Would Someone Please Finally Ban Reality Shows?

As I was making my way to The Firm™ in my very own Benzo this morning, I was skimming over the morning dose of new coalitions, old farts and worried investment bankers. However, something stood out: Namely, Maja, one of the contestants in The Farm, the second installment of a popular reality show produced by POP TV, apparently lost her unborn child as a result of stress while filming. According to a story by Dnevnik, she was promised full medical care for the duration of the filming (as most of you know, contestants live on the set until the end of the show or until they get thrown out by the viewers) and has decided to stay. Things however did not go well and as bad blood started flowing between contestants (as is usually the case in reality shows), her pregnancy took a turn for the worse and she had an abortion.

Kmetija/The Farm

Now I have a long-standing beef with reality shows. This latest incident only convinces me that reality shows are harmful, unethical and abusive both to the public and especially the contestants and should therefore not exist. At all.

Reality shows are anything but real. They are a carefuly coreographed social experiment with a predictable result: higher ratings, more advertising money and a bigger market share. Naturally, the sun always shines on TV and the viewing public is presented with a congested nothing of everyday life. Not. Since no one can make nothing look good (some politicians are excpetion to the rule), games are devised, which are designed to promote a dog-eat-dog mentality, with contestants trying to please the public but usually faling prey to their personal traits. They are chosen among tens if not hundreds of candidates which are profiled, screened, tested and checked from every possible aspect, including pyschological (in)compatibility. The aim being to create an enviroment of maximum possible conflict. Because conflict sells. And the last sentece is the only reality there is. Everything else is created, produced, crafted, coreographed, manipulated and – well – faked.

Media don’t present reality, they create it.

I should know, I work in media.

There is a difference between ordinary public, the “media consumers” if you will and “media professionals”, individuals and organisations who create media and/or live off them (celebrities, perfomers, journalists, politicians, opinion makers, etc…). The latter know the name of the game and are acutely aware of the fact that what the viewing public is presented with, is at best a close approximation of reality and take that into consideration when entering a relationship with the media. That is why you will often see two professionals nearly get into a fight on TV, but see them hapily breaking bread over a bottle of beer only hours later.

The “media consumers” have no such luxury. They can either accept what media serve them or choose to ignore them completely. They do not enjoy the privilige of a behind-the-scenes look. And naturally producers of reality shows do little to disspell the faked reality of television which is the main driving force behind people applying en masse to enter these shows.

“Wow, I’ll be on TV! Everyone I know will see me on TV and I’ll be famous! This is my big break! Maybe I’ll start a musical career, like what-was-her-name, you know Miss Slovenia!”

When “media consumers” enter reality shows they become both object of mockery and admiration, fueling the desire of other “media consumers” to be there in their place. However, when they outlive their usefulness, the TV will shun and reject them without a blinking an eye, just as it took them onboard without hesitation as soon as it became apparent they had they “have what it takes” for making the show interesting, whatever that may be.

“So, you’re pregnant, huh? Shit, and we’ve already set everything up… Look, it’s your call, but if you decide to stay, we promise to give you full medical support for as long as you’re here. Hey, mom and dad will see you every time they switch the TV on. Or even over the internet. You’ll be a big hit and since you’re pregnant everyone will like you. What could be better than that?”

If producers of the reality show had any sort of moral scruple, they would not have let Maja enter the show no matter what. Perhaps this girl would have lost her child anyway. There’s no way of knowing. But being in what can only be described as a hostile and stressful enviroment could not have helped her condition one bit.

Producers of reality shows claim to respond to public demands. Wrong. Just as with reality, media also creates demand for content, especially when they market it right. But the what they actually respond to is a drive for profit. TV producers invest respectable amounts of money in reality shows and in return get an attentive public, higher ratings, higer market share a shit load of advertising money and even bigger pile of money they made by charging for all those text messages sent and 24/7 internet access.

And what does the viewing public get in return? That there are people out there whose lives are just as miserable as theirs.

P.S.: It could be, that it was all an elaborate PR stunt, and that I’ve fallen for it. As I said, media create reality.

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Agent provocateur and an occasional scribe.

17 thoughts on “Would Someone Please Finally Ban Reality Shows?”

  1. Absolutely spot on with your overall analysis although I’m not keen on banning anything. In the UK, reality TV is dying a natural death as people are losing interest in it and it becomes less of a money spinner with falling viewing figures / advertising revenues. I’m sure this will apply in Slovenia sooner or later.

    We had The Farm here a few years ago but it was a celebrity competition. As you might expect from the title, it was horse shit, and never reappeared or if it did it completely passed me by.

  2. @ Les, you’re right: “The Farm” was shit but it did provide the stunning sight of Rebecca Loos (Beckham’s “ex”) masturbating a pig to ejaculation (3/4 of pint!).

    Now that’s television.

  3. @les: Well, truth be told, I’m not in favour of banning as in “banned by the law”. The title of the post is more an expression of impotent rage than anything else.

    @Adriaan: Television indeed. However, “celebrity editions” of reality shows are sheer entertainment. Rebecca Loos most likely knew what she was getting herself into and was willing to pay the price (be seen or be gone).

