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.
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.