Reality TV: Can We Relate To Them?

Posted on January 26, 2010

Shreya Krishnan:

Recently I was watching MTV and I wondered if all their shows had their share of never-ending tasks, politics, bitching et al. I wonder which channel has not been bitten by the reality bug. And top it with all languages and varieties of the same concept. What keeps reality TV ticking in India or for that matter the world? From shows like Bigg Boss, Kaun Banega… to Sa Re..and Dance India Dance, everybody has something of their interest on air. All the shows sporting celebrities seem to have a racing TRP. Is it because we are sadistic to know that even celebrities aren’t spared the ‘realities’ of life or are we just plain curious? Are these shows as real as we assume them?

From the ‘who is who’ of Bollywood to the boy-next-door, everyone seems to be grabbing a share of time in the idiot box. No one wants to be left behind in this race for instant publicity. Every baccha baccha of the household seems to want to get into one show or the other on the pretext of showcasing their talent.

Ok, so what does the ‘stupid common man’ gain from all this. Depends on who is watching and what are you really looking for. For some it could be a giant leap to success and publicity. For others it could be the best platform to showcase your talent and get the leverage needed for success. Students who cry and fret for standing in queues in the outside world wouldn’t mind spending overnight waiting for a small chance of getting into a show. I don’t blame them. Who wouldn’t want their piece of fame? From toddlers to senile everyone has something to offer.

Now, what does a viewer gets from these shows. What starts as a curiosity about the show can turn into a complete addiction. From shows like Roadies, where participants are screaming at each other in a high pitched voice to shows like Bigg Boss where there is nothing but tears and more tears. These shows are on air because people like us watch it. We detest them yet we watch it not waiting to blink. Who does not face these emotions these days? These shows succeed because they are cashing on our emotions, desperation and weaknesses. When we see a participant going through difficult times, we relate to it. We relate to their worries, their pressure to succeed and perform. Are we actually sadistic to enjoy seeing someone else’s pain? Or is it just an escape route to forget our own problems? Or does it make it more enjoyable to be able to see another soul whose pain you can relate to? An answer to these depends on what kind of viewers we are and how vulnerable we are.

The next question which comes to my mind is how real are these shows? Are we just hyperventilating over nothing? If the entire show was scripted to be in a certain way and in turn get racing TRPs then aren’t we cheated? Well this will still remain a mystery unless the real truth is unveiled. When we watch shows where inmates are ‘supposedly’ in the house for months, we would wonder how real are these people or the show itself. How much editing would have gone in before the viewer sees the final version? And we assume it is for real.

There are shows on air of ‘reality dance and music’ for kids and adults alike. How many cases of suicides have we seen of children post these shows? Does this just simply prove the fact, that these shows are modeled wrongly and are conveying the most condemned message? When a child is getting ‘eliminated’ from the show, the child cries, the mother cries, the judges cry. Why!? What are we teaching our children? Is it not basic education to teach children to accept failure? And first of all why call it a failure? Children just ape their surroundings. They are what they see and learn. If a child gets frustrated and is depressed enough to commit suicide, something is inherently wrong with the system. We are encouraging a very unhealthy competition. We should instead teach our children to learn more importantly than winning. I would urge all parents to build the spirit of sportsmanship in children. Winning and losing is a part of the game. Accept it gracefully. I guess the thing not earned, never belongs to you. Instant celebrity status does shake your ground. People are not well equipped to handle fame. If the fact that a billion people are watching you and are fond of you sinks in, it is hard to live away from it. It is probably a deeply grounded yearning to be ever famous.

In recent times there is a show on air which deals with infidelity. If you let the whole nation witness you spying on your partner, where are we headed? If you are indeed doubtful, why not hire a freelance spy instead. I wonder where the age-old trust-your-partner theory has gone. Is it too cliché for our generation to trust? Are love and relationships a thing of the past? I hope not.

On the other hand, shows like Dance India Dance have got India tapping its feet. It is a fresh flavour of real dance and less reality. I wouldn’t deny the tear-shedding on the show but the show is entertaining with healthy competition and the participants grooving to nice music. Similarly shows like KBC were something that made everybody glued to television and improving their knowledge too.

On a final note, Reality shows can have a positive impact on our mind if we selectively take in what motivates us and consciously ignore what has a negative message.

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