How Reality TV is Turning Us All Into Heartless Voyeurs

Today in my Freaks and Geeks class, we discussed the anatomy of reality television and how it can be connected to the antiquated tradition of freak shows. It’s not necessarily the same as in the past: there’s a bit more humanity involved, just a tad. But, still it makes me wonder why we are all so collectively obsessed at watching people who we don’t even know. How is it that we have decided to turn our attention away from our own lives onto those of random celebrities like Kim Kardashian or any of the people on Naked and Afraid. What is the fascination with watching an exhibitionist showcase of human faults and vulnerabilities? I mean, I don’t have a real answer to this question — it’s just kind of something that I’m opening up for conversation.

But, here is what I have concluded. I think reality television allows for a playground of the most absurd. At its core, it is really about comedic absurdism. Kim Kardashian’s blubbering over losing her million dollar earring or complaining about how she’s so stressed out that she has a photo shoot that day is absurd. The fact that shows make profits off of just shoving two random strangers into the woods, naked and afraid, is absurd! The way that people are willing to exhibit their huge families of 12 for money and fame is absurd! I think that reality television cuts the logic that plagues our everyday lives. We need to be collected, we need to be practical, we need to be sensible in everything we do. And much like art, reality tv kind of abstracts those societal norms and pressures that we live with everyday. The people in those shows almost exist in an entirely different planet. And that distance makes this genre of entertainment absolutely perfect. We don’t have to deal with these people up close, personally and we also have the control over how much we want to absorb. With the click of a button, we decide when they enter our lives and when they leave. And that probably gives us some sort of power trip — I guarantee you that most people watching the Kardashians think that they’re better than them in several ways.

It’s the concept of a modern freak show that is thinly veiled to be more humane than those in the past….but is it really? Is it really that much better when Kim K gets her ass kissed in Europe by a random prankster just because she’s famous? Is it humane to neglect decency and personal space just because you see her on a public channel every Sunday night on E!? No, we like to think that we’ve progressed and are less barbaric than we were before. But, as this year has proven, there is a lot that we underestimate about ourselves.

Is all this hooty tooty about being more accepting and politically correct just a ruse? Are we just talking the talk and not really walking the walk? Are we declaring that things have changed when they, in reality, haven’t….at least not as much as we would like to think? I don’t know….again this is more of just my stream of consciousness, if anybody has some answers please let me know as I am equally looking for some.