Add Some Vulgarity And There You Have Your Reality Show [Really?]

Posted on December 20, 2011 in Media

By Kaumudi Tiwari:

Yelling, jumping, fighting, public display of emotion, dancing, singing and not to forget the various kinds of innovative and out-of-the-box abuses which are “covered-up” by the means of beep sounds — these are the ingredients that go into the making of a prime time so-called reality show. Television channels have always been reluctant to show scenes with sexual content in their fiction shows or have characters using abusive language. Channels, through daily soaps, preach morals and values with full vigour. But these same channels have allegedly scripted reality shows lapped up with sexual and objectionable content. The point I wish to raise here is not the content but the hypocrisy of these channels.

The idea of moral policing is not what the writer personally favours. What is moral for me may be immoral for you. And in a land of free speech and expression I cannot dictate the parameters of morality. However, having said this, I also wish to point out that free speech and expression comes with strings attached. My ‘free speech’ cannot assault or clamp-down others point of view or for that matter others right to have an opinion. I cannot present views and ideas, which are consistent with a minority, as a general trend. Reality shows need to be a lot more sensitive to the kind of audiences exposed to their work. Very often, the things they show are taken to be in synchronisation with the behavioural patterns of an entire generation of people. Such generalisations are uncalled for.

Sometime back a certain channel came up with a show which helps you to ‘axe your ex’. The concept of this show involves the makers of the show publicly humiliating people for having ended their relationship with the participants of the show by the means of disgusting pranks and practical jokes. Another show takes up the task of being the agency which gives out tags of loyalty and disloyalty. The question of whether the person targeted by the makers of this show have given in their consent or not is somehow never raised. These shows have time and again brought out individuals’ extremely private and intimate moments on the small screen. The line of demarcation between private and public is becoming finer and is coming to the verge of disappearance. Makers of a famous reality road show, when questioned about the content of their show, very conveniently retort back saying, “Viewers have the remote control in their hands. If they object, they are free to change the channel.” I see this attitude somewhat similar to saying that if a road has a pothole you wish to avoid, you’ll have to take another road. The fact that the pothole needs to be mended is ignored.

When a person talks about the content of such shows, an obvious question which comes up is about what is and what is not acceptable and moreover, who decides the acceptability. Again this question brings us to the issue of moral policing. All I would like to put forward in this context is that the reality show makers need to maintain a certain degree of inclusiveness in terms of its content. As in, parents should not be put in a position where they fret about the fact that their children might see a certain reality show and their ethics and morality might be “harmed”. I do not advocate banishing sexual or violent content, I advocate showcasing it with sensitivity, with respect to the various sections of the society.