‘Reality television’ is contributing to a general ‘dumbing down of the population
In British television (www. bbc. co. uk), Sam Brenton, author of “Everyone’s A Winner,” reports that there are currently at least five extremely popular reality shows. I also find that we are not just subjected to our own versions of these reality TV shows, but we must also endure the American ones also. American Idol, American Biggest Loser. We have our own versions. In the United States, Kim Campbell, a reporter with the Christian Science Monitor, counts at least ten popular reality shows on American television.
In the Arab World, there are two twenty-four hour, seven days a week ones, which keep viewers glued to their televisions for hours. In light of the international popularity of these shows, it is clear that the popularity of reality is based on the fact that they reveal the universal aspects of human nature itself. In other words, the popularity of reality shows is based on what appears to be a universal human attraction to voyeurism, the sight of people being humiliated, insulted and exposed at their most private emotional moments. The label ‘reality TV’ is what we should perhaps be examining. How real is this ‘reality’?
Shoving a dozen (usually extraordinarily immature) people in a house, locking the door and having TV cameras trained on them for six weeks bears little resemblance to any reality I’ve seen or heard of. In the past decade, the number of reality television shows featured in primetime spots have almost tripled. Reality shows are supposed to portray real life versus a screen-written life, but how accurate are they? Reality TV shows such as Big Brother, Survivor, and The Apprentice and so on, basic principle common to all these shows is this: Put people in difficult situations and make them be mean to each other.
Not only do I find this kind of brain-rotting shit-heap of a genre insulting and thoroughly uninteresting, I find the suggestion that this is “reality” an affront to humanity. How desperate to become famous do you have to be to submit yourself? Whoring yourself out to the whole nation. What is prize at the end? A weak possibility that you might have a few brief months of post Big brother limelight before sinking back into truly deserved emptiness. It highlights the disgusting trend of the fashionable of celebrity which has invaded everything from music to politics.
There is absolutely no need to put these attention seeking bottom-feeders on any kind of pedestal. If reality television producers want to push these limits, why not just go back to paying actors a salary to read lines they wrote for them? While reality shows can sometimes portray what real people are doing in the world on channels such as Discovery Channel, shows like the Real World are in no way accurate of how 7 strangers picked to live in a house together would really live. I have an assumption that whoever keeps coming up with these reality shows has been watching a bit too much television himself.
It seems to have impaired his ability to think. I know that sounds insensitive. And don’t get me wrong, I’ll admit, I’ve indulged in the occasional “Big brother “or “I’m a celebrity … Get me out here”. I’m just not going to pretend that it’s anything more than it is; trash television. Trash TV isn’t new to us all, there’s a reason (bbc. co. uk); Jerry Springer is a name known around the world (whether or not that is a point of pride to American television is something I’ll leave up to you). It does seem to be constantly growing in popularity however and frankly that frightens me a bit.
Reality shows are shows that people can watch when they don’t want any mental stimulation whatsoever. They’re shows that people can watch so as to live vicariously through others. It’s about watching someone do something interesting so we don’t have to. It’s about voyeurism and it’s about wanting to know much more about people’s lives than we should. It’s about feeling that flighty little thrill of excitement we did as child when we cracked open our sister’s diary. Most of all, it’s a chance to see how messed up some people’s lives are so that we can realize ours aren’t so bad after all.
In itself, that could be seen as a good thing. It could also be seen as the modern-day version of petty gossiping. Instead of sticking our heads over fences to discuss the neighbour on the other side and what sort of scandals she’s getting herself into, we’re sending texts to our friends and talking about the scandals of people we’ll never meet. Take a moment to think about that. To put it frankly, doesn’t spending so much time concerned about the slight dilemmas of complete strangers make us for lack of better word losers? Reality television has come to dominate television schedules in recent years.
The debate ‘Reality TV just an illusion’ had look at the popularity of reality TV, examine how ‘real’ it actually is and whether it degrades those making it, taking part in it and watching it. Radio 4 presenter John Humphreys has appeared at a debate during November 2004 on reality television organised by the Media Society in conjunction with the University of Westminster’s School of Media, Arts and Design. John Humphreys, presenter of Radio 4’s flagship Today programme, famously criticised reality television in his MacTaggart lecture at the Edinburgh International Television Festival the year 2004.
In a strongly worded speech he railed against what he sees as a “mind-numbing, witless vulgarity”. (Hodgwood, 12 10 04) University of Westminster was represented by Professor Annette Hill, reader in media and communication and author of a new book, ‘Reality TV’. Professor Hill’s groundbreaking research into what UK viewers really think of reality TV found a big majority don’t believe what they are seeing. (Hodgwood, 12 10 04) The survey of 9,000 people found that 73 per cent of respondents thought stories in reality programmes were sometimes made up or exaggerated for TV.
