Reality T.V.

68% of all t.v. aired in the world is reality t.v. Two thirds of 18-25 year old Americans said they would go on a reality t.v. show. One third also said that 'anyone who would go on a reality t.v. show isn't normal'. Young people typically watch 4-5 reality shows a week. These random stats got me thinking the following: 1. Everybody is a Celebrity. Most young people are getting used to the idea of being on a screen of some form, traditional t.v., youTube etc. This may be creating a long tail of celebrities (v products) who would have a fair chance of getting on a screen of some form. This can create new niches of celebrities e.g. Lonelygirl15, Peter the 70 year old from Norlfolk on YouTube, George Gallway -:) But the question is: does this erode the idea of celebrity in the classical sense? i.e. somebody famous for something extraordinary: George Best in football for example. 2. Celebrity is not the same as Legendary. Celebrity is becoming such a commodity, people no longer dream about their 15 minutes of fame but demand it - or blog like hell to get it. The next level of aspiration has to be more than just being famous for being famous it has to have some level of authenticity, grounding and yep talent. Perhaps the next level of fame is that of Legend. Legends are truly iconic, immortal and impossible to miss. Now how many YouTuber's can you name that can sit comfortably next to Churchill, Steve Jobs, Dyson, Tim Berners Lee, Pele, John Grant? Perhaps the new legends will be those that truly change the landscape left behind them and the concept of traditional legend itself will shift with the time, I just hope that tomorrow's legends won't just be those who got the most visitors to their MySpace simply by doing nothing except sitting there all day tagging each other. 3. Lo Dumb Down Culture. Given that nearly 70% of global t.v. programming is reality based is mind numbing. If you wanted anything of cultural, intelligent, artistic or craft based products you probably have to look elsewhere like Banksy's Santa's Grotto on Oxford Street. Grant once mentioned in one of his books that we've become the society of the spectacle. Today we want the sizzle not the steak we want the sensationalism of seeing sex on big brother we want the lowest, basest of human common denominators yep we love trash but perhaps the masses love trash and whoever has the job of giving them or inspiring them with the more deeper, higher, more meaningful and slightly more demanding forms of culture and art simply don't give a toss. This stuff doesn't sell t.v. ratings and doesn't guarantee eyeballs to sell to soap advertisers who crave coverage. Therefore you end up with 70% of t.v. being reality based. The sad thing is this is not new. Theodore Adorno as far back as the 50's lamented the mass produced, dumbed down culture as a threat to higher forms of artistic or entertainment products. Adorno observed that the culture industries for which t.v. and radio at the time were the main organs cultivated false needs driven by capitalist agendas (ratings, revenue etc) while true needs they stipulated were creativity, freedom and happiness. But maybe this won't go on for ever. In the Economist's new year edition an article on post modern marketing highlighted how accessibility of niche products (long tail stuff) and consumerism are allowing people to become 'artists of their own life' people who are capable of building their life, with individuality and sense of self-expression by tapping into what technology and variety provide. However, the question that still bugs me is: where will people get their inspiration from? Sure as hell it ain't going to come from watching big brother. Mainstream inspiration will still play a huge part of how people find out about things to make their life more individual (like everyone else's) ... but somewhere, sometime, some people may just make the effort to side track the whole mainstream dumb down drivel and start discovering, exploring on their own what is genuinely interesting and meaningful to them. Perhaps the biggest tool that they may use to do so is the Internet but I hasten to add there is nothing like actually living in an offline world with genuine face to face interactions with people you've never met and being in places you've never been intellectually, emotionally and physically. Discovering it for your self is by far more rewarding. Arthur Scheopenhauer once said: 'Talent hits a target no one else can hit, genius hits a target no one else can see'. Perhaps it is too optimistic to expect modern day culture industries to show us the genius stuff that we have to find out for ourselves.


Heather Flanagan said...

Though you might find this video interesting:


speed said...

Well done definitely worth the trouble. Despite seeing it a million times before I never cease to be surprised by how people justify the blatantly wrong with the fantastically in-coherent to themselves and others – even on camera and even when the earth on which we live in is so battered. There are levels of understanding that people have to progress through level 1: there is a problem, level 2: I can do something about it, level 3: I am doing something about it. Somehow the people in your film add another level between 2+3 called level 2.1: I will ignore it because it is somebody else’s problem. Apathy is humanity’s biggest enemy.

Jason Lonsdale said...

Most interesting... and worrying, given that the number one career choice of American school kids is "celebrity".

Help us all.

(Also, I worry that watching too much reality TV leads to the writing of extremely long paragraphs...)

neilperkin said...

Enjoyed reading the post. By the way, you've been tagged (if you haven't been already)...http://neilperkin.typepad.com/only_dead_fish/2007/01/ive_just_been_t.html