What Would the World Be Like Without Reality TV?

Thursday, December 27, 2012 - 3:06pm

Reality TV had its origins in the Forties hit, Candid Camera, but it was the “noughties” meme that triggered the revolution. Growing from the likes of Survivor and American Idol, unscripted shows activated the bomb that sent shrapnel flying across popular culture and the idea of celebrity.

Cable service executives quickly cottoned on to a burgeoning cash cow, and committed to giving the public more of what they wanted. Entertainment and revenue may have been the goals but reality television triggered a movement that exposed humankind's most dismal flaws whilst simultaneously creating a fresh springboard for fame and entrepreneurial success — in that order.

Before Survivor, Forbes' Annual Celebrity 100 list included Oprah, Steven Spielberg and Tiger Woods. In 2012, the top five ranks were occupied by reality stars. Before the boom, talent, success and power won you 15 minutes of fame, but in today's world, celebrity itself holds value enough to achieve prominence.

As Kim Kardashian demonstrated, living life is sufficient to garner fame as long as it's televised. The Kardashians are the world's most renowned family, and all they did to achieve the dream is have a camera man follow them around. In today's world, you needn't achieve a grand goal to win space on magazine covers. You merely need to squeeze into fame's self perpetuating cycle.

Entrepreneurship has become a core focus for reality television stars who have won their fame thanks to your cable service. Shows such as American Idol and The Apprentice offer a direct line to career success, but cunning reality stars whose winnings don't include an instant, wealth generating contract use their new found celebrity as a springboard towards greater things. Sadly.

Moments in the sun can be monetized. The Real Housewives idol Albie Monzo used his status to launch a bottled water business. The Hills contestant, Lauren Conrad, used her profile to kickstart her writing and fashion career. Even existing celebrities are climbing onto the reality television bandwagon by tossing their real careers aside in favor of unscripted shows.

In today's world, more fame is won from putting the grit of presented-as-real life onto television than from performing in fictional series. Desperate Housewives actress Eva Longoria can attest to that: She plans to play cupid in a novel matchmaking series to be launched in 2013 on NBC. Under the guise of compassion, the performer will augment her standing through the new show, “Ready for Love.”

Reality television has offered viewers a glimpse into the real-world nature of the new generation. Cable service voyeurism is dull when human blunders, sly scheming and character flaws aren't put on display. Survivor develops a combative micro-society under pressure, and if viewers look clearly enough, they see their own reflections.

Greed, desire and competition alter all but the most enlightened personalities. Boston Rob's flawless tactics in Redemption Island may have been beautiful to watch, but they were also dotted with manipulation and flagrant dishonesty. Morality was tossed aside in favor of cash, reflecting the harsh truth of contemporary society.  

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