As I begin to dig into my study of what will be worthy of eternal continuation in the new Earth I have come to realize I’m likely going to ruffle some feathers in this series, possible even offend. The things that, at their core, are the most detrimental to the way we are living are often the things that: 1) We don’t discuss at all, such as sex slavery and porn addiction, and 2) We discuss constantly without truly thinking about any subsequent ramifications. I think today’s topic falls into the second category.
There is a theory of human communication labeled symbolic convergence. This theory states that when a group of people share in some form of discourse a type of group fantasy emerges. The theory goes much deeper into what symbols, of that fantasy, are then formed, but I think the theory can be useful when we take a look at our desire, as a nation, to be manipulated by reality TV. What is it about reality TV that draws us in? Why is it dangerous to our life? And how are we victim’s to the propaganda machine that is mass media?
I have known the desire to be attracted to these shows. I have been a faithful follower, in the past, of more then I would like to admit. So I think I have a fair understanding of the appeal, as well as their the soul sucking capabilities. If we look back fifteen or twenty years we can see where these shows took root: Lifestyles of The Rich and Famous, Cribs, and The Real World. Although, not unheard of before 1990, they didn’t hold the same concept or appeal. This monumental shift in what we view on TV is startling and worth some thought.
One of the most bothersome aspects for me is in the name itself …. “real”. As viewers, we become involved in these ‘real’ peoples lives, we discuss the nature of their dramas and lifestyles, and we begin to view it as an actual part of society. The problem is there is nothing ‘real’ about reality TV. The people are want-to-be actors, or Hollywood nobodies looking to create a name for themselves. The shows are scripted, far too much of what they ‘have’ is paid for, and the drama is caused by careful personality placement. And even if that is all true what is the harm? It is entertaining, after all.
When we begin to let the idea that these are real people, living in the same society as we are, we slowly start to undertake the notion that these fictions hold true in real life.
Peter Rollins is quoted as telling us that “Many of us would agree that having a better car, a nice home, or more possessions will not really make us happier. We are all able to concur that such things are not worth giving too much attention to and that we should not let our relationships suffer in order to achieve them. The problem, however, is that we often walk away from such conversations and act as if we do believe that they will make us happier and that making our relationships suffer in the pursuit of them is worth it. While we are very quick to say we do not believe, we continue to act as if we do.”
When we allow this into our lives, we are giving it permission to change our beliefs. Your beliefs, after all, are only as good as the actions they live up to. Watching reality TV which prides itself on fame, greed, casual sex, degrading women, stupidity for the sake of comedy, worth only through possessions, and self image we cannot expect that, after a given amount of time, these ‘values’ will impact who we are. Add to that the conversations we have with our friends, family, and co-workers on the same subject and we find that those symbols I spoke of before will begin to form; we will let other’s reassurance of the worth and reality of these fictions to be our excuse to not look deeper.
There is so much more I could say on this, but I’m going to have to stop at some point. I do think it is important to recognize the reasoning we continue to see these types of shows at such a fast rate. Producers aren’t making these shows because, as a nation we like them more than any other given TV; rather, they produce them because the actors are paid next to nothing, no set is needed, and they cost little to make.
So am I suggesting we all turn off the TV, since that would be the only solution to rid ourselves of reality TV? Do I think there are people that can’t watch a limited amount of these shows and still have a grasp on what is true and untrue? Do I think they are all worthless and without morals? I don’t think there is one right answer for these questions that will make sense for every person. What I do know is that reality TV won’t be part of this Earth 2.0 we are waiting on, the lies alone remove it from the running. And if it won’t be part of what is to come, the chances are it isn’t a worthy of our time now. At best we are missing something better, at worst we are contributing to something with the ability to create negative self-image, promote greed, and lift up those unworthy of the title role model.
There was a time in my life I found myself believing, and acting, as though the “reality” seen on certain shows were a standard worth striving for – when upon observation it should have been the exact opposite. I know, for me, when I made the conscience decision to turn off these types of shows I felt freedom. I felt more real. I felt more grateful for what I had, and less envious of things I couldn’t attain. I was given so much time to focus on more important things. There was nothing I lost, nothing I missed, and nothing to regret.