Sunday, May 6, 2012

The Not So Real World

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Monday Married by America, Tuesday Real World and the Osbournes, Wednesday MTV’s Battle of the Sexes, Thursday Survivor and the Bachelor, Friday My Life is a Sitcom. Every day of the week there is at least one reality based television show to watch, often there are two or more if you count the continuous re-runs of shows such as the Real World on MTV. In the past ten years reality tv has been introduced to America and in the past few years it seems as if television and the media are consumed by “reality based television”. It started with shows like the Real World and Big Brother both of which choose people who have never met to live in a house together for a certain period of time and agree to have their lives taped. The concept seems simple, pick a group of strangers to live together and watch the drama unfold, however there is a long screening process in which people are carefully selected to be sure that there will be diversity and sure enough issues and hopefully even a love triangle or two. The Real World has become a tv show that many young people have begun to watch on a regular basis, my friends and I are almost addicted, we gather to watch the show every week and trying to predict what will happen next. The most recent season of the Real World has just ended and shortly after they have a “reunion episode” where everyone who was a part of that season comes together to tell the viewers “what really happened”. Many will admit that what we saw on television was most often only a small piece of what was going on. In this particular season in Las Vegas it seemed as if the show was completely focused on the sexual relationships between the different people in the house. In the reunion episode one girl expressed that she thought that her life was shown very little because she was not a part of the sexual drama of the show and therefore was left out of most of the episodes. Her life was considered too boring compared to the rest of the tangled love relationships that would bring in more viewers. It seems that in current seasons of the show it has become more about the sex and the partying than in previous seasons. In the first seasons of the Real World there were people who were homosexual and one who was infected with AIDS. The show dealt with a more diverse group of people, not all were attractive and each person was dealing with different issues. In this past season, each person was heterosexual and good looking. I noticed it right away from the very first episode and I said to my friends that the show was no longer about the Real World, but the world that we all want to watch, a step away from reality but we trick our minds into thinking that is how life is supposed to be. This is simply one example of the many so called reality tv shows that America gets sucked into night after night, we may even know that it is not completely real yet we cant seem to stop watching. In Debra Seagal’s essay “Tales from the Cutting-Room Floor” she chronicles her brief experience working as a “story analyst” for a prime time based reality show called American Detective. She shows the reader through her own behind the scenes experience that reality televison is more about the money and the ratings than it is about reality.

Debra was excited to get the job working for American Detective, an ABC show that she had never seen.She did not realize when she started what the job would actually require of her. She would sit and watch hour after hour of footage shot all around the country and try to find things that could be made into interesting and exciting stories. She had the ability to pry into peoples lives and manipulate their situations, “Little does she know I’m going to be watching her in Malibu, California, while I sip my morning cappuccino, manipulating her image for my highlight reel”(40). Her job was to take peoples lives, the lowest points and exploit their pain and twist their reality to make a gripping television show.

The police officers were often just as corrupt as the producers of the show, taking advantage of the situation and looking for money and fame. Many of them thought that they were above the law and treated many people unjust and did whatever they could to make the situation worse to create a crime that the viewers would enjoy. In one of her entries Debra describes a scene she was watching of two police officers beating suspects because the officer crashed his car in pursuit of them, “With that he kicks the suspect in the head. Our main cameraman focuses the detectives ambling around their fallen prey like hunters after a wild-game safari; a lot of vainglorious, congratulating back-slapping ensues”(40). The police officers were beating on the suspects and the cameramen were actually taping the scene without saying a word. It was understood that this sort of scene would be great for an episode of the show. Unfortunately for them they could not use such footage, “This was clearly a case of too much reality for reality-based TV”(40).

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The police officers would also often attempt to manipulate suspects into helping them get to bigger crimes or suspects. They would often trick them or threaten them into thinking that they had no choice. Many of the minor crooks even become C.I’s (confidential informant) who worked for the cops and would help them bust their friends or other people they knew were linked to crimes. In one scene Debra describes a situation where a man is being arrested for marijuana possession and was set up by his friends who caved into the detectives badgering. This man requested a lawyer yet the detective continued to threaten the man and tell him that if he did not cooperate he would go to jail and loose his home and his daughter. The man would not give in to the threats of the detective because he knew he had a right to a lawyer. The detective was very upset that he did not succeed in breaking the man. Debra explains that if this man’s case becomes an episode “Michael will be made a part of a criminal element that stalks backyards and threatens children. Commander Brooks will become a gentile, persuasive cop who’s keeping our streets safe at night”()

Debra is eventually consumed by her job and leaves American Detective. Her experience shows us that the actual reality of “reality” tv is corrupt and money-driven. Most if not all of televison shows are like this, especially reality tv.Shows such as the Bachelor and Joe Millionaire actually attempt to help a man find a wife on tv, America gets wrapped up in the romance and the fairy tale and we believe that these relationships are real and the two are in love. Almost every couple that has come out of those shows has ended the relationship very shortly after the cameras stopped rolling. It doesn’t seem to matter to them considering they are now famous and much wealthier. It just goes to show that you really can’t believe everything you see on tv, even if it is said to be the so-called “Real World”.

Work Cited

Seagal,Debra. “Tales from the Cutting-Room Floor.” The Original Text-Wrestling Book.

Ed. Marcia Curtis, et al. Dubuque Kendall/Hunt, 001. 0-45

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