Tuesday, December 28, 2004

So Unreal

So Unreal

I was talking with a neighbor the other day when the topic of conversation turned to Trading Spaces. Probably because he knows me well enough to know that, once anyway, I was addicted to all things "Tray Spay" as they call it, he struck up a conversation. He thought it appropriate to ask me for clarification, speculating that I would come to the show's defense at the drop of a hat.

"Is it true they don't do all the work in two days and that they don't use just one carpenter?" he defiantly asked.

"Well, yeah," I responded, "the homeowners have help and they have like a day zero where they setup the trucks, shop, and stuff."

At this point, he got all bent out of shape. "That's such a ripoff!" He asserted, "they claim they do everything in two days. Damn, that show's nothing but a big lie."

A big lie? Well, I wouldn't go that far.

The interesting thing about so-called "reality" TV is that it's anything but. Anybody who thinks that they just decorate in front of roving cameras, and that cameramen just happen along while they re-do a room in some quaint little neighborhood is bonkers. Anybody who thinks that they just land random odd people onto a deserted island, only to vote them off in some strange but oh-so spontaneous tribal council ritual, is crazy. Anybody who thinks that punk kids randomly skateboarding through green pastures, while swallowing worms whole, in some remote suburb is just a "spur of the moment" kind of thing, needs a helmet because they are the ones who obviously bumped their heads one too many times. The "reality" of "reality" TV is more Hollywood than the white Hollywood sign up on the cliff. (Which, it goes without saying, isn't really in "Hollywood" at all.)

Still don't believe me?

Supposing I were to get a camera and take your picture. Would you smile? Would you turn to look at the camera? Would you turn away, maybe stick out your tongue, or make a funny face? I thought so. Would you hold a picture of yourself in your hand and say things like, "that doesn't look like me," or "I look good in that picture," all the time cherishing it like it were a Cracker Jack trophy sent straight from Heaven above? I thought so.

The "reality" is that the very act of a camera being inserting into your life has made you do something you wouldn't otherwise do. There's really no such thing as a truly "candid" shot; we all have awareness of cameras, film, lighting, etc. around us, and we all alter our collective behaviors because of their presence. It's just human nature.

Now cut back to the TV show. Do you think that these "reality" stars don't alter their behavior? Do you think that having somebody tell you when to eat, what clothing to wear, where to stand in the room, how to look at the camera, etc. would impact your behavior? Not to mention having cameras stuck in front of your schnoz at like a 24-7 pace. It's a perpetually "altered" state of disgrace, not really a big "lie" you're looking at there on the boob tube.

Anybody who says, "no" to this is the "lying" one. It's not the TV that's broken, it's your head. (Maybe, if you ask nicely, you can borrow one of those helmets from the crash show. It'll come in handy while you're banging your head against the walls of your nicely padded little room, which can be re-decorate a lovely pale white, courtesy of the "Tray Spay" stars.)

They can get real and they can get stupid but the reality of "reality" TV is that it's nothing but Hollywood repackaged, regurgitated, and reformulated for your viewing pleasure. Enjoy it for what's it worth.

Until next time...

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