Yesterday, I basically summed up my post on how people can get very judgy about entertainment to someone who was, once again, being very snide about our current involvement in the EURO2016. When I was done, someone else piped up “OK Crys, I see your point. So, I presume that you also don’t judge people for watching shows like Jersey Shore? It’s all just entertainment, right? No one is superior to the other, it’s just a matter of opinion?” To which, someone else responded “Wait she said talent! There is no talent in reality TV!” and they started chatting on about that, the conversation taking a bit of a devil’s advocate turn about whether or not game shows like Jeopardy qualify as reality TV.
Game shows aside, it got me thinking a little bit. I do have a different knee-jerk reaction to reality TV, and why is that?
For the purposes of this post, I will narrow my definition of what reality TV is. I am referring specifically to the kind of reality TV whose popularity most people complain about and judge: shows like Jersey Shore, Honey Boo Boo or the Real Housewives of Wherever. I am not referring to game shows, talent shows, mini documentary shows, or any kind of competition show. I am referring specifically to the kinds of shows which, supposedly, follow certain people in their “everyday lives”.
First of all, I think it is a little short sighted to say that this kind of reality TV does not require any talent whatsoever. While it is not a talent in singing, or playing an instrument, there is a talent in marketing that makes these shows so popular. Sometimes this talent is reserved to the producers and editors of the show, other times the stars of the shows themselves have an intuition for marketing, and act in certain ways in which they know will gain them popularity. In this respect, talent is involved in making a popular reality TV show. Having said that, I still think that reality TV does not fall within the scope of my previous post.
The reason is that the talent for marketing is not the reason people like watching reality TV. They do not tune in to an episode of Jersey Shore and think to themselves Wow, that Snookie really has a talent for marketing! Or wow, look at how well they edited that episode of Real Housewives of New Jersey to make it seem like their lives are one non-stop dramatic family feud! It is not the talent that attracts the audience, but rather it is an attraction to the perceived drama, and often times, wanting to feel superior to the people they watch. This is most evident in shows like Honey Boo Boo, in which the audience takes pleasure in laughing at poor, downtrodden people who say outrageous and ignorant things, thus feeling better about themselves.
Decrying the fact that so many people take pleasure in witnessing someone else’s misfortune, or ignorance, or drama, is very different than saying that this kind of talent is not as worthy of attention as this other kind of talent. It is feeling sad about how petty our culture has become, that peeping in on someone’s drama could be amusing for so many people.
As a complete aside, the only reality show that I actually really enjoyed was Modern Dad. I personally thought that the creators of this show had a genius idea: instead of editing the show to be one non-stop fighting drama bonanza, why not edit it to keep in all of the witty and funny bits, so that the protagonists come off looking like professional comedians? It was funny, it was cute, and it never made it past 9 episodes. I guess the family in-fighting, gossiping and backstabbing is what the reality TV show audiences really want. Oh well.