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Reality Television

Essay by   •  February 20, 2011  •  Essay  •  1,164 Words (5 Pages)  •  1,103 Views

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Reality television in form and content provides the user with programming that seems to be both engaging as well as entertaining. Within the last few years, shows such as, 'Who Wants To Be A Millionaire', 'Survivor' and the still popular' American Idol' have created an extensive fan base that some argue have surpassed the ratings of popular sitcoms. So what does reality television offer its viewers? Is it even content that's worth watching? While viewing reality shows we do not see the real picture but rather see a re-presentation of what the producers see as the real. Since the producers are the ones that set the storyboard for the shows pretense, the actors or rather participants have little or no say in the final outcome that's broadcast. It's often the more controversial outtakes that get televised in order to capture a mass audience in hopes for major advertisement sponsors. Most of these shows are built around the idea of cheap production and high profits rather than entertainment. Should the show be entertaining and drag in a mass audience, it's a bonus. The reality of reality TV is nearly non-existent except for the fact that real people are featured. In a way, even the reality on these shows becomes magnified because many people will act differently around a camera than they normally would. This essay will critically analyze the show Punkd' in relation to Silverstone's chapter on Erotics in 'Why Study The Media' and how its producer Ashton Kutcher tends to fulfill our desires by delivering content that's actively understood by the majority.

When Silverstone talks about erotics, he is not referring to the sexual notions of society but rather pleasure of the mind by engaging in entertainment. This erotic is not merely textual based but can be derived by developing a relationship between the audience and the media. It's only obvious that we get pleasure from things that entertain us. In order to be entertained we need to actively participate and therefore as he quotes it, "pleasure requires participation". (pp 49) Society is fascinated by the lives of celebrities. We just can't seem to get enough of stars such as Jennifer Lopez, Britney Spears, Eminem etc... Our minds are always hungry for information about our idols and we often feed into tabloids to know exactly what's going on in their lives be it real or fake. The reality show - Punkd' is based on the idea of hidden cameras that capture practical jokes being played on superstars. Hosted by an A list celebrity - Ashton Kutcher, the shows popularity is enormous since society gets pleasure from seeing the mishaps of Hollywood credentials.

When we watched Punkd', we only care about how it looks and rarely do we question its theoretical aspect if any. Most of the time we don't care if it is true or not. All that we are seeing is a performance with drama, and that's what keeps us watching. Since most of the stars are actors or actresses, it wouldn't be surprising that they were paid to repeat their lines for speed and clarity which would make the show a highly contrived circumstance and heavily choreographed. However we often find ourselves unable to question the production of the show which accounts for mediated pleasure through the unself-conscious observations of participants, through a framework significantly influenced both by surrealism and psychoanalysis. (pp 52) Since the show shares speed and excitement, it is easier for people to know what is going on compared to soaps.

Reality television tends to fulfill the desire that keeps us wanting more. We as the audience are fascinated by the prize money awarded to the winning contestant. What also pleases us the fact that we think ordinary people on a reality show or rather celebrities might do something that's spontaneous in nature which creates room for error similar to the way we live in the real world. However each individual has a different level of self satisfaction and what may be pleasure to some might be painful to others. Therefore it is difficult, to engage in the discussion of pleasure without making one's own value judgments, taste, or versions of what counts as erotic, authentic and the real. (pp 56) Unless something within a particular media context triggers the unexpected within us, it is often not pleasurable.

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