Reality television has become increasingly popular with the advent of technology, more so in the past decade. The television was first invented by John Logic Baird, a Scottish scientist, in 1926. Customarily, people watch television shows and programs in order to garner new knowledge and information on matters such as entertainment, news, celebrations and particular landmark events. The television not only appeals to people in different age-groups, but also provides a vital source of employment and revenue. Filming, as well as the television, has come in handy in preserving past events. In recognition of this most delightful discovery, the Academy of Television Sciences and Art came up with a comprehensive film that amply signifies the importance of the television. Producers, however, have not disappointed. Not only creative and captivating shows are aired on television, but they have also introduced reality television which has gained vast popularity. Books, such as Hunger Games, have served to popularize reality television. However, some fictitious descriptionsmay be quite detrimental to reality television. For instance, in Hunger Games, the author states that ‘the Capitol is harsh and cruel and keeps the districts in line by forcing them all to send one boy and one girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen to participate in the annual Hunger Games, a fight to the death on live television.’ Such fictitious statements have not gone unnoticed and have sparked a massive controversy about the future of reality television. This essay seeks at imparting the significance of reality television and counter arguments against this controversial issue. Clear arguments in favor of reality television shall be presented that will seek to establish the significance of reality television beyond any doubt.
Reality television is an increasingly popular genre that seeks to present dramatic, unscripted content that contains actual events. The viewers derive immense pleasure from watching these shows, which entail actual scenarios of ordinary people’s lives. These shows are normally filmed in situations where the participants are competing for an award. There has been a growing number of reality shows partly because they are very profitable and partly due to the fact that they have received vast viewership. However, these shows have received immense criticism, since the whole content is edited according to the shows objectives. Despite the fact that this school of thought feels that they should be abolished, there are several reasons in favor of these shows as presented here-in.
Reality television has received massive controversy and calls for abolishment due to the fact that opponents of these shows feel that the participants are extremely humiliated in order to film scenes of amusement for the viewers. For instance, a viewer may laugh when a participant slips and/or falls or is filmed participating in a candid affair. Therefore, a viewer watches as a participant’s dirty linen is laid in public for all and sundry just for a cathartic experience. However, contrary to the opinion that the viewer is deriving pleasure from a participant’s misfortune or embarrassment, the viewers derive pleasure from the fact that these events are not happening to them in the real world, where they would have a far worse impact than they have on a participant. The fact that reality shows do not accurately reflect a participant’s true character weighs in on humor and entertainment rather than embarrassment and humiliation. Whereas the participant may be traumatized or injured during filming or during the length of the duration of the reality show, such effects normally wear off as soon as one leaves the show. In addition, the benefits, such as fame, monetary reward(s) or miscellaneous benefits that a participant stands to gain far outweigh any resultant harm during participation. Therefore, the implication that reality shows are filmed ‘for no other reason than to embarrass, humiliate, or scare people and that the producers do not care about human feelings and decency, but only care about money’ is a misconstrued misconception that does not hold water (Cline 1).
Another controversial argument posed by opponents of the introduction and continuance of reality television programming is that companies that create these shows as well as the viewers fail in upholding their moral virtues. This school of thought feels that people who derive pleasure from other people’s sufferings and embarrassment are immoral and have no conscience. The fact that these shows have garnered a vast popularity and are being produced in huge numbers indicates a decadent moral fiber. However, this is a myopic view that fails to recognize the celebrities, media personalities and wealthy individuals that have been borne out of reality television shows. A large number of reality television participants and contestants have forged successful careers in acting and the media at large. For instance, Colleen Haskel, who participated in the first release of the Survivor series, has managed to nick major roles in Richard Hatch and The Animal. These prestigious roles and other ample opportunities would never have come Colleen’s way had she not participated in the reality show. By taking part in popular television reality shows, a participant or contestant is transformed from a little-known individual to a well-known personality. In addition, a reality show encourages the viewer to join and become an overnight celebrity. ‘Ordinary people can watch the shows, see people like themselves and imagine that they too could become celebrities by being on television.’ Therefore, ‘it does not matter as much that the contestants are often shown in an unfavorable light; the fact that millions of viewers are paying attention means that the contestants are important’ (Reiss & Wiltz 1).
Finally, reality television shows have been heavily criticized as ‘unreal.’ Producers and programmers purport that all content aired is unscripted, purely based on the actions of the participants and that all events are unplanned. However, reality shows do not necessarily reflect the participants’ actions in their context. Scenes may be contrived or edited in order to meet the show’s objectives or inject humor and viewer interest. The fact that editing contrives or manipulates the viewer’s mind on a participant’s personality, which may not necessarily be the case, had the scenes been presented in their proper context serves to harm the participant’s image as well as erode any ‘reality’ that these television shows may have. In some cases, reality television shows have been cautioned or served with law suits for airing manipulative racist content or causing grievous harm to a participant’s image. However, there are various arguments that render any accusations posed against reality television shows null and void. First, reality television shows cannot factor in all content about a participant’s actions. This would not only prove to be too long to air, but would also deprive the viewer any pleasure or interest that the show would otherwise have presented. Therefore, editing television shows is an absolute necessity. Secondly, reality television shows must be edited in order to meet the set rules and regulations. All content aired or produced in the entertainment and media industry for public consumption has various rules that it must abide to. Finally, the concept of ‘reality’ is normally misinterpreted as implying that these shows are a minute-by-minute real account of a participant’s actions. However, this is not necessarily true. Whereas these shows must present unscripted content, which is purely unplanned for, they must also meet the company’s as well as the viewers’ expectations. Hence, compromises must be made on various aspects.
In conclusion, the arguments presented in favor of the continued production of quality reality shows far outweigh any counter arguments against these shows. However, caution must be exercised in the production of reality shows, more so in editing, in order to provide a fair and just view of a participant’s or contestant’s character as well as provide quality and interesting content for the viewer.