A reality TV window on the US.

datePosted on 08:01, September 20th, 2011 by Pablo

Some say that reality TV is a stained-glass window on society. In the US the concept began with the show “Cops,” now in its gadzillionth year. It gave rise to the Survivor and Amazing Race series, singing and dancing shows, celebrity this and that, cooking  disasters of various sorts, adventure and survival programs,  motorcycle and automobile customizers, the antics of sexual deviants, cheaters and lumpenproletiarians of various ethnicities (e.g. “Jersey Shore”), Bridezillas and vapid Housewives from various places, dumb and dumber idiots doing an assortment of Darwin Award misadventures, animal attacks, plus a variety other examinations of the detritus of US life. However, the recent turn in reality programming offers a dark reflection of the economic malaise gripping the country.

In recent months the reality concept has focused on the impact of economic misery, albeit from a tangental angle. The most popular shows, led by those on a channel called “True TV–not reality, but actuality”–are those that cover the flow-on effects of econonic hardship. These are led by several shows about vehicle repossession agents, but also include shows dedicated to pawn shops, gun dealers, auctioneers, hoarders and down on their luck gold prospectors. The television angle is not on the economic condition of the participants but on the behavioural effects produced by the consequences of personal economic misfortune: fights, tears, breakdowns and other human drama. Like watching train wrecks, these shows cater to morbid interest and pervese delight in other’s misfortune, which may say something about the state of US social cohesion. I confess to finding some of those involved strangely fascinating, and there is some dark humor involved, but my overall sense is that these shows are a bit too close to the truth to be entirely easy to watch. 

I am not sure what to make of all this, but it could do conservative US policy makers some good to watch these shows, simply for them to see, should they wish to, the human face of the negative impact of the feral economic policies of the last decade.

NB: I am winding up my tour in the US this week, and other than one mention of the US-Russia game have seen and heard zero in the US media  about the RWC. What I did read is thatWayne Mapp said that the SAS was “sort of” involved in the latest terrorism incident in Kabul. Note to “Dr.” Mapp: that is  like being “sort of” pregnant.

Otherwise, and in spite of the RWC, it will be great to be home.

categoryPosted in Media, Social change, USA | printPrint

8 Responses to “A reality TV window on the US.”

  1. l_f on September 20th, 2011 at 19:51

    Pablo, notwithstanding the recent 63rd Emmy Awards. Escapism to the nth degree if you like, considering the state of the global economy, numerous wars.

  2. millsy on September 21st, 2011 at 09:36

    Pablo, I suggest you find a copy of an obscure 1980’s action film called ‘The Running Man’. It might star Arnie, but it gives a good indication of where reality TV will end up, IMO.

  3. Pablo on September 21st, 2011 at 10:28

    Thanks Millsy, I have heard of it but not seen it. Shall check it out.

    l_f: What is striking about this is that the previous generation reality shows were celebrations of success/excess/fantasy during the “bubble” era. Now the focus, however indirect, is on misery.

  4. l_f on September 21st, 2011 at 12:36

    Pablo, The sad and seldom told reality on misery in the US, Canada and other places, is demonstrated on Invisible People TV. It was the best of times and the worst of times…

  5. IHStewart on September 22nd, 2011 at 19:34

    Pablo, Pablo Pablo, they do not like your opimions in the USA.

    ” Better yet, with its economy hollowed out and its military stretched across the globe fighting to preserve a status quo increasingly under siege, perhaps it would be wise for the US public to drop the blinders and reflect…”

    I quoted and linked back the whole paragraph on my former Friendburst blog and discovered my account had been deleted, I have had blogs deleted before that have been well not suportive of American foreign policy but quoting you got me kicked I suspect.

    I went to the effort yesterday of rejoining and wrote another blog on Friendburst highlighting I_F’s link last night but not bothering to obscure my identity, I will never do that. It was deleted as was my new account today.

    I suspect I was removed because a few right wing members complained about my ” anti American ” attitude given your nationality I am struggling a bit with that.

    All I can take from this is that I am a dangerous commie in the eyes of the American right, actually I am a very average Kiwi who supports solo parents etc. getting looked after by the state.

    ( We saw an American actually two Americans die today one a white supremist and the other a possibly innocent man )

    Both men should be alive. I can say this here but not in the states. Pablo 40 people read my blog when I checked I hope some followed the link back, America is scared. When the fear is aticulated I guess it is not bettter to be a mesenger.

  6. Grant Gray on September 22nd, 2011 at 20:39

    Problem is reality TV is chewing gum for the brain. You can guess how much I like chewing gum! Your jaw works subconsciously, it’s cheap, and requires absolutely no imagination. It attempts to become voyeurism into the dirty little secrets of ones mind, the place where reflection doesn’t go normally, and market it as entertainment. I enjoy escapism, and have read thousands of novels, and series, but how much effort goes into taping these shows. i just cant watch the stuff, but I guess it gives me more time to read, as more shows becomes this media trend.

  7. Pablo on September 23rd, 2011 at 00:16

    IHstewart:

    That is downright weird! It is one thing to engage in escapism, as grey ghost mentions. But denial of reality and deletion of entire post on what is a supposedly open forum demonstrates a serious sense of insecurity.

    Problem for the fearful is that deleting your post does not remove the obvious facts stated in it.

  8. Hugh on September 23rd, 2011 at 16:25

    Running Man was obscure? I remember it being on TV regularly during the late 80s/early 90s. I guess TVNZ got the rights off the back of a truck, or something.

    As for reality TV, I admit I quite liked the first season of Popstars.

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