker, doomed to be stabbed in the back and tossed on the fire. And in the end, even the person who was suckered kind of shrugs and says ‘I had it coming.’
No. NO! Society depends on us trusting one another to some extent, not foolishly, but with open eyes and an open heart. But in ‘Reality TV’ anyone who does either trust someone else or who feels obligated ethically and morally to keep his/her word is portrayed as sanctimonious or a naive idiot. Inevitably they are betrayed. That’s just wrong.
Which leads me to;
2 – ‘I’m Sorry’ Fixes Everything – No matter how foul/abusive/disgusting/slimy/crude or traitorous someone is on one of these shows, in the end, when the whole ‘cast’ of ‘real’ people is gathered together to disclose the ‘winner’ – quote marks used advisedly – all that the worst of the players has to do is shrug, say ‘I’m sorry… it was all just part of the game‘ and all is forgiven! If someone calls them on their awful behavior, they’re attacked as a whiner, or portrayed as such. It seems that we expect very little of our fellow human these days.
But… IT’S NOT OKAY! I don’t care if it’s all a game, what kind of person can say foul disgusting things and yet shrug at the end as if it’s nothing? It is not okay to be an A$$! But they are never ever held accountable for their actions in any way, and that’s just frustrating. I’d be more happy, I guess, if just once I thought one of them really was sorry for their actions or felt they had disgraced themselves and betrayed their humanity on TV. But they never do. And unfortunately, they’re the new heroes, these folks with no conscience.
So, here’s my prediction, given last night’s debacle on Big Brother 8. At the final, Evil Disgusting Dick will shrug, smile, flirt with Julie Chen (eeuw!) and say that everything he did was ‘just part of the game‘. Calling Amber a worthless drug addict, pouring a drink over Jen’s head, and calling Jameka a hypocrite was all just ‘strategy’. And then he’ll accept a check for $500,000 dollars. Or his daughter will, winning by having ridden daddy’s coattails while privately saying how awful he is… and all the while benefiting by his shenanigans.
And they will all smile and laugh about it, because if they don’t, they’ll be labeled whiners. No one will ever call Dick on it , and he’ll go on to be great friends with Mike Boogie and other former Big Brother slugs.
How does this relate to the larger scheme of this blog entry? Well, the larger theme is that in the media today trust is for schmucks, that cheating is the best way to win, and anyone who doesn’t think so is a schmuck, and that your word doesn’t have to mean anything, because if you give your word and go back on it, well, you’re just playing the game.
That’s a dangerous way to think if you apply it to life. And yet from the look of the political climate – dig up some dirt on your political opponent rather than truly stand for something yourself – it seems that in life, as in ‘reality’ TV, cheaters prosper. You can be a slime as long as you win because everyone will forgive you.
My refuge is books. I’ve never read of a hero in a novel who felt comfortable stabbing someone in the back in business or politics, unless he had to pay at some point for his behavior. No heroine would use cheating to get ahead without being brought to task later. I’ve often worried that I’m far too idealistic, but the truth is, I’d rather be with a loser who has integrity than a winner who cheated to get there.
So why do I watch ‘reality TV’ if it get my goat? Well, I guess I’m relentlessly optimistic. And there are lots of reality shows that don’t depend upon those tactics. Dancing with the Stars looks like it will be interesting this time ’round, with Marie Osmond, Wayne Newton, Jennie Garth and Floyd Mayweather, among others. It’s just a definite subspecies that is glorified on some of the shows, most noticeably Big Brother and Survivor.
That said… hey, Survivor China is starting up in a couple of weeks! And I will be watching, and rooting for the poor schlub who probably doesn’t have a chance, someone who believes in keeping his/her word.