  4. These were a joke from the start. How can anything/anyone act “real” when there’s a camera in their face? What’s more pathetic is that some consumers get sucked in so effortlessly. They take time out from their own boring lives to watch someone’s else’s contrived boring life. I still like to think that the Bush presidency has actually been a reality show and that the plug will be pulled, a la The Truman Show, any day now.

  5. @Mr. P: I’m a bit worried that you might be subject to “impotent rage”.

    I’m sure there’s treatment available!

  6. ‘Willing to pay the price’. Interesting choice of phrase, seeing as it’s more likely the illustrious Miss Loos was paid a price to appear anyway and in that sense confirmed her ‘media whore’ image, as I’ve heard about her doing several of such shows. Most likely, dear Rebecca has an exclusivity contract with Dutch company Endemol, mother and father of all reality shows and is cashing in the dough without losing sleep over any ethical arguments.

    Not that the non- celeb contestants are totally unaware. They’re happy enough to play along for the reasons you mentioned : fortune and fame (or perceived as such). Today, people are very aware of how the media works and are consciously playing along, so one means to an end serves the other. And no one is prepared anymore to protect these people from themselves, all in the name of ‘live and let live’. With all this bread and games, the fabric of society unravelling and economies going to hell globally, I feel like I’m witnessing another Fall of The Roman Empire. Over the top? Perhaps; but just think it over…

  7. @Adriaan: A strong dose is due tommorow 😉

    @Dr.Arf: Sadly, I think non-celeb contestants only think that they know the rules. They don’t. Because every time they think they got the hand of it, the media (especially TV in this day and age) will go one better.

    As for the last part of your comment, I’ve only this to say. The biggest parties were always thrown right before the end….

  8. @pengovsky: Sounds about right. At least you aren’t here in the States. Unfortunately Reality TV over here is going quite strong…but might be slowing down somewhat. Well at least the older shows.

    I have to confess I watch 1 reality series (The Amazing Race) but the only reason I like this one is because I get to see many interesting locales from many different countries on the show. All the other reality shows I can’t stand, especially when it causes the cancellation of other non-reality shows that I like. 🙁

    “And what does the viewing public get in return? That there are people out there whose lives are just as miserable as theirs.”

    ^ This point brings to my mind an interesting thought. I’ll assume everyone here knows what a “Hollywood ending” is in the movie industry. My point is so many people dislike this type of ending in a movie. I’ve always wondered why though…is it part of the human condition where nothing can be perfect not even in the fantasy world of movies. Maybe that’s why people like watching others be miserable/pathetic on reality series. I guess they can’t handle life being too good or something. Sad, IMO.

  9. Eh, how many writers, poets, actors and song writers have built their careers on their misfortunes being mass entertainment? And how many have built their fame on the media writing about their misfortunes? It’s all mass entertainment. From Oscar Wilde or Lord Byron, over Marilyn Monroe to Jim Morrison, Kurt Cobain, Ian Curtis and now the Average Joe and Jane. Misfortune and misbehaviour have always attracted collective voyeurism, for as several reasons and none of them intellectually defendable. Sad? I agree. But this collective voyeurism has always existed in some form or other, from the dawn of time. It’s just more publicized and force fed today, because there’s more forms of media to exploit this and more means to lure the average Joe and Jane into it and to become part of it, in exchange for what they perceive as fortune and fame. Andy Warhol, anyone?

  10. What is reality, anyway?
    This question can lead to hours of debate.

    As one grows older though not wiser by default, one does tend to take notice of some basic truths as basic as gravity or the importance of the notion of zero… I’ll stop myself right here so as not to bore you and will sum it up as…

    Panem et circenses!


    PS *IF* the woman actually aborted, she did so while knowingly taking part in a stressful activity for the sake of money and/or a misguided idea of fame in which case she would hardly have made a fit mother. Nature knows best.

  11. dr. fil, back to “reality” questions, are we? 🙂 But, the notion of zero was invented, nespa? And there were some additions to Newton as well. But really that’s another topic and indeed, it would be nicer if it included some alcohol.

    As for reality shows; being stationed here in Tokyo, I have had an incredible opportunity of not seeing one single minute of that “Farm” thing, however I have an idea for Pengovsky: if you really want to boost up your ratings, wouldn’t you consider changing “The Firm” into “The Farm”?

  12. @dr. fil.: Re your final paragraph: Not entirely true. Namely, this girl (I presume) did not have “all the information”. Media consumers rarely do. We are all presented with the glory of television, the impecable cues and cuts, fancy graphics, shiny sets… But often outsiders are in for a shock when they see the harsh reality of a TV set or other media enviroment. In Maja’s case it was too late. Not to mention the fact that once in, she was under contractual obligations.

    St. Luka:

    wouldn’t you consider changing “The Firm” into “The

    I saw that one coming a mile away. 🙂

  13. >> @pirano: So… who walks of the set? Bush or the American people? <<

    At the rate things are going now, the set’s going to crumble before anyone has a chance to walk off!

  14. Just wanted to correct your choice of words – as I understood she had a misscarriage, not an abortion. It may seem the same thing to us, Slovene, who have the same word for it, it is, however, a pretty different thing. Not as much as a result but more from the point of view of the woman that had one.

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