Reality – a view gone askew

One of the favourite television programming concepts today is ‘Reality TV’ as can be seen from international shows like American Idol, The Amazing Race and of course, Big Brother. But people make a huge mistake when watching these shows and sometimes I wonder whether they really don’t know this or just choose to ignore it.
What I’m referring to here is the simple fact that none of these ‘reality’ shows are actually as real as people believe them to be. All right, quick history lesson time: How many folks remember the 1st ever reality show? For those that don’t, the answer is Survivor. The first series of this show was the one that catapulted reality programming to a whole new level, but for those whose memory goes back far enough – even Survivor was plagued by rumours and accusations of set-ups and re-shoots of things that should have been unadulterated and pure reality. How can you have reality if you cut, edit and re-shoot it?
As I read somewhere recently, the whole concept of these reality shows today seems to feed the exhibitionist and obsessively voyeuristic culture that is prevalent in our society, where everybody wants their “15 minutes of fame”, heck there’s even a show by that name where people come and often make serious fools of themselves. I will grant there are a few that do have genuine skill, but by and large (and any watcher – like myself – of the initial auditions of American Idol will know) most folks obviously don’t have that special something, but just want to be in the spotlight and be famous.
Now don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to be rich and famous, its one of the most natural things in human nature, more so in recent times than ever before. I myself have had more than a few fantasies about being a huge and renowned success, but does the concept of dignity have no bearing somewhere there? People are willing to expose and degrade themselves and become an international joke just to get that money and be famous, even for a short while. Does the name William Han from American Idol ring any bells for you guys?
Anyhow, now that the general rant is out of the way, to more pressing matters. I’m more than certain that pretty much all of you are well aware of the recent Celebrity Big Brother scandal involving our very own Ms. Shetty, but there are a lot of things that people don’t consider in these situations that should be thought about. Lets examine the data shall we?
First, there’s the obvious factor: Jade Goody is a mean, mealy-mouthed person who became famous because of this very show and in fact was brought back for this season because of her nastiness. If you think about it, she’s only slightly different from the ever popular Simon Cowell who gained international fame/infamy as a result of his acidic barbs and horrid manner and is brought back season after season just for those very reasons. Its just lucky he hasn’t said anything racist to yet, but his role on his show, is not really that different from Ms. Goody’s on hers. So in a twisted kind of way, when she was making all those horrible remarks and making jokes at Shilpa Shetty’s expense, she was in fact simply fulfilling the task for which she had been hired. Interesting no?
Secondly, and this ones a biggy, we have world leaders who are more concerned that this show and the behaviour of one person on this show will affect the UK’s image rather than the fact that their Prime Minister is considered a lap-dog for the US and the fact of their involvement in Iraq, the Guantanamo Bay prisoner torture and transport scandals, among many. What does that say about all of us as a society? How many people know that the day Ms. Goody was evicted from the house, one of Blair’s top aides was arrested for possibly ‘perverting the course of justice’ in the cash for peerage scandal? One would imagine that this act would be great for the UK’s image internationally, especially since in most places including India, politicians usually are never really subject to the full power of the law. No, this never really made the big news; the government was more interested in being indignant about the oh-so-important drama-taking place in the Big Brother house. Almost seems like a wag-the-dog scenario doesn’t it?
Thirdly, how many folk can honestly say they remember that while this all important race drama was playing out in London, six men were arrested in the same city who were planning to bomb London’s underground? These men have been tried and were in the news in headlines in places, but not too many people recall this when you talk about recent events. I think in some ways this says a lot about the priorities we have today.
And lastly, as I wind up this little piece of exposition, I would like to turn to all the indignant politicians and folks who want to stand up for Ms. Shetty’s rights and fling accusations of racism. Where have all you folks been when in the US and the UK there have been innumerable reports and stories about the harassment and terror that people of south Asian descent have had to endure since 9/11? I can still recall stories from back then of an elderly Sikh man who was attacked brutally and his business destroyed because his turban made the ignorant American thugs think he was an “A-rab” and many others like it.
There was even a moment in a recent movie called Inside Man which is about a bank robbery where one of the bank employees is shoved out into the street by the robbers with his hands tied behind his back, a metal sheet with demands on it hanging from his neck and a black hood on his head; and the police come to get him out of the street but one of them pulls of his hood and Wallah! He’s a sardar named Vikram Walia who works for the bank (a fact he keeps repeating) and instantly the cops pull up and aim their guns at him say “Holy shit he’s an Arab!” and throw him to the street, and literally seem to molest him including pulling his turban off most unceremoniously. The next shot of him shows him sitting with detectives in a nearby restaurant holding a bag of ice to a black eye talking about how he always gets pulled out at airports for ‘random’ checks and how he’s sick of being treated like a criminal. Fictional movie, yes, but remember – most fiction has some basis in reality.
The bottom line is this – we live in a world where racism is still a very real problem and needs to be seriously addressed, not turned into just one more TV and media circus to be exploited for headlines and forgotten at the appearance of the next one. People like Jade Goody are not alone, and we cant imagine they are so few, ask any South Asian who has spent time in the UK and the US and they can tell you stories about being called ‘Pakis’ and other names and being told to ‘go home’ among more colourful lines.
We give “Reality TV” far too much power, even when we know that it isn’t in fact as REAL as you might think. And it’s a concept that like anything else will only remain and be propagated and exploited as it has been if we continue to give it as much attention and importance as we do. There are many things in our world that need attention and that are more creative, more entertaining and more interesting.
Perhaps we should all start to switch the channel.

2 Comments Add yours

  1. mahima says:

    >by the way, did u msg me abt freelancing? what number was that? i couldnt call backanyway airtel has stopped my out going calls for the moment, motherfuckers are ruining my life, but i can tell u, im having problems geting some of my stuff on the page so i really dont think im the person to ask. aaargh

  2. The Dude says:

    >since you asked, yeah it was me since Im really into doing the whole freelance thing (somehow being in the office everyday and writing what im told to freaks me out!)Ill call you, dont really want to put my number on the blog… and yeah airtel are truly a bunch of shitheads – though bear in mind hutch aint much better, so what you gonna do? Dont stress, twas just a thought, get your own stuff in first and then Ill bug you again later :)Just keep at it, if this is what you want then itll happen, might take its own sweet bloody time, but itll happen… take it from one who’s still workin out the details.cheers..

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