Sure, there were a few weeks in college I missed classes to watch reruns of Real World New Orleans, and I may have been drawn into the sick train wreck that was Rock of Love, but if I woke up one day and there was no reality TV, it wouldn't phase me one bit.
Once in a while I read about some reality TV thing that really makes my skin crawl. I think originally it was Extreme Makeover (and i dont mean Home Edition) more recently is was the Lord of the Flies-ish Kid Nation. At the very beginning I questioned its morals, and other folks started asking questions too. I understand that parents give consent for the kids to participate in this program: the kids have to start a community in the New Mexico desert. No adults. No rules...blah blah blah. Since went is it fine for a parent to "give consent" for a child to be put in a dangerous situation? Is it really OK to make that decision for a child? Is it ok to give consent for a child to knife-fight with another kid, or two crawl into a lion cage at a zoo?
In Intervention, which had criticism right off the block, real life addicts are taped under the premise of filming in a show about addicts, are followed through their sad, out of control addictions and then blindsided with a five minute intervention from family, friends and a doctor at the end of the show. It does not surprise me that people love this show. Its all about people with problems which everyone likes to watch because they either A: can relate or B: like to feel that at least their problems arent THAT bad.
A New York Times article describes an episode when a "character" on Intervention had too much too drink, and the crew just taped her getting into a car and driving away. And thats perfectly legal. The production team is under no obligation to interfere with the actions of the addict. Officially they are just bystanders. I'm sure that attitude works out just fine until that drunk driver kills a family of four, right?
A recent article in the smarmiest, most sexist magazine out there, Esquire, called Tonight on Dateline This Man Will Die, was just one more fearful incident in the world of reality TV. The article focuses on Dateline's reoccurring, ratings-craving, reality segment "To Catch a Predator." The show sets up a sting to catch adult men who have been chatting online with young women or boys when they attempt to meet them for sexual relations. Ok, i kiiiinda like this show, but this article really shows the danger of these situations. In the article, Dateline finds out that the predator who is supposed to arrive at the sting house is actually a politition. Unfortunately, I think, the possibility of arresting a public figure on TV is more exciting to them than it is tragic. So rather than wait for him to arrive at their set up, they go to his home. Either way, the scene does not unfold pleasantly:
"Although the microphones outside of Bill Conradt’s house have no trouble picking up a mini schnauzer’s barks, none record Bill Conradt’s Browning .380 handgun, which he places muzzle-first against his own temple and discharges. "
Dateline gets their story, and Bill Conradt is dead. Do I feel like Conradt committed a crime? Yes. Should he have had to serve time? Yes. Should Dateline have pushed him to a point where he thought he should take his own life? I cant agree.
Reality TV can be creepy and devastating. It can show parts of the human condition (both those in front of and behind the camera) that I personally don't really need to see.To veer off the subject for a second to other reality shows, no matter how completely ridiculous they may be, there are a few honorable mentions: A Shot At Love stars a gal, Tila Tequila,whos pretty much just famous on the internet, hosting her own dating show. There are 16 guys and 16 gals lined up to try to win her heart...although they all signed up not knowing there would be competition of the other sex--since Tila just came out as bisexual-during the first episode. yeah. This is a messed up show. Reality TV is messed up. It all just kinda gives me the creeps.