Reality TV rustles my jimmies.
Don’t get me wrong, it can be entertaining, an interesting look into the workings of the world and the humans in it, but there comes a point where it begins to grate on my senses and my conscience.
Take Beauty and the Geek, for instance. The basic format is, we have sixteen individuals hand-picked to fit a perfectly polished mould of a stereotype—eight women, the ‘beauties’ (because who wants to watch a show about ugly women?) who are all bronzed and buffed and busty and notably lacking in the brains department, all with jobs like “Professional Bra Fitter” and “Casino Hostess”, each paired up with a ‘geek’, a man who has relied on his brains to get him where he is in life and not his looks or social skills, who have glasses and ill-fitting beards and “Fungal Scientist” and “Comic Collector” as their title cards.
Now, the world being as varied as it is, I’m certain there are many perfectly handsome nerds (Hell, have you seen some of the cosplay floating around the internet?) and geniuses, and many intelligent hairdressers and models. But none of them grace the stage of Beauty and the Geek because they wouldn’t have fit into the boxes the producers wanted.
My main thought watching this was “These people signed up for this? They signed up to being stereotyped and put through ridiculous challenges for an audience’s entertainment?” At least it’s an equal-opportunity show and both the ditzy ladies and the nerdy, awkward men are poked fun at, but like, geez. Those are real people, you know?
And of course one of the objects of the show is to demonstrate how these two widely different types can, despite what high school tells us, end up together in relationships. There are authentic ship teases in the show. And sweet romantic scenes acted out. I retyped that three times looking for an alternate description, but I couldn’t find one. There is no force on this earth that will convince me that the sweet little scene between a Beauty and a Geek pairing wasn’t fabricated. The camera was sitting right there. Whether or not it was scripted, people act differently when they know they’re being watched, let alone filmed for the nation to see. If I want to watch a couple fall in love, I watch fiction. It’s more convincing, funnily enough.
I think that’s really the problem here — in reality TV, we are treating real people like fictional characters, ours to tweak and twist for our story’s purpose. The same goes for the entirety of celebrity gossip culture, really, all those magazines gasping about who’s sleeping with who and who we should idolise for their good choices this week and who’s crashed and burned… they’re telling stories. But with real people’s lives. Can’t we just watch soap operas for the same effect? Apparently it wasn’t good enough for some.
There’s a word for this: voyeurism. I took a class on non-fiction television and this sort of concept, and if I took anything away from it, it was the utter conviction that the Hunger Games will exist somewhere in the near future. We just love sticking our noses into other people’s lives, especially if they’re more exciting than ours and they’re full of drama we can gasp at without actually having to be near. That’s why we gossip, because we love to tell stories, and we get a better reaction if they’re about real people. Because fiction you can just make up, but this actually happened.
And this is why we up the ante and gossip about famous people, because they’re much more interesting than what your neighbour Dolores and her cat are up to, because they have money and assets and opportunities that we peasants don’t, and so their lives are guaranteed to be more interesting. I mean, they go to big parties and star in movies and go on adventure holidays to space and join cults and stuff! Their lives are like an ongoing drama story! Stay tuned to see what happens next episode! And even we don’t know what that’s going to be because life can be unpredictable!
Maybe the manufactured reality of reality TV is people trying to express some control over their uncontrollable lives. Play God, if you will, have some power over people and the things that they go through. Sometimes I get the same urge, but you know, I go and play The Sims, instead of messing with real people’s lives for the entertainment of the sleepy-eyed TV audience.