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Christian
English Major
Writer
Thinker of odd things

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ENG 101, paper #4 [Tuesday, Nov. 02, 2004, 10:02 am]

This is the part where I put up another English paper to get critiques on before turning it in. You certainly don't have to agree with what I'm saying in this one - I'm mainly worried about organization, and I'm hoping all my facts are straight.

Reality TV?

Televison and reality. What do those two words have in common? As far as I’m concerned, nothing. Which is why I have a bone to pick with the oxymoron known as “reality TV”.

Is TV reality? No. Is reality TV? No. Although you could argue that Television often
reflects reality. But do the situations reflected in most TV shows offer a balanced and realistic view of the way we actually live our lives? Not really.

First of all, what exactly is reality TV? Since this is a relatively new phrase, it can’t be found in any of the dictionaries in my house. So my own definition will have to suffice. From what I have seen, the realm of “reality TV” seems to include just about any show in which ordinary people are involved. These people may not be paid actors, and in some cases, may not even know that they’re on the show. Reality TV shows are usually unscripted, which is another parallel between them and reality.

For example, my family’s favorite reality show is “Extreme make over: home edition.” In this show, a group of builders, designers, and remodelers completely re-do the house of a needy or otherwise deserving family. I think the premise of the show is wonderful. But I cannot sit in front of the TV and watch it for an hour, for various reasons. One thing I don’t like about this and other reality shows is that, even though they are supposedly unscripted to make them more “real”, there is usually some drama added in order to make a more “complete” show.

It seems that in every episode of “Extreme make over: home edition”, something goes wrong: the workers get into a fight, certain materials take too long to show up, etc. Obviously, people behave much differently when they know they are being followed around by a camera. And obviously, real-life remodeling projects don’t come right down to the wire every single time.

However, there are many more aspects of TV that reflect reality more accurately. There’s
always the news. Even though most news shows are politically biased, their intent is to educate
viewers about what is going on in the real world. Other reality-based shows, such as game
shows, usually involve ordinary people competing for prizes or money on TV.

But how much of what is shown on any TV show is truly reality? How much of it is simply the view of those who edit the shows? For example, in “Extreme Make over: home edition”, the process of remodeling someone’s home takes about a week. The show itself is less than an hour long. Therefore, your view of the “reality” of this process will only reflect what you are able to learn during the short time that the show is on.

Even news programs only give you what limited information they know, or want you to
know. Watching the eleven o’clock news is not going to give you as complete a view of reality as you may think. Many important stories are only briefly mentioned, or excluded altogether. Many less-important stories are overblown, and made out to be much more than they really are.
Oftentimes, only one side of the story is told, and unfortunately, many people think they are
getting the complete, “real”, picture of the world simply by watching a TV show.

Heading over to the dictionary, the definition of reality is given as: “the quality or state of being real.” And “real” is defined as, “actually being or existent; not artificial.” As for television: “transmission and reproduction of images by a device that converts light waves into radio waves and then converts these back into visible light rays.” At first you may think that doesn’t tell us anything about actual television, but I believe it does. Do you notice all the “conversions” in that
definition? The same thing happens during the process of making a television show. No matter
how close to “reality” the show is, the basis for most reality shows are completely artificial. In
reality, people are not dropped off at obscure locations to try to “survive” for a million dollars. In reality, no one has television cameras in their homes, following them around. After the artificial set and/or premise has been set up, everything else must be planned out. Reality isn’t planned; it just happens. Whereas, on a film set, after the actions of the actors have been captured on film, the film is then edited into a set length before it becomes a TV show.

I’m sure that not all “reality TV” shows are terrible, even though I haven’t been impressed with any that I’ve viewed so far. I know there are plenty of people who actually enjoy watching them, but I think the name “reality TV” is misleading and untrue. Even though most “reality TV” shows seem to mimic the real world more closely than typical scripted shows, they are still just as artificial. That’s why I believe the phrase “reality TV” is an oxymoron.

wander -- travel

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