Reality TV: The Zeitgeist of our time.
January 20, 2010
I always say why write fiction when there is so much history out there that has never been told. No writer could ever compete with the randomness of real humans interacting and events colliding to create previous unimaginable situations. This is why I love history and reality TV. Not all reality TV. That would be ridiculous. Just the stuff that appeals to me, just as some history topics I have no interest and others I can’t get enough. Reality TV when done well is a no script live action soon-to-be history lesson. e.g. Snooki gets hit. As random as real life a Long Island school teacher with no prior record of violence punches a young woman at a bar over shots of alcohol. WOW! Where did that come from? The douche-bag that punched Snooki had no clue he would punch a girl the morning before he acted so reckless. Nor did Snooki have any idea that before the days end she would be worried that she may have lost a tooth. The reality of it all is that even with a film crew and visible mics the random real life events proceed without a hitch. There lies the “RUB”.
Whenever a non fan of Reality TV barks its always about how fake the shows are and thus they have no interest. Yes, some shows are less real than others. Some revolve around a contest of some kind. Others a prize. But other TV programing besides news shows are completely fake. They are made up by some douche-bag. Then re-worked by another. Think about it: What makes fiction good? Answer; It’s authentic. Even science fiction has to relate to the same part of your brain that rules your real life experiences and relationships. Isn’t that the point of all fiction anyway? Without such why would you be interested?
As in life we come home and tell or friends and family the interesting real-to-life stories of the day. “You wouldn’t believe what happened to me today” or “I just saw the most amazing thing happen”. Then we proceed to tell the story as accurate as possible painting the story with details so as to get the listener to imagine they witnessed the events themselves.
Jersey Shore appeals to me on the same level. Probably for a number of reasons. Probably a few that are honorable and others that aren’t so much. Either way the participants are interacting sans script just as they would in their real lives. The more real it becomes the more appealing it becomes.
The “Real World”, MTV’s first reality TV show, is almost as predictable as the Chargers in the playoffs. Everyone knows what type of participants will take part and why they were chosen. The black guy, the Gay guy, the loose woman, the Christian. Jersey Shore on the other hand was not only new to the viewer but also included a subculture that few knew anything about. That is the East Coast Italian youth that dominate the areas of Staten Island, New Jersey, and Long Island NY. Learning about this culture through the eyes of youngsters with no hang-ups or shame is masterful. The viewer is served a slice of life uncorrupted by Hollywood. Sure there are edits and re-edits but the action and speech is as real as can be. Unlike the typical Hollywood scripted shows so many of the Reality TV haters complain about all the time. Does “What a fake ending that show had” or “”That would never happen in real life” ring a bell. Those same haters are looking for a suspension of disbelief that doesn’t exist in scripted shows. Yet at the same time they (dis)miss reality TV.
Reality TV has an authentic place in our broader culture that is going nowhere but up. No one knows what will happen next on Reality TV not even the participants. But you will have to tune in to witness.
BTW, I love the fact that Snooki, the victim mind you, told the MTV advertisers that pulled their ads to “go fu-k themselves” How could someone hate on that??? In those few words Snooki crystallized my entire point. She is saying: this is my reality, this is my life, how dare you pretend that these events did not happen and you are TOO GOOD for them. They did and the cameras were rolling.