Despite their current popularity, reality-based TV shows, commonly referred to as reality TV,are not new. The idea of capturing and televising the behaviour of ordinary individuals in variousstaged situations has been around since the late 1940s, when Candid Camera, perhapsthe prototype reality TV show, made its debut (Paul Heyer, Professor, Wilfrid LaurierUniversity, Waterloo, ON, personal communication, March 2001). But the recent notoriety oftelevision programs from Big Brother and Survivor to Temptation Islandhas caught the interests of academics and pundits, who speculate about the cultural significance ofthese shows (Gamson, 1998; McLemee, 2000; Tremblay, 2001). My paper focuses on one feature of thecurrent fixation on reality TV programs. Some commentators of contemporary culture have suggested aconnection between reality TV and the metaphors of Big Brother and the panopticon, in particularFoucault's use of the metaphor (Gamson, 1998; McLemee, 2000). In Discipline and Punish,Foucault (1979) claims that our society is one of surveillance (1979, p. 217). "Panopticism," he writes,
not only of our ideal, and our average, but of our fallen extreme. Since the establishment of informed-consent rules in the 1970s, the golden age of social psychology is gone. No more Stanley Milgram’s proof that ordinary citizens will push the voltage to the red zone while the electrocuted actor screams—so long as a lab-coated tester is there to give the orders. No more Philip Zimbardo’s proof that fake guards will brutalize fake prisoners if you arbitrarily split Stanford students into two groups, lock them in a basement, and leave them to their own devices. No more Harold Garfinkel’s demonstrations that testers can drive strangers berserk if they stare at other riders on the elevator or if children refuse to recognize their parents. Today we are reliant on Elimidate, Punk’d, and Survivor. Watching reality television is like walking one long hallway of an unscrupulous and peculiarly indefatigable psychology department.
The Reality of Reality Television | Issue 3 | n+1
“Let the spectators become an entertainment to themselves”: a part of TV has always done this. It has meant, at different times, local programming, Huntley and Brinkley, the national news at 6 and local news at 11, talk shows and talent shows, This is Your Life and the regional tours of Wheel of Fortune. Accept, though, that television’s most important function might always have been to let citizens see each other and be seen in their representatives—in our only truly national universal medium—and you’re left to ask what will accomplish it best today. Reality television may furnish its dark apotheosis—a form for an era in which local TV has been consolidated out of existence, regional differences are said to be diminishing (or anyway are less frequently represented), and news, increasingly at the service of sales departments, has forfeited its authority to represent the polity.
Reality TV essaysThe current popularity of reality ..
Horror films are most popular with teens. When a new horror film comes out, the theater seats are filled with teens. Adults don't seem to be interested in two hours of edge-of-your-seat fear and anxiety, but teens sure are. I think the popularity of these films with teens is due to teenagers' desires to test their limits in the real world, to see how far they can go before they get scared and prefer the safety of home, and mom and dad. Horror films allow teens to test their limits in the safety of the movie theater, where they can put themselves in the position of the teenagers in the film without any real danger to themselves. Last week, I went to see the sci-fi/horror film Alien, and got so scared anticipating the alien's attack on the crew that I had to leave the theater. My friends didn't seem as scared, so I felt kind of stupid, but for me, that film was a bit more horrifying than I could take. Children obviously would be too scared at horror films; everything would seem too real, too possible, so that small children could end up with horrifying nightmares. Horror films, with a few exceptions, are just right for teens.
Examining Reality Television: People Watching Their …
Think of your own thesis as a contract wth your reader, and the language of your thesis as language that shapes everything in the essay. When you are not sure what you want to argue in an essay, be ready to say that you do not as yet know your own mind, and spend some more time brainstorming until you do have that sense of purpose, and language to work with in your essay.
Examining Reality Television: People Watching Their Shows ..
A good way to develop strong controlling ideas in your paragraphs is to think about the language of your thesis (don't start writing paragraphs until you have at least a provisional thesis). Think about what your reader will need once the thesis is declared. Let's try out this process with an example: Given the following thesis statement (in bold), what questions might the reader have for the writer? What would the reader expect the writer to cover in the essay? Write your thoughts in the text box below then compare your response to ours.