This is summed up by Professor Annette Hill: she said, “In essence, this may as well be network crack: reality TV is fast, cheap and totally addictive. The shows are weapons of mass distraction … causing us to become dumber, fatter, and more disengaged from ourselves and society” ((Hodgwood, 12 10 04)). Probably the thing we hear most are the cries of outrage about how the rise of reality TV is one of the chief causes of a population that is dumbing down Obviously, when we sit down in front of television we want to be entertained and/or educated. Shows like the aforementioned “X Factor” or “Big Brother” do neither of these.
If they’re there to entertain, where is the imagination? Since the apparent success of “Big Brother” it seems like all the channels here are interested in is producing the same kinds of shows. I can, however, see why they would want to. For the most part you do not need to pay for a well-known cast since members of the public will appear on it, you will not need to pay for a script writer since there is no plot… so, basically, apart from the actual set, the slight variation on the same idea and the prize money at the end – these shows must be pretty cheap to run.
There’s also the guarantee that someone will watch it (more than likely because there’s nothing else to watch! ), so why bother using the time, effort and money to produce an interesting documentary, a decent drama, a brand new sitcom or a ground-breaking piece of sci-fi? One argued that and it’s not just the show itself clogging up our airwaves; there are pre-shows after-shows and a whole bunch of even more worthless spin-off nonsense. I didn’t think you could get more worthless than Big Brother, but I was wrong. This orgasm of voyeurism has exploded all over our TV guide.
Whatever isn’t reality TV or cretin us spin-off filler is cooking or house shows; buying, selling, redecorating, sauti?? ed, roasted and so on or reality TV style documentaries like “Fat men can’t hunt” and “Baby sumo” (bbc. co. uk). This leaves very little room for quality television, and could seriously dumb the population. If reality television producers want to push these limits, why not just go back to paying actors a salary to read lines they wrote for them? We could recommend we limit the number of reality shows. We could recommend that the government put restrictions on these shows.
We could recommend all kinds of things that will never solve the issue. We have to fix this problem as a society. We have to decide these shows are unnecessary and stop watching them. When ratings fall, a show is cancelled. Someone think it is simple as that. Media critic, Lewis Grossberger, author of “This Is Reality? ” criticize television producers for creating the reality show program type and stress that these shows communicate low and unethical moral standards, the truth is that reality shows are simply a response to viewer demands and taste.
While it is true that the content of reality shows aim to bring out the worst in human nature, rarely allowing the display of positive behaviour, the fact is that reality shows can communicate a constructive message insofar as they exposes the nature of society, how people behave in competitive situations, what people will suffer and do for money, and how we enjoy that suffering, motivating viewers to reconsider their values and priorities. www. mediaweek. com). Basing “storylines” on hostility, hierarchy, and drama may make for a high TV-rating but are not setting good examples for viewers. Reality TV is contributing the dumbing down of the population I believe Reality TV shows are here to stay. Though our argument is valid, and that this type of television contributing to dumbing down the population. That it should be limited, will it ever? The answer to this is an echoing no.
Nearly all of the television stations on the air today are competing for the consumer’s time on their network, and they are able to make more money when they have more viewers. Reality television may not be as “real” as it is portrayed, but it engrosses millions of Brits on a daily basis. The writers for the television shows have only one thing on their minds, and that is ratings. The higher the ratings, the more money they make. So our argument does have a simple solution, but will that really solve the problem at hand.
Will just stopping watching those programs really cancel them? How are you going to get millions of people to stop watching shows that they regularly tune in for? I believe that will never happen. There will have to be a more complex solution to alleviate the viewer fascination on the “none”-reality television shows. If reality TV insists on taking over our channels, they could at least come up with a concept that is worth watching and not dumbing the population.
Sometimes it is inspiring seeing a normal, everyday individual overcome great odds and win at whatever it is they are attempting to do, but must it be done in every feasible way. Therefore I can conclude that we should keep reality TV shows because everybody should have the freedom to choose what they want. If people don’t like them they have the power to switch off. Also it gives a cultural reference point, it’s a ‘thing’ people talk about, like football or the weather, and it unifies people and is therefore a positive thing.
Also they let us see the differences between ourselves and others; it can contribute the population’s dumbing down but this is not always a negative thing. For example when Nadia won big brother it showed that the public had accepted a transsexual, her gender choices and sexuality were celebrated instead of persecuted. When Pete won big brother the nation developed a greater awareness of tourettes syndrome. We can learn from watching people. e. g. fly-on-the-wall documentary type shows; I think some of them are of enough value that that genre is worthwhile.
Occasionally there’s a programme that actually involves learning a skill and then competing with that skill, often raising money for useful charities in the process. I’m thinking of ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ (bbc. co. uk) which takes genuine celebrities and gives them a crash course in ballroom and Latin dancing. The results are spectacular, have a real purpose and make excellent and compelling viewing. If you want reality, watch the news. It is far more educational and consists of so much more quality than any reality television programme.
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