It’s pretty obvious that there’s nothing real about Reality TV. It’s as carefully crafted as its scripted cousin. The only difference is the actors are playing themselves. So be it. In the great scheme of things, the difference between Tori Spelling and Sansa Stark is minimal. (BTW, I have no philosophical bitch with Reality TV. I don’t necessarily watch it, but I think it’s a perfectly acceptable form of entertainment — certainly as valid as the Game Show, The Cop Show and The Sit-Com.) Unfortunately, Reality TV has one dreadful side effect — the media whore.
You’ll probably be shocked to know that the media whore was actually born on PBS, the squeaky clean Boy Scout of American broadcasting. (No, it wasn’t Big Bird!) In 1973, Public TV broadcast An American Family, a point-and-shoot chronicle of the Loud family — Bill, Pat and the kids. Highbrow television being what it is, the series was called a documentary. A rose by any other name…. Our society still had a modicum of dignity in those days, so it took a generation and the Europeans to push us over the edge of the Reality abyss. In the 90s, Dutch TV came up with Nummer 28 the inspiration (“plagiarism” is such a hard word) for MTV’s The Real World. From there, it was a slippery slope through Big Brother and American Idol to Paris Hilton, Phil Robertson and the High Priestess herself, Kim Kardashian.
The apologists dress these media whores up in all kinds of reasonable clothes, from the aforementioned documentary to straight comedy, to struggles with adversity and personal pain. Yeah, right! The truth is they are simply not content with Andy Warhol’s 15 minutes of fame. They don’t just like the camera, they lust after it. And they’re willing to do anything to satisfy their narcissism. They will sell themselves, their children, their dignity (Lance Loud invited the PBS cameras back to film his death.) and their very souls to get it. But the scary thing is — the frightening core of this contemporary phenomenon is — if they are the whores, we are the clients. We, the audience, are the Johns of their peek-a-boo prostitution. In fact, we built the brothel, and every time the Internet bends, breaks or beats Obama’s record, we add on another room.
As anyone in the media will tell you — it’s all about the numbers.